Big Ten Division Races Begin To Take Shape
By Scott Dochterman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - After a half-season scramble resembling a bowl of vegetable soup and not its traditional steak-and-potatoes recipe, the Big Ten might have returned to its normal diet Saturday.
Wisconsin steamrolled Purdue 38-14 with a 467-yard rushing performance. Iowa and Michigan State engaged in their traditional slugfest with the Hawkeyes pulling out a 19-16 double-overtime victory. And Michigan posted its first shutout this season while blanking Illinois 45-0.
With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the postseason, Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) and Purdue (3-3, 0-2) were earmarked as the favorites to represent the Leaders Division at the Big Ten title game. The Badgers turned that game into a rout behind Montee Ball's career-high 267 rushing yards.
"This was the game we were looking for," Ball said. "We practiced really well coming into this game, and we've been getting better and better. This was a great win in the Leaders Division. We just need to keep carrying this momentum from day to day."
Iowa (4-2, 2-0) earned its second straight Legends Division victory and fought blow-for-blow with the league's most physical team. The Hawkeyes wanted to send a message that they can match any team's toughness, and they did so in East Lansing.
"That’s what we preach here," Iowa wide receiver Keenan Davis said. "We’ve got to be the most physical team. We don’t really have the most athletic guys, but that’s why we take physicality into it. That and playing smart. Being detailed. We have to do those things to be a good Iowa team."
Iowa prides itself on not looking ahead, focusing narrowly and not getting caught up in the big picture. That philosophy will serve them well, unlike other divisional foes who openly discuss winning out to stay in the Rose Bowl race.
"What we’ve tried to do is focus on what’s right in front of us and getting better," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "That’s what this game is all about and that’s what it teaches you. You’ve got to have some mental toughness to do that because not every day is going to go the way you want, every play is not going to go the way you want and (Saturday) was a great illustration of that."
Michigan (4-2, 2-0) gave up just 134 yards against Illinois. Quarterback Denard Robinson rushed for two touchdowns and threw two more to keep the Wolverines in a first-place Legends Division tie with the Hawkeyes. Michigan and Iowa meet Nov. 17 in Ann Arbor.
"I thought (Robinson) did a nice job managing the game," Michigan Coach Brady Hoke said. "His reads were good. I thought we were in and out of the huddle, which gave him time to check a play if we wanted to do that. I thought he ran the ball hard and that's one thing that you love to see. He's not afraid, and he did a nice job for us."
Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) held off a pesky challenge from Indiana 52-49. The Hoosiers recovered an onside kick, scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion inside of two minutes remaining but Ohio State recovered the ensuing onside attempt to end the threat.
"We are not good in certain areas and we were exposed," Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer said. "Spread offensives right now are really exposing us right now. We have got to get something fixed"
STARS OF THE WEEK
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball set the Big Ten touchdown record against Purdue. Ball rushed for 267 yards and four touchdowns to gain his 72nd TD, passing former Badgers RB Ron Dayne. Michigan sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan posted 11 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, against Illinois. Iowa kicker Mike Meyer connected on four field goals, including two in overtime, to pace the Hawkeyes past Michigan State.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson now has seven games where he has rushed and passed for at least two touchdowns. ... Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller continued his amazing run of excellence, throwing for 211 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 149 and one score. ... Minnesota Coach Jerry Kill collapsed from a seizure following the Gophers' 21-13 loss to Northwestern. He was said to be resting comfortably in a Twin Cities hospital after the seizure. ... Indiana quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Carson Coffman combined for 352 passing yards and three touchdowns against Ohio State. ... Northwestern running back Venric Mark rushed for 182 yards and two scores against the Gophers. ... Wisconsin RB James White ran for 124 yards and a score. ... Purdue punter Cody Webster punted eight times for 345 yards, a 43.1 yard-per-punt average, and dropped four inside the 20. ... Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens recorded a game-high 15 tackles against Michigan State. Spartans linebacker Denicos Allen had 13. ... Illinois has lost nine straight Big Ten games.
(last week in parentheses)
1. Ohio State (1) 7-0, 3-0
Win against Hoosiers showed Buckeyes are far from perfect, except in the win-loss column
2. Michigan (3a) 4-2, 2-0
Wolverines smash Illinois, prove their defense is capable keeping an opponent grounded
3. Penn State (4) 4-2, 2-0
Nobody expected the league's top pure passer to reside in Happy Valley
4. Northwestern (5) 6-1, 2-1
Wildcats win the winnable games, gain bowl access
5a. Wisconsin (8) 5-2, 2-1)
Badgers running game returns to 2011 form
5b. Iowa (7) 4-2, 2-0
Defense wins ... well, overtime slugfests in the rain
7a. Nebraska (6) 4-2, 1-1
Cornhuskers' run defense earned a breather by not playing
7b. Michigan State (3b) 4-2, 1-2
Didn't realize the Spartans' passing game was so ... Spartan
9. Minnesota (10) 4-2, 0-2
Gophers passing game has taken a step back in league season
10. Indiana (11) 2-5, 0-3
Hoosiers scrappy in close Big Ten losses this season
11. Purdue (9) 3-3, 0-2
There's likely to be some change with Hope
12. Illinois (12) 2-5, 0-3
Start makes Ron Zook look like Mike White
Iowa 2-0 4-2
Michigan 2-0 4-2
Northwestern 2-1 6-1
Nebraska 1-1 4-2
Michigan State 1-2 4-3
Minnesota 0-2 4-2
Ohio State 3-0 7-0
Penn State 2-0 5-2
Wisconsin 2-1 5-2
Purdue 0-2 3-3
Indiana 0-3 2-4
Illinois 0-3 2-5
Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 2-OT
Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14
Michigan 45, Illinois 0
Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
Northwestern 21, Minnesota 13
Purdue at Ohio State, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Minnesota at Wisconsin, 11 a.m. (ESPNU)
Indiana at Navy, 11 a.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Nebraska at Northwestern, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Michigan State at Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (BTN)
Penn State at Iowa, 7 p.m. (BTN)
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