There were just four games this Saturday, but that doesn’t mean there was any lack of action. Ohio State showed that it means business, and Iowa’s methodical victory at Minnesota sent a message: The Hawkeyes are over the doldrums of a 4-8 2012 season. Here is my wrap up on Week 5 in the Big Ten.
Biggest surprise: Iowa. The Hawkeyes dispatched Minnesota with relative ease, using dominating play in the trenches on both sides of the ball to smother the Golden Gophers in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale. This shocked me. I thought Minnesota not only would have played better; I thought the Gophers would have won as a 4-0 team on their home field. Kudos to Iowa, which showed it will be a team to be watch in the Legends Division.
Biggest disappointment: Minnesota. I thought the Golden Gophers would beat Iowa and take Floyd of Rosedale. But, Minnesota lost. And, honestly, it wasn’t really that close. The Gophers got whipped up front on both sides of the ball. Minnesota had a scant 165 yards of offense while giving up 464. The result: A 23-7 defeat, the Gophers’ first of the season. Up next: A trip to Michigan.
Best play: Illinois tight end Evan Wilson made a beautiful, leaping, 8-yard touchdown catch of a Nathan Scheelhaase offering in the second quarter. The Illini need to bottle and save this. Wilson was one of three Illini tight ends to score touchdowns vs. Miami (Ohio).
Play this again: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 24. This matchup of Top 25 teams lived up to the hype of its prime-time slot on national TV. The Buckeyes looked like they may run away from the Badgers after they took a 31-14 lead in the third quarter. But Wisconsin came back to make it a one-possession game. Alas, that’s as close as the Badgers would get. Nice game, fellas!
Never play this again: Illinois 50, Miami (Ohio) 14. The Fighting Illini led 36-0 at halftime and made it 43-0 about midway through the third quarter to the way to cruising to an easy victory. Illinois had 601 yards of offense; Miami had 250. Yes, it was great for Illinois fans to see this. But this essentially was a glorified scrimmage that wasn’t much fun to watch for non-Illinois fans.
WEEK 5 GRADES
Ohio State: B+
1. If there was any doubt about Braxton Miller’s health, the nifty junior quelled those. He hit 17-of-25 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns and also carried a team-high 22 times for 83 yards. Oh, and he had no turnovers.
2. Iowa could be a factor in the Legends Division. The Hawkeyes were riding a seven-game losing skid that dated to last season after opening the season with a loss to Northern Illinois. Now, Iowa has ripped off four victories in succession. That win total matches last season’s. Iowa’s possibilities suddenly have grown.
3. Ohio State’s defense was oft-criticized last season, and rightly so. The unit finished sixth in the Big Ten in total defense (359.6 ypg). But the Buckeye defense muted a prolific Wisconsin ground game. The Badgers entered the contest pacing the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 349.5 yards. Ohio State was yielding just 79.8 yards on the ground. Wisconsin finished with just 104 yards on the ground (3.9 ypc).
4. I-L-L! I-N-I! Illinois has three victories, which is one more than all of last season. Illinois was 2-1 last year—and then lost nine games in row to end the year. The Illini also started 2-1 this season—but are now 3-1. What a turnaround.
5. Minnesota’s offense has issues. In a 23-7 loss to Iowa, the Gophers had 27 rushes for 30 yards. That’s 1.1 yards per carry. Minnesota was averaging 282.2 yards rushing entering the game. The lack of consistent passing is hurting the effectiveness of the Gopher offense.
6. Purdue pulled quarterback Rob Henry and inserted true freshman Danny Etling, who provided a spark in largely garbage time. Regardless, Etling offers a spark of hope for a listing program. It was a move that needed to be made.
7. Illinois didn’t punt. Not once. Nada. Zippo. That hasn’t happened in a game since 2002.
8. Illinois D. Yes, the maligned Illini defense came up big today, allowing just 250 yards (95 rushing and 155 passing). This was a unit that entered today ranked last in the Big Ten in total defense (492.7 ypg).
9. Is a 55-24 Homecoming loss to a MAC team rock bottom for Purdue? If not, I shudder to think what rock bottom looks like. The Boilermakers seemingly can’t do much of anything well. Will this team win another game?
10. Joel Stave acquitted himself as a passer. I didn’t think he’d be able to pass effectively vs. Ohio State on the road. But the sophomore looked pretty solid in hitting 20-of-34 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
TOP 5 PERFORMERS
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State. He didn’t skip a beat despite missing almost three games, completing 17-of-25 attempts for 198 yards with four touchdowns. He added 83 yards rushing. Is there any doubt how great this guy is?
2. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois. Scheelhase looked like Dan Marino, throwing five touchdowns before halftime. Spectacular. Scheelhaase hit 19-of-24 passes for 278 yards, helping spark a 29-point second quarter that essentially ended the game.
3. Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa. The Iowa workhorse continues to dominate. He entered Saturday No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing, carrying 95 times for 468 yards and three touchdowns. He ran 24 times for 147 yards vs. Minnesota.
4. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin. Yes, Wisconsin got beat, but not because of its standout wideout. Ohio State couldn’t cover him, as Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 207 yards (20.7 ypc) and a touchdown.
5. Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois. Ferguson looked like an All-Big Ten player. He led the team with five catches for 77 yards and a score (15.4 ypc), while also rushing eight times for 71 yards (8.9 ypc).
[ MORE: Check out BTN.com’s Leaders of Week 5 ]
4. Touchdown passes for Nathan Scheelhaase in the second quarter. He had five for the game. Scheelhaase had four touchdown passes all of last season.
55. Points allowed by Purdue. No opponent ever had scored more in Ross-Ade Stadium as Northern Illinois became the first MAC team ever to conquer two Big Ten teams in the same season.
74. Rushing yards for Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, averaging 4.9 yards per tote. He entered the day as the Big Ten’s top rusher with 624 yards, averaging 11.8 yards per carry.
0. Rushing touchdowns allowed by Iowa vs. Minnesota. The Hawkeyes still haven’t allowed a score on the ground in 2013.
23, Tackles that Iowa linebackers Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris combined for vs. Minnesota. The senior trio also combined for two forced turnovers.
SNEAK PEEK AHEAD TO WEEK 6
An interesting week with four key games: Ohio State at Northwestern; Michigan State at Iowa; Illinois at Nebraska; Minnesota at Michigan. All eyes will be on Evanston, Ill., for the Buckeyes-Wildcats clash. The Hawkeyes-Spartans are trying to climb over each other in the Legends Division. Is Iowa better than Michigan State? The Illini will try to stay hot when they travel to Nebraska to test that shaky Husker defense with their white-hot offense. Michigan looks to get back on track in the Little Brown Jug clash with the Gophers.
|About Tom Dienhart||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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