Wisconsin was easily the most impressive team of the Week 7 Big Ten slate. The Badgers completely and thoroughly dominated Northwestern and may be the second-best team in the league. Contenders Michigan State and Nebraska both made quality statements by handling Indiana and Purdue with relative ease.
However, Penn State stole the show this weekend as they outlasted Michigan in four overtimes in front of 110,000 whited-out Nittany Lions fans. It wasn't the prettiest overtime affair, but it continued 2013's dramatics.
Big Ten Post-Week 7 Power Rankings:
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): After topping Wisconsin at home and Northwestern on the road, the Buckeyes got a well deserved week off. The Bucks will get Iowa and Penn State in the Horseshoe to finish off October. Next Week: Iowa
Nebraska (5-1, 2-0): Taylor Martinez missed another game with his lingering turf toe injury, and the Huskers had to overcome three interceptions from his replacement freshman Tommy Armstrong. But the running game was excellent again, topping 250 yards rushing for the fifth time in six games (251 against Purdue). The defense has been solid in Big Ten play as well and it held Purdue to just 217 total yards and without a point until the final minutes of action. The Huskers will rest before traveling to Minnesota in two weeks. Next Week: Bye
Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1): The Badgers were rested and it showed as they crushed Northwestern by four touchdowns. Joel Stave tossed three touchdowns while star tailback Melvin Gordon did the heavy lifting, rushing for 172 yards on 22 carries and one long TD. The defense, however, won the day by holding the Wildcats to just 242 total yards and nary a touchdown. This was as thorough a showing as Wisconsin has had all season and there is a real shot at an at-large BCS bowl bid should UW win out. Next Week: at Illinois
Michigan (5-1, 1-1): Devin Gardner played well but his coach didn't do him any favors in the four-overtime road loss to Penn State. The Wolverines coughed up a 10-point fourth quarter lead and scored six total points in four overtime possessions. Brady Hoke appeared to be coaching tentatively throughout the waning moments. The Wolverines have been living on the edge for the better part of a month, and it finally caught up with them in the form of special teams miscues and poor offensive execution. Next Week: Indiana
Northwestern (4-2, 0-2): Kain Colter and Venric Mark were both banged up early, but it didn't matter as the Cats were outmatched at the point of attack by Wisconsin no matter who was in the backfield. Pat Fitzgerald's offense couldn't run the ball (25 att., 45 yards) and his defense couldn't stop it (51 carries, 286 yards). If the Wildcats want to compete for a division title — which remains possible — this unit will need to figure out a way to stop a power rushing attack. Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Iowa still loom. Next Week: Minnesota
Michigan State (5-1, 2-0): The Spartans traded body blows with Indiana for much of the first half before Mark Dantonio's bunch pulled away thanks to the emergence of Jeremy Langford. The Michigan State running back carried 23 times for 109 yards and scored four total touchdowns on the afternoon (three rushing, on receiving). The league's best defense (MSU) held the league's best offense (IU) to 351 yards — or nearly 200 yards under their average. Sparty should be 4-0 in the Big Ten before a visit from Michigan on Nov. 2. Next Week: Purdue
Penn State (4-2, 1-1): Christian Hackenberg threw up a pair of prayers on the game's final drive and they were answered. In fact, the football gods must have been smiling on Happy Valley as the Nittany Lions needed multiple missed field goals to hold on for a thrilling four-overtime victory over Michigan. It wasn't pretty for either team and neither team was impressive in overtime, but in the end, however, Hackenberg overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and led the game-winning scoring drive in the fourth overtime. If the freshman signal caller continues to develop, his cult following will only continue to grow in State College. Next Week: Bye
Minnesota (4-2, 0-2): The Gophers needed the off weekend after Jerry Kill took an indefinite leave of absence due to epileptic seizures that have impacted two games this season. Minnesota gets back on the field in Evanston against what should be an angry Wildcats. Next Week: at Northwestern
Indiana (3-3, 1-1): The Hoosiers top-rated offense made a few big plays in the first half against the nation's No. 1 defense but simply couldn't match the Spartans physicality for 60 minutes. Kevin Wilson's bunch was outrushed 238-92 and the Hoosiers couldn't stop the Jeremy Langford show. Things don't get any easier for IU as it will return to the state of Michigan next weekend. Next Week: at Michigan
Iowa (4-2, 1-1): The Hawkeyes have had two weeks to stew over the Homecoming loss to Michigan State. However, no amount of rest and preparation will help Iowa as they head to Columbus this weekend. Next Week: at Ohio State
Illinois (3-2, 0-1): The Illini had the week off after getting handled with ease on the road against Nebraska. Tim Beckman now gets two upset chances at home and may need to win one if his team wants to go bowling. Next Week: Wisconsin
Purdue (1-5, 0-2): Freshman quarterback Danny Etling got his first career start, but the change under center did little to impact the Boilermakers troubling season. The defense forced some turnovers but couldn't stop the Cornhuskers explosive rushing attack and didn't muster a point until 39 seconds left in the game. Things won't get any easier as Michigan State on the road and Ohio State at home are the next two up for Darrell Hazell's squad. Next Week: at Michigan State
Big Ten Week 7 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
Melvin Gordon powered the Wisconsin rushing attack, and Christian Hackenberg led an extraordinary comeback. But Jeremy Langford single-handedly defeated the Hoosiers. The junior tailback had 58 career rushing attempts coming into the game against Indiana but turned in a career performance. Langford rushed 23 times for 109 yards, caught one pass for 11 yards and scored four total touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving). He matched Indiana's 28 points by himself.
Defensive Player of the Week: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, Penn State
The soft-spoken defensive end had a coming out party of sorts on Saturday night against Michigan. The senior was a disruptive force all night against the Wolverines, sacking Devin Gardner 2.5 times and forcing a key fumble. He also added eight total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Olaniyan is third in the Big Ten in sacks and tackles for loss on the season.
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
Despite the excitement in Happy Valley, the Badgers were the league's premier team in Week 7. Wisconsin dismantled Northwestern in every aspect of the game. Gary Andersen's squad was balanced on offense — throwing for 241 yards and rushing for 286 — and didn't allow a touchdown on defense. Northwestern mustered just six points, 10 first downs, 241 yards and were held to 2-of-17 on third downs. This might be the second-best and most complete team in the Big Ten.
Coordinator of the Week: Dave Aranda, Wisconsin
Northwestern came into the weekend averaging 39 points and 474 yards per game on 6.4 yards per play. Aranda's unit dominated the dynamic and explosive WIldcats offense by physically imposing its will along the line of scrimmage. The Badgers held Northwestern to 44 yards rushing on 25 carries and knocked both Venric Mark and Kain Colter out of the game (Colter returned). Wisconsin ranks fifth nationally in both total defense (267.3 ypg) and scoring defense (13.2 ppg).
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It took unlikely completions on the game's final drive in the game's final minute against Michigan, but Hackenberg wrote the first chapter of what could be a stellar career. He posted his third 300-yard effort in six career starts and accounted for four touchdowns in the thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Wolverines. He completed 23 of his 44 passes and leads the Big Ten in passing at 278.7 yards per game.
• Penn State has won four straight games over Michigan.
• Michigan State kept the Old Brass Spittoon by defeating Indiana for the fifth consecutive time. The Spartans haven't lost at home to the Hoosiers since 2001. MSU outscored IU 28-14 over the final 30:37 of game time.
• After 10 more flags, the Spartans are last in the Big Ten with 45 penalties and 122nd nationally with 78.8 penalty yards given up per game.
• Nebraska moved to 5-1 on the year and 5-1 when Ameer Abdullah rushes for at least 100 yards. He carried 20 times for 126 yards against Purdue and his lowest total of the season thus far was 98 yards against UCLA.
• Melvin Gordon leads the Big Ten in rushing (145.0 ypg) and is third nationally, just two yards behind Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews (147.0) and less than five behind Washington's Bishop Sankey (149.8).
• Wisconsin's Joel Stave is third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (146.65) and fourth in passing (216.2 ypg). He set a career high with 295 yards last game against Ohio State and tied a career high this week against Northwestern with three TD passes.
• Wisconsin is the only team in the Big Ten averaging more than 220 yards rushing and passing per game in 2013.
• Venric Mark left the game against Wisconsin on Saturday for X-rays on a leg injury. Wisconsin star wideout Jared Abbrederis also left the game early with a head injury.