No MCL in Big Ten history will be more closely watched than Braxton Miller's this week. The star Ohio State quarterback left the Week 2 match with San Diego State just a few series into the game with a left MCL issue in his knee. The Heisman Trophy candidate never returned to the game after being carted off the field.
So while the league posted an admirable 7-0 record this weekend — including a huge rivalry win by Michigan over Notre Dame — the biggest storyline in the B1G this week will be Miller's left knee.
Early reports are Miller could have returned to action but Urban Meyer didn't want to risk it. All signs point to Miller returning to the starting line-up next weekend in Berkeley. And with an excellent back-up plan in Kenny Guiton, Ohio State still sits atop the Big Ten power rankings.
Big Ten Post-Week 2 Power Rankings:
Ohio State (2-0, 0-0): Scarlet and Gray nation can collectively exhale. Braxton Miller's left knee wasn't seriously injured and he should be ready to go in short order. Additionally, Kenny Guiton isn't a bad back-up option, after throwing for 152 yards, rushing for 83 and scoring three times. The win over San Diego State was a much more complete effort from OSU and Urban Meyer should be pleased with his team heading into a long West Coast road trip this weekend. Next Week: at Cal
Michigan (1-0, 0-0): The Wolverines posted its higcomes to town this weekend. Next Week: Akron
Nebraska (2-0, 0-0): More will be learned about Nebraska's defense next week when UCLA comes to town but, for now, the Black Shirts rebounded in a big way this weekend. Nebraska forced four turnovers, returning two interceptions for touchdowns, and allowed just 284 yards of offense to Southern Miss. Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah had typically outstanding offensive days as the Huskers rolled big, setting up a huge visit from the Bruins in Week 3. Next Week: UCLA
Northwestern (2-0, 0-0): Kain Colter returned to the line-up in a big way while star tailback Venric Mark could only watch from the sidelines. Both were injured last week in the opener but it was Colter took center stage this weekend. He led the team in rushing and complete 15-of-18 passes while scoring twice. Partnered with Trevor Siemian (259 yards, 3 TD), Northwestern rolled to an impressive and easy win over Syracuse. Next Week: Western Michigan
Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0): So far, so good for Gary Andersen. The Badgers have yet allow a point in 2013 after another dominating performance against an inferior opponent. Wisconsin has had three 100-yard backs in each of the first two games and Joel Stave has accounted for six total touchdowns. That trend will have to continue if UW expects to go into Tempe and beat a very impressive — and high-scoring — Sun Devils team. Next Week: at Arizona State
Penn State (2-0, 0-0): Christian Hackenberg started slowly but finished in grand fashion, setting a school freshman passing record with 313 yards. More importantly, the defense and running game looked improved from a week ago. The Lions rushed for 251 yards and allowed just 183 yards and no offensive points to Eastern Michigan. Next Week: UCF
Michigan State (2-0, 0-0): Mark Dantonio has major issues on offense after netting just 265 yards and seven offensive points in the win over USF this weekend. Just about every QB on the roster has seen time and none seem to be the answer (is it time for Damion Terry?). But the defense should be one of the nation's best. The Spartans defense scored two more touchdowns this weekend, bringing its two-game total to four. The offense has two. Next Week: Youngstown State
Minnesota (1-0, 0-0): The all-iring three times. Next Week: Western Illinois
Indiana (1-1, 0-0): Kevin Wilson was out for revenge and his second straight 2-0 start to the season but Navy had other plans. Wilson gave Nate Sudfeld the reins to the offense and he produced (355 yards, 4 TD) but the defense couldn't stop the vaunted triple option. The Hoosiers allowed 444 yards rushing and 41 points without forcing a turnover or a punt. Navy completed just two passes. Next Week: Bowling Green
Iowa (1-1, 0-0): Kirk Ferentz didn't mess around with Missouri State as his gameplan was ground and pound from the outset. The Hawkeyes rushed for 296 yards and four TDs behind a tremendous effort from burly running back Mark Weisman (180 yards, 2 TD). Other than two late scores, Iowa's defense was stifling, as expected against an Missouri Valley team. Next Week: at Iowa State
Purdue (1-1, 0-0): Well, the Boilermakers won, but that's about all you can say about the 20-14 win over Indiana State. Rob Henry wasn't much better and has yet to throw a TD pass through two games. The running game was held under three yards per carry and the Sycamores out-gained Purdue. A win is a win is a win, but this team has serious issues on both sides of the ball. Next Week: Notre Dame
Illinois (2-0, 0-0): After a sluggish start to the season in Week 1, Tim Beckman's bunch played excellent football in a big upset win over Cincinnati. Nathan Scheelhaase, who had four total TD passes last year, had four scoring strikes in the win. The embattled quarterback is finally regaining his form after back-to-back 300-yard games at over 70-percent passing to start the season. Next Week: Washington*
* -nuetral field
Big Ten Week 2 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Wisconsin running backs were outstanding, Braxton was Braxton, so was Taylor Martinez and, I can't believe I'm saying this, but Nathan Scheelhaase led his team to victory. But it's about time the nation looked at Allen Robinson as one of the game's best. Bill O'Brien suspended the star wideout for the first half of the neutral field bout with Syracuse without so much as a peep out of the locker room as to why. His absence was felt in a big way as PSU managed only 89 passing yards and a slim 6-3 edge at the half. Robinson caught the first pass of the second half for a first down and the second for a 51-yard touchdown. He was all over the field and turned a true freshman quarterback into a veteran signal caller by catching seven passes for 133 yards entirely in the second half of the 23-17 win. Penn State finished with 296 yards of passing offense, which would've ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten a year ago.
Defensive Player of the Week: Collin Ellis, LB, Northwestern
They may have been on tipped passes but when you score two defensive touchdowns, you are the P.O.W. The first came at a critical time late in the third quarter with Northwestern down by four, when Ellis took a Jared Goff pass 59 yards to paydirt to give the Wildcats the lead. Then again, this time up by three with eight minutes to go in the game, Ellis plucked another Cal throw out of the air and went 40 yards for six points to essentially end the game. This was the best win of the weekend for the league — and for more on that...
Team of the Week: Northwestern
Most of the Big Ten either won easily against over-matched opponents or was disappointed by poor play — and, in Iowa and Purdue cases, lost. But Northwestern lost Kain Colter to an "upper body" injury (it looked like a shoulder to us) on the game's first series and managed to defeat Cal in Berkeley 44-30. Yes, the Cats allowed more than 500 yards of offense but this game was supposed to be much tougher than the 2012 records indicated. Credit Pat Fitzgerald, and possibly one questionable targeting penalty, for the way Northwestern battled adversity in a home opener for a Golden Bears team flush with energy behind head coach Sonny Dykes' debut. This was an important win and likely the best in the conference this weekend.
Coordinator of the Week: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State
The Spartans defensive coordinator is one of the nation's best and few assistants nationally mean as much to their team's success as Narduzzi. Michigan State has what appears to be an anemic offense once again this fall and wins will have to come by way of the defense. Against Western Michigan in Week 1, Narduzzi's bunch pitched a gem. His unit allowed 204 total yards, 4-of-20 third down conversions, forced four turnovers and, oh by the way, scored more touchdowns (2) than the Spartans offense (1). This defense will be nasty once again, but one has to wonder if Sparty can contend in the Legends Division against offensively minded teams like Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern with little to no support from the offense?
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
By the time it is all said and done, this award might be renamed The Hackenberg. In his first career start in his first career game as a true freshman, Hackenberg led his team to a win over a BCS team in Syracuse (in a pseudo-road environment). He looked, at times, like a freshman, but his overall ability is way too impressive to ignore. He finished 22-of-31 for 278 yards, two key second-half touchdowns and two interceptions. The touted freshman has special upside and has already justified his lofty recruiting status.
The Indiana Hoosiers are looking to make it to the postseason for just the second time since 1993 and it was obvious in Week 1 that it's a distinct possibility. Indiana set a school record with 45 first-half points, a Memorial Stadium record with 73 points — just three shy of an all-time school record — and did so with three different quarterbacks. Tre Roberson started the game, threw six passes, carried the ball five times and scored twice. Nate Sudfeld then stepped in to attempt 17 passes, four of which went for touchdowns. And Cam Coffman got seven attempts. Kevin Wilson has a wealth of options under center and a host of talented skill players surrounding them. It appears the quarterback race in Bloomington will be fascinating to watch all season long.