Super Bowl: Big Impact For The Big Ten

The most watched football game of the year will be played at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Calling the Super Bowl a global event isn’t hyperbole. Hundreds of millions of people in the country, and millions more around the world, will be watching. 

Since college football is the main pipeline for the NFL, how well represented will the Big Ten be at this year’s game? 

There will be 21 former Big Ten players on the 53-man rosters, come Sunday night. Another three are listed on the IR, including Bengals’ starting OT Riley Reiff (Iowa) and Rams’ starting safety Jordan Fuller (Ohio State).

Let’s take a look at the rosters: 

Rams 

Brian Allen C MSU (4)*

David Edwards OG Wisconsin (3)*

Rob Havenstein OT Wisconsin (7)*

Jake Funk RB Maryland (R)

AJ Jackson OL Iowa (R)

Jake Gervase S Iowa (2)

Bryce Hopkins TE Purdue (2)

David Long Jr DB Michigan (3)

Nick Scott S PSU (3)*

Grant Haley DB PSU (3)

Jordan Fuller S OSU (2)

The Rams are anchored up front on offense by OG David Edwards and OT Rob Havenstein from Wisconsin, who power the Rams’ rushing attack. It’s fitting that a powerful running game would be anchored by a pair of Badgers. That’s the calling card of the Badgers’ offense, and they produce offensive linemen as well as anyone in college football.

Center Brian Allen is the centerpiece of the Rams’ offensive line. The fourth year center out of Michigan State has started every game this season and has been a mainstay in the middle since his second season. His offensive line calls are a crucial part of the Rams’ blocking schemes. 

Michigan CB David Long Jr has been an important piece of the defensive sub packages. He has been very effective working in passing situations. His seven tackles against Tampa Bay helped pace the defense, so Long will be critical in slowing down a talented Bengals receiving corps. 

Penn State S Nick Scott has seen his role increase since the injury to starter Jordan Fuller (OSU) landed him on IR. He has been rotating with veteran Eric Weddle, but he will need to play clean to prevent big plays. 

Bengals 

Isaiah Prince OT OSU (2)*

Eli Apple CB OSU (6)*

Sam Hubbard DE OSU (4)*

Vonn Bell S OSU (6)*

Clark Harris LS Rutgers (13)

Keandre Jones LB Maryland (1)

Trae Waynes CB MSU (7)

Chris Evans RB Michigan (R)

Ricardo Allen S Purdue (7)

Markus Bailey LB Purdue (2)

Stanley Morgan WR Nebraska (3)

Riley Reiff OT Iowa (10)

Joe Bachie LB MSU (1)

While there are 11 Big Ten players represented on the Bengals, only four of them are starters, and they hail from Ohio State. The injury to OT Riley Reiff (Iowa) opened the door for another Big Ten tackle to enter the starting lineup. Ohio State product Isaiah Prince has started seven of the last eight games and possibly played his best in the AFC Championship. While he hasn’t been great this season, he must summon his best performance to slow down Rams rushers Leonard Floyd and Von Miller. 

The defense is led by a trio of Buckeyes, starting with defensive end Sam Hubbard. Hubbard has been a stalwart on the edge since he entered the league four years ago, and while he might not have the gaudy sack numbers, his play against the run was good enough to earn him a huge contract extension. Though he’s generally known as a run stuffer, Hubbard had two critical sacks on Pat Mahomes in the closing seconds of AFC Championship Game to force overtime. He must set the edge against the Rams’ zone rushing attack and not let their defense get stretched.

The recent addition of Buckeyes Eli Apple and Vonn Bell in the secondary helped shut down Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs’ air attack. Bell joined the Bengals in 2020 after four seasons with the Saints and was an instant starter. Eli Apple was snagged after a subpar 2020 in Carolina and appears to be living up to his first round draft status. 

Both Bell and Apple have played well throughout the playoffs and grounded the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl will be their toughest test. Apple will have his hands full in coverage with Cupp, Beckham, and Jefferson leading the way for the Rams. Bell has done a great job with help over the top, and he grabbed the interception against the Chiefs in OT that essentially won the AFC Championship for Cincinnati. The Bengals hope he has an encore remaining. 

*starter

IR

(number of years in the NFL)

Written by Bobby Carpenter

Bobby Carpenter is the resident college football expert at OutKick. He played linebacker for the Ohio State Buckeyes and won a National Championship in 2002. He played in the NFL for Dallas, Miami, Detroit and New England. Carpenter is a radio host on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, Ohio, where he currently resides with his wife Cortney and their four children.

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