The first Saturday of full-blown Big Ten action was filled with highs and lows, culminating with a pulsating 40-30 Ohio State victory over Northwestern that kept alive the Buckeyes’ national title dreams. Michigan State made a statement with a big win at Iowa, Indiana notched a signature win for Kevin Wilson, Nebraska had perhaps its best effort of the season, and Michigan posted a strong win after a couple shaky efforts. Here’s is a look at Week 6.
Biggest surprise: Indiana. The game vs. Penn State may have been a must-win as far as getting to a bowl. And, the Hoosiers delivered big time with a 44-24 win over Penn State. Indiana dominated in most every facet of the game in what was a signature victory for the Kevin Wilson era. Very impressive after ugly home losses to Navy and Missouri.
Biggest disappointment: Illinois. Did I expect the Fighting Illini to win? No. But I did expect them to make a game of it. Alas, Nebraska ran away from Illinois a 39-19 triumph. The Huskers jumped to a 14-0 lead and never looked back in dominating on both sides of the ball with 521 yards of offense while allowing only 372.
Best play: It has to be Kenny Bell’s ridiculous one-handed catch for a touchdown in Nebraska’s rout of Illinois. It’s plays like this why many feel Bell is one of the Big Ten’s top targets. He’s a lithe target with speed and sticky hands. All of those traits were on full display on this play.
Play this again: The Ohio State at Northwestern game was football at its finest. There was ebb and flow, back and forth and plenty of big plays with several dashes of drama as the Buckeyes battle back to take a 40-30 victory that kept them atop the Big Ten heap. OSU battled back from adversity, which is what champions do.
Never play this again: Michigan’s 42-13 victory over Minnesota in the Little Brown Jug game was close at halftime, with the Wolverines clinging to a 14-7 edge. But Michigan pulled away in the second half by outscoring the Golden Gophers, 28-6. Credit the Wolverine defense, which allowed only 281 yards to a struggling Minnesota offense.
WEEK 6 GRADES
Michigan State: A
Ohio State: A-
Penn State: F
1. Ohio State can keep dreaming big. And by big, I mean BCS national title big after the Buckeyes’ 40-30 win at Northwestern. That’s two big victories in a row for OSU, which dispatched Wisconsin last week. Take next Saturday off, fellas. You’ve earned it.
2. Legendary Legends race. How much fun is this division gonna be to watch? Another Saturday passed, and there is no more clarity to the race—other than Minnesota likely continuing to sink to the cellar. Pick a team, any team, and you can make a case for it.
3. 1-16. That’s Indiana’s record now all-time vs. Penn State. The Coyote finally caught the Roadrunner. It was a cathartic victory for the Hoosiers, who notched 486 yards of offense behind quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson. The bowl dream remains alive in Bloomington.
4. The Huskers look to have a nice future with Tommy Armstrong, Jr. at quarterback. He started for a second week in a row and looked good, hitting 8-of-13 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, hurry back, Taylor Martinez. But, until then, it has been fun watching Armstrong.
5. Don’t call them backups anymore! Indiana (Nate Sudfeld), Michigan State (Connor Cook) and Nebraska (Tommy Armstrong) all won today with quarterbacks who didn’t begin the season as starters. Interesting.
6. The Big House. Michigan has won 18 straight games at home, the longest active streak among BCS conference schools and their longest since winning 28 in a row in Ann Arbor from 1969-73.
7. Coach-less team. Minnesota was sans Jerry Kill for an entire game for the first time because of his epilepsy. He had a seizure Saturday morning, when he planned to travel to Michigan to coach in the game, and remained home to rest in Minnesota.
8. It’s only just begun for Iowa after a tough home loss to Michigan State. After a bye week, the Hawkeyes have Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin next. How will Iowa respond? Fascinating.
9. Devin Gardner’s confidence has to be boosted after playing his first career turnover-free game. He had 10 turnovers in the previous four games.
10. Purdue was off, which meant it didn’t get beat. Hey, it’s the little things, people. Darrell Hazell supposedly is “tweaking” things during the bye week. Hope he has a big tweaking wrench.
TOP 5 PERFORMERS
1. Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde. The guy was a workhorse against Northwestern, running 26 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in the video below. He also added four receptions for 38 yards.
2. Michigan State QB Connor Cook. He may have quelled any questions about his status as the Spartans’ No. 1 quarterback. Cook hit 25-of-44 passes for a career-high 277 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 26-14 win at Iowa.
3. Michigan TE Devin Funchess. He caught seven passes for 151 yards (21.6 ypc) and a touchdown in the Wolverines’ win over Minnesota.
4. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah. He carried the Huskers to victory over Illinois, running 20 times for a career-high 225 yards (11.3 ypc) and two touchdowns.
5. Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg. The true freshman hit 30-of-55 passes for 340 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. He hooked up often with Allen Robinson, who had 12 catches for 173 yards and a score. Alas, the Nittany Lions still lost at Indiana.
70. Rushing yards for Penn State on 38 carries vs. Indiana. That’s 1.8 yards per tote. The Hoosiers came into the game 12th in the Big Ten in rushing defense (247.8 ypg).
0. Interceptions for Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner in the Wolverines’ win over Minnesota. In the previous two games, Gardner tossed five picks. It was the first time he didn’t throw an interception since making his first start as a quarterback last year at Minnesota.
2. Interceptions for Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard in the Spartans’ victory at Iowa, which didn’t score a point in the second half. Credit Dennard and that awesome MSU defense.
18. Wins in a row for Ohio State.
114. Rushing yards for Illinois’ Josh Ferguson, who also had 82 yards receiving at Nebraska. He’s having a great season.
SNEAK PEEK AHEAD TO WEEK 7
All eyes will be on Madison, where Northwestern will play a rested Wisconsin team. Will NU have a Buckeye hangover? Heck, will the Badgers have a Buckeye hangover? Suddenly hot Indiana’s trip to Michigan State now looks interesting. Will Penn State be rehabbed and ready when Michigan comes to State College?
|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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