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B1G Ten Tour - News, Notes & Thoughts
Phil Harrison's B1G Ten Tour. News, Notes & More - Post Week Six
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
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.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
It’d be easy to hand the notoriety to Braxton Miller or Denard Robinson again with each going for over 300 total yards, but were going off the radar this week and recognizing a running back that came off the radar himself.
Starting running back Jordan Hall had to sit out of the Ohio State lineup because of a knee injury, so that meant that Carlos Hyde got the call in OSU’s biggest game to date, a home affair against Nebraska. And he answered it loud and clear.
Hyde ran the ball for 28 times for 140 yards (5.0 ypc) and 4 touchdowns. But most importantly, he supplied a viable alternative to the flash and dash of Braxton Miller while Jordan Hall recouped.
Here’s betting that Hyde will get ample opportunity to continue to prove himself going forward.
TEAM OF THE WEEK - Ohio State
Yes, this column has a very Ohio State feel this week after the Buckeyes put up 63 points in the ‘Shoe against formidable Nebraska squad.
But seriously, is there another team that was more impressive over the weekend than OSU? That question is a resounding NO in the Big Ten, and might be worthy of asking on a national scale as well. The win against Michigan State on the road last week may have galvanized the scarlet and gray and acted as a catalyst to what we saw on Saturday.
OSU started out slowly against the ‘Huskers, but once things got going offensively, it was hard for Nebraska to keep up with the pace being set in Columbus. At one point in the game, the Buckeyes went on five straight touchdown drives—in effect putting the game out of reach in the second half.
It was a statement win, and though it’s still early, many are now starting to believe that there’s a chance of running the table in 2012.
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK – Penn State’s win over Northwestern
Maybe it wasn’t that much of a surprise, but the Nittany Lions kept its in-season renaissance going by taking down an undefeated and ranked Northwestern Wildcat team at home. In doing so, PSU ran its conference record to 2-0, tied for best in the Leaders division with Ohio State.
Penn State’s defense again showed up to keep the purple power in check by allowing just 247 yards of total offense while finding a balanced attack of its own on the same side of the ball. Matt McGloin continues to silence a lot of doubters with yet another solid performance, throwing for 282 yards on 35 of 51 attempts.
CLUNKER OF THE WEEK – Purdue getting white-walled by Michigan
Dark Horse no more. If there is such a thing, Purdue came away with a moral victory against Notre Dame on September 8. With the season the Irish are having, the close contest was seen as validation that the Boilermakers were perhaps the class of the Leaders division this year.
That tune has turned totally flat after this past weekend however. Purdue’s offense looked more pedestrian than an old lady crossing a busy intersection on Saturday—getting embarrassed 44-13 against a Michigan team that had been soul-searching itself. Purdue could only muster 56 yards on the ground, and a paltry 213 total yards offensively.
That’s before we even begin discussing the chunks of yards the defense gave up. It was a hot mess at best.
12. Illinois- Another poor showing, another spot down in the rankings. If there were fifteen teams, the Illini would still be last.
11. Indiana- Illinois was so bad that Indiana actually moves up a spot with a close loss to Sparty.
10. Minnesota- A bye week hopefully gets MarQueis Gray closer to being ready to play. A bye also no doubt provided many teaching opportunities from film tape against Iowa.
9. Purdue- It was only one game, but the disaster in Ross-Aide Stadium has many re-thinking the Boilers’ chances at representing the Leaders division in Indy.
8. Wisconsin- The Badgers were able to flip the switch in the second half and pull away from a bad Illinois team. Huge game next week with Purdue.
7. Iowa- Why does Iowa always look horrible in the non-conference and then get things together in conference play? Big road test at Michigan State will tell where the Hawkeyes are.
6. Northwestern- The Wildcats got exposed a bit in Happy Valley but still have plenty of opportunity to make some serious noise the rest of the way.
5. Penn State- Well hello there. Penn State isn’t ready to go quietly into the night quite yet. It was a very solid win against the Wildcats.
4. Michigan State- Gillette hasn’t had closer shaves, but a win, is a win, is a win. Sparty needs to get its legs back or else.
3. Michigan- The Wolverines bounced back nicely after the horrible showing in South Bend and took things out on a Purdue team that’s; still walking gingerly as we speak. The race is on.
2. Nebraska- The Huskers ran into a buzz-saw in Columbus. They still looked very good offensively, but the defense needs a tune up before it blows a gasket again.
1. Ohio State- There’s no other alternative than to move the Buckeyes to the top spot after the impressive win at home against Nebraska. It just might be Ohio State and everyone else in the Big Ten (insert disclaimer here about postseason ban).
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State – Miller is the only true Heisman caliber performer in the Big Ten right now. He again went off for over 300 yards of total offense and surpassed his own OSU quarterback rushing record by tallying 186 yards on the ground. If Ohio State keeps winning, Miller keeps doing his thing, and if voters can get over the fact that the Buckeyes are ineligible for postseason play, an invite to New York could be in the offing.
2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan – Like we said, it’s Miller and nobody else legitimately in the conversation right now. Still, it’s Denard Robinson, and tied shoelaces or not, he is a dynamic athlete who can get back in the hunt at any point. The performance Saturday helps with 235 yards on the ground to go with 105 through the air. It’ll be tough for voters to forget the nuclear meltdowns against Alabama and Notre Dame though.
3. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska – Martinez didn’t have a great game against OSU, but he’s put up decent numbers up until that point. Like Robinson, he can throw up some video game numbers to get back in it. Throwing three picks against OSU certainly won’t help his cause.
Things are beginning to take shape, but unfortunately for the Leaders division, that shape looks like a muddled mess of play-doh. If Ohio State and Penn State keep winning, it could be an ugly step-daughter representing the Leaders division at the grand ball in Indy.
On that note, the biggest game this coming weekend on an otherwise uninspiring slate looks like the elimination death-match between Purdue and Wisconsin. Why is it so big? Illinois and Indiana don’t look to be going anywhere this year, and we all know the plight of OSU and Penn State. That means the winner in West Lafayette will be in the driver seat of a broken-down lemon. Indy or literal bust.
It also bears watching how Ohio State fares after its emotions were on full display in Columbus Saturday night. It’ll be on the road in Bloomington to take on Kevin Wilson’s squad that put a scare in the green and white psyche of Michigan State. Could it be a trap game? Unlikely, but it is a road game and you never know.
To round out the rest of the games, Iowa travels to Michigan State, Michigan hosts Illinois, and Northwestern packs its bags to visit the Mall of America in the Twin Cities. Penn State and Nebraska are both idle.
Things will really begin to shake out over the next couple of weeks as all the fun continues.