|This story originally published on CollegeFootballNews.com|
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 - Cain Colter, QB, Northwestern
The Wildcats have very quietly put themselves into position to steal away the Legends Division this year and Cain Colter is a big reason why. On Saturday, he showed us even more reason to believe that real men can still wear purple well after Prince (or whatever he’s called these days) is out of style. Colter ran the ball 26 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns, and also threw for eighty yards and another score. That’s an Abraham Lincoln (four score) all by himself. His efforts helped the Wildcats to a 28-17 win over division foe Iowa.
TEAM OF THE WEEK - Minnesota
Well look who won themselves a Big Ten ballgame. Not to slight Indiana, but we’re recognizing the Golden Gophers behind the smashing debut of freshman QB Philip Nelson who passed for 246 yards and three touchdowns on 15 of 22 attempts.
The Gophers were able to get out to a fast start against the Boilermakers and held on 44-28 to notch their first Big Ten win since its last game of 2011 versus Illinois on November 26. The win puts Minnesota just one win away from Bowl eligibility and there is still a game against Illinois on November 10 so, well....you know where I’m headed.
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK - The Nebraska Defense
Sure Michigan lost Denard Robinson to injury in the second quarter, but the Wolverines weren’t able to get much going with Robinson in the huddle prior to that. The Nebraska defense looked like a Cornhusker defense from yesteryear and controlled the game between these two Legends division and Big Ten title contenders.
The ‘closer to Black-Shirts’ allowed only 188 total yards and nine points to an offensive minded Wolverine team and also forced three turnovers. If this performance by the Nebraska defense becomes the norm, the rest of the Big Ten should take notice.
CLUNKER OF THE WEEK - Purdue against Minnesota
After a week off, Purdue takes its weekly spot driving the clunker of the week. What has happened to Purdue is simply unfathomable. The Boilermakers nearly beat a very, very good Notre Dame team on the road early in the year, but since then, the wheels have fallen off and rolled into the Wabash River.
For this cameo appearance, the Boilermakers got the doors blew off of them by a Minnesota team that had no business taking their lunch money, 44-28. They did win the second half, so there’s at least that.
12. Illinois- Basketball season can’t come soon enough.
11. Purdue- My how expectations have changed in West Lafayette. At this point in the season you are what your record says. The Boilermaker’s record says, “We are not very good.”
10. Indiana- Well well, the Hoosiers beat a high school junior varsity team in Illinois, but its a win nonetheless. The offense is becoming an entertaining unit to watch.
9. Minnesota- Remember the last time both Minnesota and Indiana won a Big Ten game on the same day? No, it wasn’t during the Eisenhower administration, but it was a while back--November 27, 2010.
8. Iowa- Things are going south in a hurry in Iowa City. Someone put out an APB on the offense.
7. Michigan State- Winning at Wisconsin is a good start. Having consistent play at the quarterback position would be a continuance. Sparty has been the hard luck team of 2012 in the B1G.
6. Wisconsin- Just when you thought the Badgers had turned things around, the offense pulls an Axl Rose and has a no show on the big stage against a solid Spartan defense.
5. Northwestern- The Wildcats keep hanging around and have an outside shot at contending in the Legends division with the Michigan loss. As Cain Colter goes, so too do the hopes of the team.
4. Penn State- The Nittany Lions were not up to the challenge against OSU on Saturday, but they are still a top-five Big Ten team with a very solid defense.
3. Michigan- The fighting Denard Robinsons couldn’t get it done against Nebraska. If Robinson is out for any period of time, the Wolverines ranking will free fall...
2. Nebraska- The ‘Huskers are now in the drivers seat for the Big Ten Legends division, and who knows, perhaps a Big Ten title. The defense looks to be improving.
1. Ohio State- Is there any discussion? OSU just keeps finding a way to win and put together perhaps its most impressive win on the road in Happy Valley.
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Miller is still the only guy in the Big Ten that’s going to get any kind of Heisman love. He had a blip on the radar last week being injured, but showed well against Penn State on Saturday. He remains in striking range but needs Collin Klein and a few others to stumble to have a shot.
2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin - Ball found some tough sledding against a stout Michigan State defense and is really just here because of name recognition alone. Even turning things up to a fever pitch over the last few games likely won’t get him in the mix.
3. Denard Robinson, RB, Wisconsin - Ho hum. This is more of a ranking to round out a top three because nobody is seriously considering Robinson for the Heisman. If he looks to be out for any period of time then he’ll drop off from any recognition at all.
The upcoming week is relatively void of big matchups. The only game that will hit any kind of national radar is Nebraska at Michigan State. And don’t kid yourselves. Sparty has lost a bushel of games but they have all been close. It will be a serious feather in the cap for Nebraska to waltz into East Lansing and get much done against a solid defensive ball-club. It’ll be a good one.
The other games? How about Iowa at Indiana, Michigan at Minnesota, Illinois at Ohio State, and Penn State at Purdue? Both Wisconsin and Northwestern have byes. It might be a good week to rake those leaves...