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Corn Nation takes a look at what happened across the Big Ten landscape while you were out raking the leaves on Saturday.
After taking a week off from the rundown, it returns to get you caught up on what you may have missed during the Husker bye week.
Michigan State: 16 (2 OT)
Hawkeyes: (4-2, 2-0) – What a turnaround for the Hawkeyes. It’s been a roller coaster for Iowa this year. Losses to Central Michigan and Iowa State led to a lot of questions in Iowa City, but now that we’re in Big Ten play and things are coming together. They found just enough offense to get the game to overtime on the road at a sopping wet Spartan Stadium and all of a sudden the Hawkeyes find themselves square in the middle of the Legends division race. Guess what, Mark Weisman tweaked an ankle. It was probably just a matter of time. It looks like he’s going to be ok, which is good news for the Hawks.
Spartans: (4-3, 1-2) – Have things began unraveling yet? This season hasn’t exactly gone according to script and now they have two conference losses both at home. The Rose Bowl dream is coming apart at the seams and it’s going to be difficult to realize that unless they get the offense fixed. Even in the Big Ten, holding a team to 19 points should be good enough for the win. That defense is really good, but as all good Husker fans know, it’s not good enough if you can’t also put some points on the board. Look for the Spartans to get desperate, but another loss could be the death blow to what was such a hopeful season in September
Wildcats: (6-1, 2-1) We have our first bowl eligible team, it’s Northwestern. There are times when the Northwestern offense looks like a juggernaut. Then there are times it…doesn’t. The Wildcats definitely have talent on that side of the ball to scare any team in the conference. They still havent’ faced one of the B1G heavyweights yet and the closest team to that that they played, they lost to and gave up 39 points to Penn State. The Huskers offense is much more potent than that Nittany Lions squad. Fortunately for Northwestern, Nebraska can be exploited on the defensive side of the ball. Will they be able to make enough plays to slow down Big Red and jump right into the middle of a wide open race?
Gophers: (4-2, 0-2) The Gophers have certainly made strides in 2012, but they’re not quite there yet. The good news is they were able to get MarQueis Gray back on the field and we got a glimpse of why he’s so valuable to this team. The bad news is he got hurt again and was unable to finish the game. The game might have ended differently had he stayed healthy. The other news that came out of this game is that Gopher head coach Jerry Kill experienced another seizure episode. He has been released from the hospital and should be ok, but the fact this is now the second time in as many years that Kill has experienced these health issues has to be disconcerting for Gopher administrators.
Badgers: (5-2, 2-1) Well, lookie here. Montee Ball is suddenly looking like the Heisman finalist he was last year and now has the career touchdown record in the Big Ten and the Badgers look like the favorite in the Leaders division once again. The Badger ground game was virtually unstoppable with Ball gaining a career-high 247 and James White chipping in 124 for good measure. That’s going to win a lot of games. It did resoundingly on Saturday.
Boilermakers: (3-3, 0-2) Yeah, so perhaps Purdue isn't the Legends Division spoiler so many had expected. The Boilermakers had the opportunity to take control of the race the past two weeks and, frankly, failed miserably getting blown out to both Michigan and Wisconsin. It started out well, scoring less than a minute into the game charging up the Purdue fans. They wouldn't score again until the final moments of the game. They were out gained almost three yards to one and had no answer to the Badger running attack.
Ohio State: 52
Buckeyes: (7-0, 3-0) We already knew the Ohio State offense was explosive. That wasn’t the surprise. What was, was the inability to put away an Indiana team that is clearly inferior to the Buckeyes in virtually every facet of the game. They are starting to separate themselves from the pack and may not be challenged again until Michigan comes to town. Perhaps someone will catch them napping a bit like Indiana almost did, but this team is the most talented team in the conference and right now, it's not really that close.
Hoosiers: (2-4, 0-3) Not every 0-3 team is the same. This one shows much more fight and resolve than the one in Illinois. The Hoosiers, while still facing a talent deficit most weeks, will fight you to the end as was illustrated by their furious comeback vs. the vaunted Buckeyes. The Hoosiers trailed by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter before staging a rally and closing to 3 points with just over a minute remaining. They were unable to recover the onside kick, thus unable to complete what would have been the stunner of the year. Coach Kevin Wilson is starting to get some things figured out with quarterback Tre Robison out for the season and they have more than enough offense to keep them in games. It’s whether or not they’ll be able to keep their opponents off the scoreboard as well. If this team can carry this effort forward, it has an outside shot to go bowling, but they’ll need to pull a couple of upsets a long the way to make that happen. The toughest part of their schedule is clearly behind them.
Illini: (2-5, 0-3) Oh, boy. The wheels have completely fallen off in Champagne. Much like Minnesota, star quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, after making his return to the field, was knocked out in the second quarter with a concussion. The Illini had no answer for the Michigan attack and could not move the ball either. This is a team that many thought was talented enough to compete, but ever since Scheelhaase went down, that has proven to not be the case. Coach Tim Beckman seems to have a lot of pieces that do not fit the system he probably wants to run. We’re looking at a fairly significant rebuild at Illinois.
Wolverines: (4-2, 2-0) Michigan has moved past their daunting non-conferene schedule and they are off and running. Literally. The Wolverines racked up 353 yards on the ground and 5 rushing touchdowns. A team that only a couple of weeks ago looked to be a team full of questions may now, once again, be the favorite to win the conference and represent the Big Ten in Pasadena. They look like the most complete eligible team in the conference. If they can navigate their trip to Lincoln, their game vs. Ohio State may be trivial in the grand scheme of things.
Nebrask: bye (4-2, 1-1)
Penn State: bye (4-2, 2-0)
Ranking the B1G:
*Just a quick note about this week's rankings, since there was no rundown last week, the rankings in the parenthesis are the rankings from two weeks ago.*
1. Ohio State (2): Easy pick right now. Until they stumble, they’re likely to remain.
2. Michigan (5): Wolverines starting to look like the preseason favorite many thought they were. Still haven’t played the B1G heavyweights, that’s where they’ll truly be measured. That gauntlet begins on Saturday.
3. Penn State (9): Not entirely sure I’m sold on them at #3, but no one else is really making a strong claim on the spot right now and they’ve played pretty well their past four games, plus, they beat Northwestern who comes in next.
4. Northwestern (4): Wildcats having a little trouble putting teams away when they get the chance. Had to hold on to beat the Gophers. They’ll get a much stiffer test in the coming weeks.
5. Nebraska (1): Nebraska has a tendancy to show all their warts at once, much like they did two weeks ago. If they do that on Saturday, they’ll lose again.
6. Wisconsin (7): Montee Ball looks to be back. Like for realz. If he is, they’ll have no problems getting to Indianapolis.
7. Iowa (11): Just when you think Iowa has things figured out at running back, it turns out they don’t. Nice win in East Lansing, but it may have cost them Mark Weisman, at least for a while.
8. Michigan State (3): Sparty looks to be all bite, little bark. Until they can find a way to score some points, they’re going to keep having games like they did vs. Iowa.
9. Purdue (6): Well, so much for the Boilermakers and the notion they could be a surprise team this year. Back to back clunkers have likely put that baby to bed.
10. Minnesota (8): It’s really hard not to like this Gophers team, but they just don’t have quite enough to get over that hump right now.
11. Indiana (12): Plucky effort vs. the Buckeyes. Credit for that. Hoosiers are getting closer, but still a long mountain to climb.
12. Illinois (10): This pick is as easy as Ohio State is at the top. It’s a complete overhaul taking place in Champagne.
Player of the Week: Montee Ball. 247 yards rushing and setting the new mark for touchdowns scored in the Big Ten will do that for you. That’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment for a pretty remarkable running back. He’s cementing himself as one of, not only Wisconsin’s greatest, but the Big Ten’s greatest running backs ever.
- We’re starting to see some separation at the top and bottom of the league. Ohio State is clearly the best team in the conference and Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois just don’t have the fire power or other issues keeping them from being in the thick of things. Everyone else? Flip a coin. You’ll probably have more success. Seven weeks in and it’s still very difficult to determine any sort of order.
- Game of the week might be Penn State and Iowa. Who saw that coming? Before the season it would have easily been Michigan State traveling to Ann Arbor, and that may still be a good game, but with two losses in conference play by the Spartans, some of the luster has come off that one. Michigan has the opportunity to effectively end any shot MSU has of getting back in the race. A Sparty win, and things get really, really interesting.