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The Spartans have a leg up in the Big Ten Legends Division after a big win over Michigan.
By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 7 Big Ten Power Rankings
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1. Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0) – Paul Chryst certainly gave the coaching staffs in East Lansing, Columbus and Champagne to think about - if they were not already losing sleep trying to gameplan for the Badgers attack. Montee Ball took the pitch off the right end before stopping and tossing a lazy floater back to quarterback Russell Wilson who strolled wide open down the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Wilson, who was only needed for 166 yards through the air, added two rushes for 42 yards as well. The triple-threat quarterback now leads the nation in QB efficiency at 210.93 (the NCAA record is 186.0). Ball, like the enitre UW offense (50.2 ppg), now leads the nation in scoring with 17.0 points per game. The 59-7 win marked the fifth time the Badgers scored at least 48 points in a game this season. With a trip to the No. 2 defense in the nation coming up this weekend, Big Red's offense will need all of its tricks to beat Michigan State and avenge its only regular season loss of the 2010 season.
2. Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) – Taylor Martinez and the embattled Huskers have had two weeks to meditate about its heartburn inducing win over Ohio State. A trip to Minneapolis should provide an excellent chance to both sides of the ball to refine its play and build a sense of efficiency, because the schedule gets rough starting with an October 29 visit from Michigan State. Northwestern, then two trips to Ann Arbor and Happy Valley and Iowa at home wrap-up the first Big Ten slate for Nebraska. Two of the Big Ten's top-five rushers (No. 3 Rex Burkhead and No. 5 Martinez) have had a chance to rest their legs for the next two months of battle.
3. Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) – The nation's No. 1 defense showed why it might deserve that moniker with a 28-14 win over archrival Michigan. Superstar Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson was an ugly 9-of-24 passing and only posted 165 yards of total offense. Jerel Worthy and Vernon Gholston harassed the dynamic signal caller all game long, holding Shoelace to only 42 yards rushing on 18 carries. The defense also forced one huge D-Rob turnover when Isaiah Lewis snagged an ill-advised toss by Robinson with under five minutes left in the game and returned it for the game's final touchdown. Sparty now has the first big Legends' Division win under its belt and is the top challenger to Nebraska. However, Michigan State has to deal with the Big Ten's top team, Wisconsin, this weekend in East Lansing. College Gameday will be visiting the Spartans as well.
4. Illinois (6-1, 2-1) – The Fighting Illini experienced their first loss of the season when Ohio State came into Champagne and controlled the line of scrimmage. En route to a 17-7 win over Illinois, Ohio State needed only one completion from quarterback Braxton Miller to pull off the upset. Ron Zook's team had been allowing only 79.7 yards rushing per game, good for ninth nationally, before the Buckeyes rolled-up 211 yards on 51 carries. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase struggled for most of the game, throwing two interceptions and averaging only 3.1 yards per carry on 16 attempts rushing. The Illini offense was completly nuetralized and couldn't get onto the scoreboard until 6:22 left in the fourth quarter. Road trips to Purdue and Penn State now await an Illini team that still has eyes on Indianapolis.
5. Michigan (6-1, 2-1) – Denard Robinson was in and out of the line-up all game long and it might have cost the Wolverines a win over archrival Michigan State. Instead, Devin Gardner, an injured hand and helmet issues kept Shoelace on the bench for key plays in the 28-14 loss to Michigan State. And frankly, Robinson was not all that effective when on the field to begin with, throwing for a season worst 37.5% (9/24) and rushing for a season worst 42 yards on a season-low 2.3 yards per carry. The wind played a major role, forcing both teams to the ground where Sparty had a clear advantage (MSU outrushed UM 213-82). Consistently winning battles in the trenches will be the reason Michigan will either compete for a Legends Division title or finish 2-4 in their last six games.
6. Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) – Slowly but surely, the Ohio State offense is starting to look the way it should. Boom Herron ran the ball, Mike Adams blocked and the Buckeyes won a key road game over division foe Illinois, 17-7. In his first action of the season, Herron ran 23 times for 114 yards and a key touchdown. Having Herron back in the line-up will only help the development of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller - who was asked to throw the ball only four times in the win. He was a key part of the rushing attack which totalled 211 yards on 51 carries (12 of which went to Miller). The defense held Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to 218 yards of total offense on 50 touches and now ranks 13th nationally in scoring and 18th nationally in total defense. The Bucks get to rest this weekend as they prepare for Wisconsin to come to town in two weekends.
7. Penn State (6-1, 3-0) – It may not have been the prettiest win, but Penn State took care of business by beating Purdue 23-18. With eight minutes to go in the game, Akeem Shavers brought Purdue to within two, 20-18. But Silas Redd and the ground game came to the rescue by controlling the clock and picking up first downs. Redd carried 28 times for 131 yards and a second-half touchdown that gave the Nittany Lions the lead for good. At 3-0 in league play, Penn State still controls its own destiny. However, the McGloin-Bolden combo at quarterback will have to be better than 10-of-23 for 185, no touchdowns and a interception if it expects to win upcoming games against Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska. A road trip to Northwestern this weekend should push that unblemished conference mark to 4-0.
8. Iowa (4-2, 1-1) – Iowa kept its Big Ten championship hopes alive this weekend by outlasting Northwestern 41-31, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats. James Vandenberg and Marcus Coker both scored twice as the Hawkeyes burst out to a 17-0 lead, but consistently allowed Northwestern to convert on third down (an alarming 16-of-22 times to be exact) to get back into the game. Iowa will face Indiana and Minnesota in its next two, before hosting Michigan and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes are still very much in the Big Ten title race and might be the sleeper of the group.
9. Northwestern (2-4, 0-3) – The Wildcats threw for 342 yards, rushed for 153 more on the ground, controlled the clock with 38:21 minutes of possession and converted an astounding 16-of-22 third downs. But they just could not stop the Hawkeyes in the fourth quarter. Northwestern allowed 24 final-quarter points in the 41-31 road loss to Iowa. Jeremy Ebert continued his excellent play with 13 receptions for 107 yards and another touchdown. The Wildcats have now lost four straight games and face Penn State this weekend.
10. Purdue (3-3, 1-1) – The Boilermakers played good enough football on offense (344 yards) and defense to pull the upset but were done in by spotty special teams play. The kicking game stuggled in the elements by missing an extra point and field goal leading to an odd 20-18 late game score (due to a missed 2-pt attempt). Penn State forced three interceptions and rode the back of tailback Silas Redd to the gritty 23-18 win over the Boilermakers. Purdue gets no rest with Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa as the next five games.
11. Indiana (1-6, 0-3) – The Hooisers lost 83-20 last season to Wisconsin. The 59-7 showing this weekend wasn't much better. Indiana threw for 64 total yards, turned the ball over three times and lost star wide recevier Demarlo Belcher to an injury. Wisconsin ran the ball 42 times for 332 yards at nearly eight yards per carry with four touchdowns. Indiana plays at Iowa this weekend.
12. Minnesota (1-5, 0-2) – The good news? Minnesota didn't loss in Week 7. The bad news? The Gophers play Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin in their next four. Let's hope the bye week helped.