B1G Ten Tour - Latest News, Notes & Tidbits
At the conclusion of each week's games, CFN's Phil Harrison puts the previous weekend of Big Ten football under the microscope, and looks ahead through binoculars to see what's in store for the upcoming weekend. It's the weekly B1G Ten Tour.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS - Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
It looked for all the world like Bucky the Badger was going to find its groove finally and take down Nebraska at home Saturday. Until--that is--Taylor Martinez started shooting lightning bolts out of his rear-end.
Down by seventeen at one point, the Huskers were only able to walk off the field on Saturday with a win because of the 288 yards of total offense Martinez had a hand in. All told, the junior from Corona, California threw for 181 yards and two scores, and also ran for another 107 yards with a touchdown. Not lost is the fact that it was all done against a Badger defense that has been rather stingy to date in 2012.
TEAM OF THE WEEK - Ohio State
Mediocre now more. The Buckeyes had been a bit of an unknown commodity heading to East Lansing last week. Through its first four games, OSU had done nothing on a consistent basis to make anyone believe that it was a legitimate threat to make tons of noise in the Big Ten.
That was before this past weekend when Ohio State seemed to put its most complete game of the season together--at least against worthy competition. The offense was nothing to call your grandma about, but Braxton Miller literally did enough by himself to will the team to a huge road victory against a quality team. It was Urban Meyer's first Big Ten victory, and perhaps a flag-planting type of win for a program on the mend.
Now, about next week....
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK - Ohio State's Defensive Performance
Staying with scarlet colored glasses, who saw the performance the Buckeye defense put up against Michigan State coming? Heading into last week, OSU had given up big play after big play and had ranked dead last in the Big Ten in total defense. The culprit? It was a lack-of-fundamental stew with missed tackles, blown assignments, and bad angles as the sour ingredients.
But not Saturday. The nation's third leading rusher, Le'Veon Bell was held to just 45 yards on 17 carries (2.6 ypc). And although Andrew Maxwell threw for 269 yards, the big play was by and large held at bay by the silver-bullet defense. Perhaps the most telling was the fact that the Spartans only scored 16 points on only 303 total yards. That qualifies for drastic improvement for the OSU defense.
CLUNKER OF THE WEEK - Illinois getting pasted by Penn State
Many media members had pegged the Illini as a dark-horse contender in the Leaders division heading into the season. That now seems to have been more of an optimistic notion than calling for a week of sunny skies in Seattle.
Penn State had it's own issues heading to Champaign Saturday. But the Nittany Lions looked like the bully in the parking lot against Illinois, beating up on the fleeing Illini by a final score of 35-7. Illinois moved the ball decent for much of the first part of the game, but struggled mightily to get much traction through the back-end of the yawner. The defense continues to be a serious concern, and things only seem to be getting worse by each flip of the calendar for Tim Beckman's crew.
12. Indiana- The Hoosiers have gotten a bit more competitive on the field this year, but the talent level is still not there, especially without Tre Roberson missing under center.
11. Illinois- Defense wins championships. A lack thereof also loses TONS of games.
10. Minnesota- The Gophers got exposed last week at Iowa. Much like Indiana, they are better but not ready to compete with most of the Big Ten.
9. Penn State- The fish don't fry in the kitchen, and the beans don't burn on the grill. PSU is movin' on up and not ready to throw in the towel just yet. The defense seems to be galvanizing.
8. Wisconsin- Will the light ever go on this season? Shoulda, coulda, woulda, didn'ta in Lincoln.
7. Iowa- Who knows what to expect week to week from the black and gold? We'll reserve judgement for now.
6. Northwestern- Undefeated yes, but still a lot to prove. We'll know a little more after a road game in Happy Valley this weekend.
5. Michigan State- What was a very promising season is now one with more questions than answers. Andrew Maxwell and his receiving corps had better figure things out quickly before things get away.
4. Michigan- Honestly, it's still hard to tell what the Wolverines are going to do in the conference this year. They have Denard, so there is at least that--good, bad, or indifferent.
3. Purdue- Many are starting to drink the engineer Kool-aid. The problem: The schedule is about to get real tough with Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State coming in a three game stretch.
2. Ohio State- Great win Saturday, and the temptation is there to vault OSU to the number one spot, but let's see some consistency first. Beating the Cornhuskers this weekend would qualify.
1. Nebraska- This could change with the ‘Huskers traveling to Columbus this weekend, but right now Nebraska has been the team with the least holes in the sinking conference ship.
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - It wasn't an eye-popping stat game for Miller, but it was a gutsy one on the road against a very good Michigan State defense. Because he shouldered nearly all of the OSU offense, and because Le'Veon Bell cracked like the Liberty Bell against OSU, Miller takes the top spot.
2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - Taylor Martinez vaults from off the page to second on the list after engineering a comeback win against the Badgers at home. He had a balanced attack on Saturday and seems to be growing as a passer as each game passes.
T3. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State - Bell is still on the radar, but he's going to have to show more against the more talented teams. He has had great games against inferior competition, but has been impersonating Axl Rose and not showing against the likes of Notre Dame and Ohio State. He falls in a tie with....
T3. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan- Yes, it can be considered cheating this week by selling out and including a tie for third, but there's nothing to go on from the bye-week to drop Robinson out of the spot he had an oily grip on. The reality is that there's still a bad taste in everyone's mouth from the implosion against the Irish. He's still Shoelace though, so we'll keep him tied neatly with rabbit-ears for now.
There are some pretty significant games on tap for this weekend. By far the one to set your DVR to if you have to run out is the contest in Columbus between the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers. It's a cross-division game, but it counts big time in the standings of each. The winner will get the de facto label of being the best team in the Big Ten--for now.
The other two big games have to be Michigan at Purdue and Northwestern at Penn State. Both games again include teams going outside of their respective divisions, but in each case the winner comes out as a more legitimate contender than the other. And in a league of parity, you can bet that one loss is going to make a difference.
If Purdue wants to stay at the same lunch table as the cool kids, it must beat the Wolverines. Likewise, a Wildcat win in Happy Valley would wake up the Big Ten neighbors. Penn State on the other hand, would like to continue its rise from the ashes.
Things are beginning to get interesting.