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Athlon recaps another huge weekend of action in the Big Ten.
Michigan and Wisconsin entered the weekend as the odd-on favorites to play in the Big Ten title game at season's end. After two huge injuries to both programs' starting quarterbacks, each left Week 9 with a loss. The Badgers would have to lose out (including to Indiana) in order to miss the trip to Indianapolis from the Leaders Division. However, the Wolverines' loss to Nebraska has thrown the Legends Division into complete upheaval. It should make for a fun final month in the Midwest.
Post-Week 9 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Just seven days after visiting the hospital for a scary head and neck injury against Purdue, Miller was up to his old tricks in Happy Valley. He threw for 143 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 134 yards and two more scores while keeping Ohio State unbeaten. He is now leading the Big Ten in rushing and total offense.
2. Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State - The Nittany Lions were outmatched against unbeaten Ohio State, but McGloin posted some big numbers. He threw for a personal best 327 yards and two touchdowns in PSU's first Big Ten loss of the year.
3. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - He wasn't elite — 166 yards, TD, INT passing and 58 yards rushing on 14 attempts — but he was good enough to beat the Wolverines on a bad wheel. This might have gone from a two-horse race to a one-horse race. It's Miller's award to lose at this point.
Post-Week 9 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - Mauti posted 13 total tackles against the most dynamic player in the league. Even though Penn State lost and couldn't really keep up with the Buckeyes, Mauti will be tough to beat here. He is No. 3 in the league in tackling to go with three interceptions and 2.5 sacks.
2. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin - Taylor led a defense that kept Michigan State to three points for nearly 60 minutes. He had eight tackles (1 TFL) and is No. 2 in the Big Ten in tackling and tackles for a loss.
3. John Simon, DL, Ohio State - Simon got one of the Buckeyes' four sacks this weekend, he also posted a tackle for loss and defelected a pass. Ryan Shazier might make bigger plays, but Simon is the leader of the defense. Most importantly, his team hasn't lost yet.
Post-Week 9 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - There is only one team in the nation with a 9-0 record and it's Meyer's Buckeyes. His squad played arguably their best game of the year in the whitewashing of Penn State on the road. An unbeaten season gives Meyer the Big Ten Coach of the Year award.
2. Bill O'Brien, Penn State - The relatively easy win for Ohio State doesn't eliminate BoB from Coach of the Year consideration by any means. It doesn't diminish his overall accomplishments in Happy Valley. A 3-1 mark to finish at 6-2 in league play might give O'Brien the COY award.
3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - His Wildcats blitzed the over-matched Hawkeyes in impressive fashion this weekend. He has his best rushing attack since arriving in Evanston and has an outside shot at nine wins.
Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
1. Ohio State (9-0, 5-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 9 result: Beat Penn State 35-23
The talk around Columbus this week was the health of Heisman candidate Braxton Miller. Well, it turns out he is just fine. The Buckeyes' star quarterback got his Heisman candidacy back on track with another big day on the ground. Ohio State out-gained Penn State 234 yards to 32 on the ground, led by Miller's two touchdowns. Two late touchdowns made this game look closer than it really was as the Buckeyes defense played arguably its best game of the year, sacking Matt McGloin four times and forcing two turnovers on the road. The Bucknuts are the only 9-0 team in the nation.
This week: Illinois (2-6)
2. Nebraska (6-2, 3-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 9 result: Beat Michigan 25-9
Obviously, there is a rather large asterisk next to Nebraska's win over Michigan. The Huskers easily handled the Maize and Blue once Denard Robinson left the game. The Huskers defense hasn't looked like the Black Shirts much this fall, but once Shoelace left the game, Nebraska dominated on that side of the ball. They held Michigan to a season low 188 yards of offense for the game and only three points once Robinson departed (and those came with lots of help from NU penalties). The Huskers now control their own destiny in the Legends Division after back-to-back wins over Northwestern and Michigan. However, Nebraska could face four "bowl-eligible" teams to finish the year: Michigan State, Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa.
This week: at Michigan State (5-4)
3. Michigan (5-3, 3-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 9 result: Lost to Nebraska 25-9
Big Ten fans got robbed of what could have been a truly great match-up in Lincoln. Michigan fans likely feel worse. Denard Robinson left the game in the second quarter when Bake Steinkuhler awkwardly hit his throwing arm as Michigan was going in to score. Dealing with re-aggravated nerve damage in his throwing arm, Shoelace was unable to return and replacement Russell Bellomy was left to deal with the Black Shirts. He was like a deer in headlights, starting 0-for-10 passing and leading the offense to only three points in the final 33 minutes of play. Michigan was held to a season low 188 total yards, 38 of which came from Bellomy (on 16 passes and five rushes). Brady Hoke has stated he isn't concerned with his star quarterback's availability for next Saturday's Battle for the Little Brown Jug.
This week: at Minnesota (5-3)
4. Penn State (5-3, 3-1)
Previous rank: 4
Week 9 result: Lost to Ohio State 35-23
Matt McGloin threw for a career-best 327 yards and a couple of late scores to make the outcome much closer than it should have been. The Penn State ground game had averaged 180.5 yards per game with no fewer than 161 yards in each of the previous four games. Against Ohio State, it mustered only 32 yards on 28 carries as the Nits trailed 28-10 with 10 minutes to go in the game. The schedule isn't that difficult — Purdue, Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin — and a 3-1 finish would give Penn State an eight-win season. In Happy Valley this fall, eight wins has to be considered a modern miracle.
This week: at Purdue (3-5)
5. Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2)
Previous rank: 3
Week 9 result: Lost to Michigan State 16-13 (OT)
Much like Michigan, Badgers fans have to feel robbed this fall. Both league losses have come without starting quarterback Joel Stave and now Bret Bielema will be without his signal caller for the rest of the year. The redshirt freshman walk-on was 9-of-11 for 127 yards and a touchdown when he left the game with a broken collarbone. Former Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien led the offense to 43 total yards in the second half and overtime. The defense played excellent football, but finally broke down in the final minutes of play when the Spartans drove the length of the field to tie the game with 1:25 left to play. This team is still very much in the driver's seat for the Leaders Division default crown, but without Stave, an upset win in Indy is highly unlikely.
This week: Off
6. Northwestern (7-2, 3-2)
Previous rank: 6
Week 9 result: Beat Iowa 28-17
This was a huge game for a team that believes it is ready to compete for a Big Ten title. While finishing 6-2 in the league is highly unlikely (at Michigan, at Michigan State and Illinois after the bye), a shot at nine wins was realized with the win this weekend. A game Northwestern dominated. Opening up a 28-3 lead behind the best rushing attack Pat Fitzgerald has ever had in Evanston (237.6 ypg, 15th nationally), the Wildcats held on for the easy home win over reeling Iowa. Kain Colter and Venric Mark both topped 160 yards on the ground as Northwestern finished with 349 yards on the ground.
This week: Off
7. Michigan State (5-4, 2-3)
Previous rank: 7
Week 9 result: Beat Wisconsin 16-13 (OT)
The Spartans were teetering after a brutal last-second loss to rival Michigan last weekend. But the most maligned member of the Spartans' football program answered the bell when he had to this weekend and Sparty got off the schneid. Andrew Maxwell completed 8-of-9 passes and even rushed for a first down on MSU's final drive of the game that ended in the game-tying touchdown pass to Le'Veon Bell. He then tossed the game-winner in overtime on third-and-eight from the Wisconsin 12-yard line. It was easily Maxwell's best clutch performance of his brief and challenged career. The Spartans now return home for two tough games against Nebraska and Northwestern.
This week: Nebraska (6-2)
8. Iowa (4-4, 2-2)
Previous rank: 9
Week 9 result: Lost to Northwestern 28-17
It was too little too late for Kirk Ferentz. For the second straight week, the Hawkeyes appeared to be completely unprepared to play a football game. After falling behind 38-0 to Penn State last weekend, Iowa fell behind Northwestern 28-3 before scoring a couple of second half touchdowns. This type of overall erosion is unacceptable in Iowa City. Certainly, Northwestern is as talented as it has been in over a decade, but there is no excuse for Iowa to fall behind 66-3. It is up to the head coach to have his team better prepared to compete.
This week: at Indiana (3-5)
9. Minnesota (5-3, 1-3)
Previous rank: 10
Week 9 result: Beat Purdue 44-28
This was a huge statement win for Jerry Kill and the Gophers. No, a win over Purdue isn't something you normally put in your trophy case, but it keeps Minnesota on pace for a potential bowl bid and gives an extremely young offense loads of confidence. Freshman Philip Nelson played flawless football in leading his team to a 44-7 lead halfway through the third quarter. He finished with 246 yards and three touchdowns on 15-of-22 passing and no interceptions. He also added 37 yards rushing as Gophers fans have to be excited about the future of the quarterback position in Minneapolis. Kill's bunch has three brutal games left (Michigan, at Nebraska and Michigan State) and one game that should give them a trip to a bowl game (Illinois). Any upsets along the way would guarantee a winning season for the first time since 2008.
This week: Michigan (5-3)
10. Purdue (3-5, 0-4)
Previous rank: 8
Week 9 result: Lost to Minnesota 44-28
After a strong non-conference showing, Danny Hope's bunch was poised to compete in the depleted Leaders Division. That is, until Big Ten play started. With just over eight minutes to go in the third quarter, Purdue had scored seven points and was trailing by 37 to Minnesota. Purdue has lost four straight games and has allowed nearly 40 points per game since Big Ten play started. The offense hasn't helped much either, averaging less than 300 yards per game during the four-game losing streak. Hope needs to win down the stretch to keep his job — probably three times, which isn't all that far-fetched with one of the easiest final months in the league: Penn State, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana.
This week: Penn State (5-3)
11. Indiana (3-5, 1-3)
Previous rank: 12
Week 9 result: Beat Illinois 31-17
A win over a 2-6 team that has looked completely inept wouldn't normally be a signature victory, but for Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers, that is exactly what this weekend's win was for the fans in Bloomington. The two-touchdown road win was the first Big Ten win for the Wilson regime, and frankly, they made it look easy. After falling behind 14-7 early in the second quarter, Indiana out-scored Illinois 24-3 the rest of the way. Wilson's bunch is just a couple plays away from being 5-3 after heart-breaking losses to Ball State and Navy. It was the first league victory for IU since Nov. 2010.
This week: Iowa (4-4)
12. Illinois (2-6, 0-4)
Previous rank: 11
Week 9 result: Beat Lost to Indiana 31-17
The Illini finally won something this weekend. However, of course, no one wants to be called the "Worst Team in the League." But that is what Tim Beckman's bunch has earned in his first season at Illinois after losing at home by two touchdowns to a team that hasn't won a Big Ten game since November 2010. This team is horrendous in all three phases. It's ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring offense and sacks allowed. It is last in the Big Ten in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. And it's even last in punt returns and 11th in kick returns.
This week: Ohio State (9-0)
by Braden Gall
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