Athlon recaps the Week 3 action in the Big Ten.
After two concerning weeks of play in the Big Ten, the league watched many of its teams bounce back with easy wins. It finished 10-2 this week with losses to Notre Dame and Ball State, but what was the top win of Week 3? Ohio State inching past Cal? Wisconsin luckily topping Utah State? Or Nebraska over Arkansas State? The point being, it wasn't exactly a marquee slate and Michigan State failed the one national test the league was facing against the Irish. The truth of the matter is there is no BCS national title contender in the B1G this season. That much is obvious.
However, it doesn't mean there won't be plenty of excitement and drama. Both divisions appear to be wide open with at least legit contenders in each one. And quarterback play looks like it will be the key to success. Indiana has lost Tre Roberson. Illinois has been without Nathan Scheelhaase now for two weeks. Purdue looks to have lost Robert Marve (which could be a blessing). And now, both Minnesota and Wisconsin are makings switches — for two very different reasons.
Post-Week 3 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Is there anything this kid cannot do? Miller threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns, including two huge fourth-quarter strikes that won the game for the Buckeyes. He added another 75 yards rushing and his fifth touchdown on the ground as well. That's 12 total TDs thus far in three games.
2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan - The competition was pretty weak, but Robinson was up to his old tricks. He threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns while topping the century mark in rushing (106) and scoring again on the ground. These two dual-threats should battle for POY all season.
3. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - The junior QB bounced back from the loss to UCLA in excellent fashion. He completed 13-of-14 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns to go with 54 yards rushing and another score. He leads the league in passing yards and is No. 2 in efficiency to go with 176 yards rushing and two more scores.
Post-Week 3 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Will Compton, LB, Nebraska - The Huskers defense got off the mat and played well in a bounce-back performance against a solid Arkansas State offense (286 total yards allowed). Compton posted seven tackles and another tackle for loss. He now leads NU in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks.
2. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin - The Badgers struggled to defeat a solid Utah State team but Taylor was the main reason they held on to win. He was all over the field against the dynamic USU option attack. He is now second in the league in tackles after a 15-stop performance this week.
3. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State - The speedy Buckeye tackler stood out all day in the win over Cal. He made bone-crushing hits, posted 13 total tackles, two tackles for a loss and one of the Bucks' six sacks. He has all the skills needed to be the next great OSU linebacker.
Post-Week 3 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - The Buckeyes' head man gets the nod because A) His team hasn't lost yet B) He has the best team in the league C) And there are no other clear candidates for COY.
2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - Most of the coaches in the Big Ten are dealing with major adversity, so an unbeaten record against three consecutive BCS AQ teams makes Fitz a prime candidate (today, at least) for COY.
3. Pick a Name, State U - Mark Dantonio's team got man-handled (again) by Notre Dame. Jerry Kill is 3-0, but who have they beaten? Brady Hoke's team is going to be good but has some major weaknesses. There is no clearcut No. 3 candidate, but I have a feeling Bo Pelini will be back on this list after recovering from a health scare this weekend.
Post-Week 3 Power Rankings
1. Ohio State (3-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 3 result: Beat Cal 35-28
The Buckeyes welcomed back starting tailback Jordan Hall and got six sacks from six different players in a game that was much tighter than expected. After taking a 20-7 commanding lead in the first half on the dynamic play-making ability of star quarterback Braxton Miller, Cal dominated the third period of play. It out-gained Ohio State 190-10 and eventually took the lead 21-20 a few minutes into the fourth quarter. But time after time, the Buckeyes turned to Miller to overcome the big-play punches by the Golden Bears. The star dual-threat QB led two long scoring drives to give OSU the lead twice in the final frame, the last of which ended on a game-winning 72-yard touchdown pass in which Miller scrambled right and found a wide open Devin Smith. After another 324 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns, Miller has placed himself squarely in the Heisman race with key completions and gritty runs. He has seven passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns on the season. Despite the play of Miller, Urban Meyer knows his team still has some issues. The running game got a boost from Hall (17 att., 87 yards), but was still lackluster. While his pass rush was clearly improved, the tackling was an issue all day as the defense allowed big plays in the running game that nearly cost OSU the win. There are plenty of kinks that need ironing out with one cupcake left to go before the Big Ten season begins in East Lansing.
This week: UAB (1-1)
2. Michigan (2-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 3 result: Beat UMass 63-13
The Wolverines entered this weekend ranked 113th nationally against the run and Brady Hoke was undoubtedly hoping to rebuild those stats against lowly UMass. And while 112 yards isn't exactly what he was hoping for, it was 139 yards fewer than his team had been allowing. Otherwise, Denard Robinson and company got their reps in against a team that had no chance to win the game. Shoelace finished with four total touchdowns and 397 yards of total offense (291 pass, 106 rush) in a warm-up for what should be a monster game next weekend against Notre Dame. He will need his rushing attack against that Irish front seven and it showed up in Week 3 to the tune of 294 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in the win over the Minutemen. See the Michigan State Spartans to know exactly what the Maize and Blue will be facing next week against the Golden Domers.
This week: at Notre Dame (3-0)
3. Michigan State (2-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 3 result: Lost to Notre Dame 20-3
For the second straight season Michigan State got physically dominated by Notre Dame. Le'Veon Bell found no room to run (19 att., 77 yards), Andrew Maxwell was uninspiring (23-of-45, 187 yards, 0 TD) and the vaunted Spartans defense could not make the key play against a freshman quarterback. A combined score of 51-16 over the last two seasons clearly give the Irish's Brian Kelly an advantage over Mark Dantonio. It was a deflating performance that highlighted the weaknesses of a one-dimensional offense in East Lansing. The great news, however, is that Michigan State lost to ND last fall in ugly fashion and then went on to win the Legends Division. Sparty is still very much a top contender for the wide open Big Ten championship.
This week: Eastern Michigan (0-3)
4. Nebraska (2-1)
Previous rank: 4
Week 3 result: Beat Arkansas State 42-13
Nebraska took a 28-3 lead into halftime at Memorial Stadium, but when it came out to play the second half, Bo Pelini wasn't in the building. The head coach was taken by ambulance to Bryant West Hospital for precautionary reasons after falling ill in the first half. Huskers athletic director Tom Osbourne released a statement that Pelini is "doing fine" and "looks as though he's in pretty good shape." Arkansas State put together its rally in the third, cutting the lead to 28-13 before Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah willed their team to victory for "interim coach" and current DC John Papuchis. Martinez was brilliant, completing 13-of-14 passes and accounting for three touchdowns, while Abdullah was the workhorse Nebraska needed with Rex Burkhead sitting on the sidelines once again. The sophomore runner carried 30 times and caught two passes for 206 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. The defense also bounced back from its poor Week 2 showing by holding Ryan Aplin and Arkansas State to only 286 total yards. The four turnovers are concerning for NU, but this was an incredibly efficient performance by the Big Red: 10-of-13 on third down, 13-of-14 passing, 5.9 yards per carry and only four penalties. The head coach and star tailback likely won't be needed to defeat Idaho State next weekend, but a healthy Pelini and Burkhead would be a welcome sight for Nebraska fans.
This week: Idaho State (1-1)
5. Northwestern (3-0)
Previous rank: 6
Week 3 result: Beat Boston College 22-13
It was frustrating at times for Northwestern but a win is a win, and now the Wildcats are the only team in the nation with three wins over BCS AQ teams. Pat Fitzgerald's offense drove into the redzone numerous times throughout this game but simply could not convert, settling for a career-high five field goals from Jeff Budzien. The ground game was the big difference for NW as three different players got at least 15 carries and the team nearly rushed for 300 yards. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian continue to split reps and both were effective this week. Will Coach Fitz have to pick one or can he continue to rotate passers deep into the Big Ten schedule? That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the once-maligned Wildcats defense continues to show slight improvement, holding BC to 25 yards rushing on 21 carries while keeping them 20 points below their scoring average (33 ppg coming in). With South Dakota and Indiana up next, a 5-0 start is likely for a team that appears to have plenty of mental toughness.
This week: South Dakota (1-1)
6. Purdue (2-1)
Previous rank: 9
Week 3 result: Beat Eastern Michigan 54-16
With just over nine minutes to go in the second quarter, Eastern Michigan kicked a field goal to cut the lead to four points at 13-9. Purdue then scored five straight touchdowns and outscored EMU 41-7 the rest of the way to win the first of a four-game home stand. Without having to look over his shoulder at Robert Marve, Caleb TerBush spread the wealth all over the field in West Lafayette. Six different Boilermakers scored seven offensive touchdowns and four players rushed for at least 47 yards. In fact, of Purdue's 576 total yards of offense, 392 came on the ground on an absurd per carry average of 9.3 yards. With a bye week coming next Saturday and stability under center, this rushing attack should have the Boilermakers 3-1 when Michigan heads to town on Oct. 6.
This week: Open Date
7. Wisconsin (2-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 3 result: Beat Utah State 16-14
The Badger faithful need to head into Week 4 extremely thankful to be 2-1. After making a coaching change along the offensive line, Wisconsin's once-vaunted power rushing attack continues to be a shell of its former self (3.5 yards per carry on 45 attempts). It did show improvement from last week, and when needed, the Badgers drove the ball on the ground giving the football to Montee Ball six straight times for the go-ahead touchdown. That said, it took a huge third-quarter special teams touchdown from Kenzel Doe and a missed 37-yard yard field goal from Utah State as time expired to beat the Aggies. The biggest issue? Play-calling and quarterback play. Matt Canada continues to be lackluster as the architect and Danny O'Brien was so lost in the first half against a WAC team that he was benched at halftime. Joel Stave, a big 6-foot-5, 220-pound youngster, played the entire second half and showed a nice arm. But he wasn't asked to do much of anything (2-of-6 passing, 15 yards) and there are serious doubts about this passing game being able to complete big plays in key spots late in games. This team is nowhere near what it was last fall and games against Purdue, Illinois and Penn State are now complete toss ups in the race for the Leaders Division crown.
This week: UTEP (1-2)
8. Illinois (2-1)
Previous rank: 7
Week 3 result: Beat Charleston Southern 44-0
Starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase sat out his second straight game, but this time around Reilly O'Toole was near perfect. And the defense did the rest. The back-up signal caller completed his first 10 passes for 106 yards and two scores to kickstart the Illini offense and he finished 26-of-31 for 333 yards and five touchdowns in the blowout win. The defense whitewashed the overmatched Buccaneers with relative ease as CSU finished 0-of-13 on third downs and totaled 125 yards of offense. It was a much-needed breather after the ugly West Coast trip to Arizona State last week. And in this league, any easy win is welcomed with open arms. Scheelhaase is questionable for the tricky test with the defending WAC champion Bulldogs next weekend.
This week: Louisiana Tech (2-0)
9. Iowa (2-1)
Previous rank: 8
Week 3 result: Beat Northern Iowa 27-16
The Hawkeyes needed to find offense from somewhere, but I doubt many believe walk-on fullback Mark Weisman would be the guy. He carried the ball 23 times for 113 yards and three short touchdown runs in place of the injured Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon. Weisman's three scores were three time the total number of touchdowns scored all season by the entire Iowa team in its first two games. Quarterback James Vandenberg played his best game as the Hawks battled with in-state upstart Northern Iowa for three quarters before eventually shutting out UNI in the final frame. The offense was better (429 total yards), but this team still does not have a passing touchdown on the season and played a third-straight tight game. Can I? Should I? Okay, why not: Weisman for Heisman!
This week: Central Michigan (1-1)
10. Penn State (1-2)
Previous rank: 10
Week 3 result: Beat Navy 34-7
Finally, Nittany Lion nation can breathe a sigh of relief. Bill O'Brien's team showed marked improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, but simply couldn't close the deal against Virginia in heart-breaking fashion. This Saturday, he made sure his team left no doubt as they rolled through the Naval Academy with relative ease. Without either of his top two tailbacks, quarterback Matt McGloin had the best games of his career (231 yards, 4 TD) in leading his team to a 34-0 lead before the Midshipmen finally got on the board for the first time with 10 minutes to go in the game. Wideout Allen Robinson continues to shine with another great game: 5 rec., 136 yards, 3 TD. There are few wins this weekend that mean as much and feel as good as Penn State's did Saturday as this program was in dire need of something positive to rally behind. And who knows, in this year's Big Ten Leaders Division that appears to be completely wide open, maybe the Nits will be a factor after all.
This week: Temple (0-2)
11. Minnesota (3-0)
Previous rank: 11
Week 3 result: Beat Western Michigan 28-23
The Gophers were trailing 10-7 with four minutes to go in the second quarter when Marqueis Gray hurt his left ankle and leg. The Big Ten's most efficient passer after two weeks (yes, you read that right) was carted off the field and never returned. Never fear, however, as back-up Max Shortell reenergized the sputtering passing attack by completing 5-of-6 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the final minutes of the first half to give the Gophers a 21-10 halftime lead. The Broncos made it interesting in the final few minutes with a late touchdown but Minnesota held on for its first 3-0 start since 2008. Tailback Donnell Kirkwood helped his young quarterback by rushing for a career-high 123 yards on 23 attempts, including one key 26-yard run late in the game that all but sealed the win. Jerry Kill's three wins this year have already matched the win total in each of the previous two seasons in the Twin Cities.
This week: Syracuse (1-2)
12. Indiana (2-1)
Previous rank: 12
Week 3 result: Lost to Ball State 41-39
In what was likely the most entertaining game of the Big Ten Week 3 slate, Indiana lost a heart-breaking affair for the second straight season to Ball State. Without star quarterback Tre Roberson, the Hoosiers saw the lead change hands seven times including twice in the final 49 seconds. Cameron Coffman, in his first career start, threw for 251 yards and two scores before being pulled for true freshman Nate Sudfield. And in one quarter trailing by 13, Sudfield rallied Indiana with one big 70-yard touchdown throw and another 77-yard drive to take the lead with less than a minute left. He finished 13-of-20 for 172 yards and two scores. However, Ball State QB Keith Wenning was masterful in guiding his team on yet another scoring drive in the final 49 seconds to set up the game-winning 42-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Kevin Wilson's bunch might be done winning games in 2012.
This week: Open Date
by Braden Gall
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