What did Tom Dienhart learn in Week 8? Find out here!

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

What did Tom Dienhart learn in Week 8? Find out here!

Compared to last Saturday’s wackiness, this one was tame. But, we did learn a few things. Ohio State has regained its strut, Northwestern has a pulse and Wisconsin has a good backup QB.

[ MORE: Best of Week 8 | Week 8 scoreboard | Power Rankings | Bowl Projections | Mailbag | Latest polls | Week 8 picks revisited | What Tom Dienhart learned | Dienhart: Nebraska’s often-painful ride continues | Big Ten standings | Big Ten stats ]

Here are 10 things I learned in Week 8:

1. Has any team been happier to get to a bye week than Michigan State? The 8-0 Spartans never have seemingly gotten on track this season, often failing to play up to their lofty ranking largely due to rampant injuries. No team has made winning ugly look so pretty. And MSU was at it again on Saturday vs. Indiana, needing a fourth-quarter of absolute dominance to subdue the Hoosiers, 52-26. The week before, the Spartans needed a miracle to beat Michigan. Before that were sleepy wins vs. Purdue and Rutgers. And on it has gone all season. Now, Michigan State can catch its breath for a homestretch of interesting games: at Nebraska; Maryland; at Ohio State; Penn State.

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2. It isn’t pretty or easy, but Penn State finds ways to win. And I know James Franklin isn’t gonna apologize for it. I don’t blame him. This program is bowl eligible once again following its narrow 31-30 victory over Maryland in Baltimore. That’s a nice feat for a program that continues to get reestablished after probation.

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3. Wisconsin may be the most resourceful team in the Big Ten. Banged up and thin on the offensive line and missing RB Corey Clement since the opener with a sport hernia, the Badgers continue to find a way to win. At Illinois, Wisconsin’s misfortune continued with QB Joel Stave leaving in the first half with an injury to the head. But Bart Houston took over and excelled in leading Wisconsin to victory.

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4. Nebraska’s bowl hopes are in peril. That 30-28 home loss to Northwestern dropped the Cornhuskers to 3-5. It was Nebraska’s third home defeat of the season. The Huskers will need to win three of their last four games to become bowl eligible. The remaining schedule: at Purdue; Michigan State; at Rutgers; Iowa. NU has missed a bowl just two times since 1969, finishing with losing marks in 2004 and 2007 under Bill Callahan. And, no Nebraska coach wants his name linked to Bill Callahan’s.

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5. Maryland has its starting quarterback. Yes, Perry Hills is limited as a passer, but his playmaking ability as a runner is valuable. Hills threw for 225 yards and a touchdown and ran for 124 yards and a TD vs. Penn State, positioning Maryland to pull the upset before a late interception, his third of the day. Again, it’s his feet that make him dangerous. The Terrapins showed a lot of fight in interim coach Mike Locksley’s debut, and Hills was a big reason.

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6. The demise of Northwestern was greatly exaggerated. The Wildcats showed they still mean business with an impressive 30-28 victory at Nebraska that made them bowl eligible for the first time since 2012. This came on the heels of Northwestern losing back to back games at Michigan and vs. Iowa by a combined 78-10 after a 5-0 start that had made NU the talk of the Big Ten.

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7. Make no mistake about it: Illinois is better with Bill Cubit as head coach. But this program remains a work in progress. The defense is solid, especially up front. In fact, the Illini have the most underrated d-line in the Big Ten. But the Illinois offense lacks playmakers, which is painfully obvious with RB Josh Ferguson still out with injury. And the attack too often struggles to run.

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8. Indiana’s bowl hopes are wavering. The exciting Hoosiers have seen a 4-0 start morph into a 4-4 reality after suffering a fourth defeat in succession. Now, Indiana must go 2-2 to finish the season to reach postseason eligibility. Winning either of the next two figures to be a challenge, with Iowa and then Michigan coming to Bloomington. That means the season may come down to winning the last two games—both on the road—at Maryland and at Purdue if IU hopes to end a bowl drought that dates to 2007.

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9. Ohio State had to be pleased with its 49-7 dominance of Rutgers. The Buckeyes looked like the No. 1 team in the nation with J.T. Barrett making his first start of 2015. Not only is Barrett a good fit for what Urban Meyer wants to do offensively—he passed for 223 yards, ran for 101 and accounted for five touchdowns–but he brings a leadership and energy to the offense that gives it giddy-up. This should be Barrett’s team from here on out, and it will be, barring injury.

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10. Rutgers’ loss at home to Ohio State might mark the beginning of a slide. Next up for the Scarlet Knights: at Wisconsin; at Michigan; vs. Nebraska. Add it all up, and getting to a bowl may be daunting for 3-4 Rutgers, unless it somehow can manage to win at least one of those next three games. The schedule ends with a trip to Army and visit from Maryland.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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