Dienhart: Here's what I learned in Week 8

So much went on this Saturday, I don’t know where to start. How about with 110 points and 1,323 yards, which is what Indiana-Michigan combined for in a game that left many breathless. While the Wolverines may have answered some questions about their listless offense, questions about their defense may have been created in the process. Oh, well. What else did I learn? Check it out.

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1. Ohio State isn’t overwhelmingly good in any one area. But the Buckeyes have championship resourcefulness about them. The Buckeyes’ mojo continues to grow with each win, as their streak now is at 19 in a row. OSU took a solid punch to the nose from Iowa, trailing 17-10 at halftime; its knees buckled a bit, but the Buckeyes responded by outscoring the Hawkeyes 24-7 in the second half.

2. Braxton Miller is good. I just wanted to remind you in case you had forgotten after he almost got pulled the last time out at Northwestern, when he had three turnovers and hit just 15-of-26 passes while looking generally out of sorts. Miller was dialed in on Saturday, as he completed 22-of-27 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran 18 times for 102 yards in the 34-24 win over Iowa.

3. Michigan’s offense can be productive. The attacked showed its explosiveness with 63 points and 751 yards vs. Indiana after struggling in recent weeks with spotty blocking and turnovers. But, how excited and impressed should we be, considering all of these gaudy numbers were put up vs. a horrible Indiana defense that came into Saturday ranked last in the Big Ten (456.0 ypg)? I wanna see what Michigan’s offense does on its trip to Michigan State on Nov. 2. Punch holes in that Spartan defense, and I’ll be impressed.

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4. Michigan State’s offense still has work to do. The Spartans gained just 294 yards and scored only one offensive touchdown in a 14-0 win over Purdue after tallying 26 and 42 points in the previous two games. Connor Cook looked pedestrian, at best, in hitting just 13-of-25 passes for 107 yards. He didn’t really come to life until the fourth quarterback on Saturday. And this was vs. a Purdue defense that ranked ninth in the Big Ten entering the day (417.2 ypg).

5. Purdue has life. And that’s good. Yes, the Boilermakers are 1-6 for the first time in 20 years, but they showed spirit and life in a 14-0 loss at Michigan State. The Boiler defense stood out in allowing only 294 yards and one offensive touchdown. Now, the offense needs to find a pulse after notching just 226 yards vs. the Spartans. Purdue just may win another game this season if it keeps playing like this. And that would be huge if it happens.

6. Minnesota should stick with Philip Nelson at quarterback. He didn’t get the start at Northwestern—Mitch Leidner did. But Nelson was the more effective of the signal-callers. He hit 8-of-11 passes for 112 yards with a touchdown and also ran nine times for 26 yards, picking up a game-icing first down on his final carry. Leidner was 1-of-3 passing for 11 yards with 27 yards rushing. Stick with Nelson, Goldy.

7. The wheels may be coming off Northwestern. A dreadful 20-17 home loss to Minnesota was the Wildcats’ third defeat in succession and casts doubt on the direction of the season. NU is 4-3 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten with games still remaining at Iowa, at Nebraska, vs. Michigan, vs. Michigan State and at Illinois. Will the Wildcats win two more games to become bowl-eligible? I can’t believe Northwestern may have to scramble just to make a bowl, but it’s true. Wasn’t NU just the nation’s cool, hip team five minutes ago when I was in Evanston for the Ohio State game?

8. Wisconsin may not lose again. They thoroughly dominated Illinois. What’s left on the Badgers’ to-do list? At Iowa; BYU; Indiana; at Minnesota; Penn State. See what I mean? I’d love to see this team get another crack at playing Ohio State. Alas, it won’t happen. Still, a 10-2 overall record and 7-1 Big Ten mark seem reasonable.

[ MORE: Dienhart: 5-2 Wisconsin still has a lot to play for ]

9. Without a doubt, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan State are a cut above everyone else in the Big Ten. I just can’t lump Michigan into that group. Sorry. Of course, the Buckeyes already beat the Badgers, 31-24, in Columbus. The Spartans will play at the Cornhuskers on Nov. 16. I can’t wait.

10. No team is better when the chips are down than Ohio State. The Buckeyes have trailed at halftime in the last two games–at Northwestern and vs. Iowa–only to proceed to outscore their opponents, 51-17, in the second half en route to victory. The key: riding running back Carlos Hyde. In the last two games, he had a combined 99 yards rushing in the first half with no touchdowns; in the second half, he has gone off for 218 yards with five touchdowns.

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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8 Comments

Your Opinion?
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matt on 10/20/2013 @ 12:33pm EST Said:

sorry tom, I just cant put MSU in the “cut above everyone else” category, not after the purdue game. When MSU produces and wins against someone good, I’ll start taking notice. Right on about ohio state, purdue, and northwestern though

Doug on 10/20/2013 @ 2:30pm EST Said:

matt, MSU has the # 1 D in the land, their win at Iowa is more impressive than anything anyone else has done besides OSU and Wis.

huskerfanbb on 10/20/2013 @ 8:56pm EST Said:

@Doug

Yes, their Iowa win was a good win–but they stunk it up against Purdue.

ONE offensive score is what we call “laying an egg”. Plus, their defense, while it played well, didn’t do any more in that Purdue game than Nebraska’s maligned defense did against Purdue.

PLUS–they were at home vs. Purdue. Sure, if their defense can hold everyone under 20, and maybe they can, they’ll win a lot of games. If they ever HAVE to score, however, they are in deep trouble. They seem to be allergic to the end zone.

ben on 10/20/2013 @ 10:13pm EST Said:

a win at Iowa?? LMAO!!

Doug on 10/21/2013 @ 8:54am EST Said:

agreed MSU’s offense stunk against purdue, hoping it was a blip on their improving offense instead of a problem reaccurring…

MSU’s defense has 5 touchdowns, most in FBS, sure don’t want to rely on that to win games, but if that’s what it comes down to and it works, i’ll take it !

John on 10/21/2013 @ 10:03am EST Said:

Just wish OSU would quit playing down to their level of competition. Coach Meyer has to be going nuts.

scott on 10/22/2013 @ 10:32am EST Said:

so why all of a sudden is michigan state a cut above michigan???? whatdid they do for that ??? oh i know they beat 2 of the most bad teams in the big ten???? really.
mind you they have the weakest big ten schedule period… i would get it if they beat a good big ten team but they havent. and they barely scored any points against purdue.. and there better then mich……

huskerfanbb on 10/22/2013 @ 2:25pm EST Said:

Say what you want, scott, but a win is a win–and that loss at Penn State really hurts Michigan, especially with Ohio State at the end of the season. Michigan could beat BOTH Michigan State and Nebraska–and still not be the Legends champ.

Plus, Michigan plays well at home–not so much on the road. This helps them vs. Ohio State and Nebraska, but they still have a road tilt vs. MSU.

Long season to go, but it can’t be denied that losing at Penn State was a huge loss.