Dienhart: Here's what I learned in Week 12
It was a Saturday filled with blowouts. Still, there was a lot to learn, beginning with the continued domination of Ohio State and Michigan State. Oh, and Wisconsin is pretty good, too. Everyone else? See what I learned in Week 12 in this post.
1. Ohio State’s offense is really good. The unit has averaged 59.6 points the last three games, scoring 63 (Penn State), 56 (Purdue) and 60 (Illinois) as it tries to make a BCS statement. (I don’t care what Urban Meyer says.) The fewest points the Buckeyes have scored all season has been 31 in a 31-24 win over the Badgers. Want more? No team starts faster, as OSU’s 192 first-quarter points lead the FBS ranks. This offense is a buzz saw.
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2. Michigan State’s offense showed that it can win a game. This unit has come a long way since September, when it couldn’t get much of anything going. At Nebraska, the MSU attack took advantage of five Cornhuskers turnovers and generated 361 yards. Jeremy Langford continues to carry a big load, rushing for a career-high 151 yards. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing effort in a row.
3. This Wisconsin team is better than last year’s team. The Badgers may have had their most dominating effort of the season in a 51-3 win over Indiana. While the offense impressed—again–with a 554-yard rushing effort, it has been the defense that has stood out this season. The unit sat on a very good Hoosier attack, limiting it to 224 yards and a field goal. Too bad Ohio State is in the same division as Wisconsin, which doesn’t play Michigan State.
4. Despite missing almost three games, Braxton Miller continues to assert himself as the Big Ten’s top player. In the six games upon his return, Miller has completed 104-of-154 passes (68 percent) for 1,258 yards with 15 touchdowns and one pick. He also has run 85 times for 512 yards and three scores.
5. James White may be the most underrated running back in the Big Ten … ever. First, he had to play in the ample shadow of Montee Ball. Now, he has to toil in Melvin Gordon’s wake. White enjoyed another stellar day vs. Indiana, running 20 times for a career-high 205 yards that included a school-record 93-yard scoring run en route to averaging 10.3 yards per carry. The senior has run for over 100 yards three games in a row and seven times this season. White now has 1,156 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns in 2013 and has a shot to eclipse the 4,000-yard career mark (3,727 now).
6. Indiana isn’t going to a bowl. Oh, it hasn’t been officially eliminated. But it’ll happen next week, when the Hoosiers play at Ohio State. IU has been to one bowl since the 1993 season, playing in the postseason after the 2007 season. For the record, Illinois officially become ineligible with the loss to the Buckeyes. Purdue was eliminated a few weeks ago, and Penn State is ineligible.
7. Speaking of the postseason, Northwestern is up against it. The Wildcats have lost six games in a row and need to beat visiting Michigan State next Saturday and then prevail at Illinois in the finale to reach a bowl for a sixth season in a row. This team seemed so full of mojo after capping a 10-win 2012 season with the program’s first bowl triumph since the 1948 season.
8. With win No. 6 vs. Purdue, Penn State’s season is a success. Any victories from here on out would be gravy for the Nittany Lions, who still play host to Nebraska and finish at Wisconsin. The big key: Can PSU not finish with consecutive losses? The Nittany Lions haven’t lost two in a row all season during what at time has been a trying season made difficult by scholarship limitations. Still, hat’s off to Bill O’Brien and his crew.
9. Purdue is getting better—at least on offense. Credit coordinator John Shoop, who continues to search for answers with different formations and by tweaking the scheme. The attack enjoyed its best day of the Big Ten season, scoring 21 points behind the passing of emerging quarterback Danny Etling. The true freshman hit 21-of-33 passes for 223 yards with a touchdown and pick. If the anemic running game ever gets traction, the Boilermakers may really have something on offense. Now, about the defense …
10. Illinois just may end that 20-game Big Ten losing skid. In fact, it may happen next week at Purdue. Each team is 0-6 in the Big Ten. But the Boilermakers have won 10 of the last 13 vs. the Fighting Illini and haven’t lost at home to Illinois since 2001. If the skein doesn’t end in West Lafayette for the Illini, it could in the season finale at home vs. Northwestern, which is 0-6 in the Big Ten, too, and searching for answers.
|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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