Big Ten Links: Huskers prep for Buckeyes

Nebraska’s 30-27 win over Wisconsin offers much to build on, but there also remains a lot to fix following the 17-point comeback, according to the great Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald. The Cornhuskers may not have fallen behind and struggled early against the Badgers if they cut down turnovers and limit penalties. There will be little room for error in the game at Ohio State this Saturday in what shapes up as the latest “Game of the Year” in the Big Ten. Read more Big Ten links in the rest of my post.

Boilers on a roll: This may be the biggest week in the biggest season of the Danny Hope era. Really. Purdue plays host to Michigan in the start of a rugged three-game stretch that will define the season. Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal Courier takes the temperature of the team.

Beat Michigan, and the possibilities seem endless for Purdue with Wisconsin coming to West Lafayette next.

Man down: That 31-13 loss at Iowa was ugly for Minnesota. And, it showed one thing: QB MarQueis Gray needs to get healthy—quickly. Without Gray as a threat in the ground, Iowa was able to focus on running back Donnell Kirkwood, who had just 33 yards rushing. The result? A muted Golden Gophers rushing attack. And a muted offense.

Minnesota is off this week, so Gray will have more time to rest his aching ankle. Good thing, because Jerry Kill says Gray’s return for an Oct. 13 visit from Northwestern is “critical” and that the team needs him “badly.” Are those words strong enough for you?

Head-scratcher: The great Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free-Press is trying to solve the Michigan State puzzle. Hey, Joe: join the club.

It seems it’s something each week that goes awry for the confounding Spartans. Pass blocking … catching the ball … missed kicks … half-filled water bottles. Well, maybe not that. Still, Michigan State needs to get well. A trip to Indiana may be the elixir.

Plow the road: Penn State is riding a three-game winning streak. And quarterback Matt McGloin has played a huge role in the surge from an 0-2 start. But don’t discount the strides the offensive line has made.

The unit’s improvement has been a big key to Penn State’s hot streak. Listen to John Urschel explain in this video.

Rising up: How special was Ohio State’s Braxton Miller against Michigan State? The sophomore continues to develop as a passer and a runner. He’s also a year tougher and a year wiser, says Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Add it all up: And the Buckeyes will be tough to beat this year—because of Miller.

Rank it: Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has his version of the Big Ten power rankings out.

No shock that Ohio State is No. 1. Nebraska at No. 2 is good, too. But it’s interesting that he has Michigan No. 3 and Northwestern No. 4. Who is last? It’s not Indiana. Hmmm.

One moment in time: Wanna know in a nutshell what has ailed Wisconsin this season? Just check out that botched bootleg near the end of the Nebraska game. Struggles with that play are symbolic of the Badgers’ struggles.

The blown bootleg on a key fourth-and-one from the Wisconsin 49-yard line in last two minutes at Nebraska says it all. On the play, quarterback Danny O’Brien was supposed to keep the ball, but he tried to stick it into Montee Ball’s gut. The result: a lost fumble. And 30-27 loss. So much for a comeback.

Uh-oh: These can be challenging times to be an Illini, coming off back-to-back blowout losses at home. But the great Lore Tate says wins could be even tougher to come by next season. Gulp?!

The Illini have non-league tilts vs. Washington (in Chicago) and Cincinnati. And Nebraska and Michigan State hop on the schedule, too, replacing Michigan and Minnesota. Tate’s point: If Illinois doesn’t make a bowl this year, it may be more difficult in 2013, when Ohio State also will be eligible for the postseason after coming off probation.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: We are getting to that stage in the season when things are what they are. I think the Buckeyes still have enough offensive options to make this work.


My take: Mauti was a man possessed on Saturday. Heck, who am I kidding: He has been a man possessed all season. I have a Butkus vote. And he has mine right now.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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