It wasn't supposed to be a big weekend of action in the Big Ten. No team was favored by single digits and only Wisconsin was a road favorite. That, however, didn't stop the league from generating plenty of excitement.
Iowa put quite a scare into the Buckeyes on the road. Michigan and Indiana set all types of records. Wisconsin cruised in a traditionally difficult rivalry game. And Minnesota won a game in Evanston that changed the complexion of the Legends Division race.
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings:
Ohio State (7-0, 3-0): The Horseshoe was nervous deep into the second half, but Ohio State extended its nation's longest winning streak to 19 games with a 10-point win over Iowa. Braxton Miller played his best game of the season by completing 22-of-27 passes for 222 yards, rushing for 102 yards and leading four second-half scoring drives. Carlos Hyde was his usual physical self, rushing for 149 yards and two scores as well. The name of the game for OSU is survive and advance, and that is exactly what Urban Meyer's bunch had to do against an upstart Hawkeyes squad this weekend. Next Week: Penn State
Nebraska (5-1, 2-0): The Huskers are quietly in command of the Big Ten Legends Division and needed an extra week off to get star quarterback Taylor Martinez healthy. He will be needed against a Gophers team on the road coming off an upset of Northwestern. Next Week: at Minnesota
Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1): The Badgers jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looked back. Wisconsin's balanced offense rushed for 289 yards, spreaheaded by Big Ten leading rushing Melvin Gordon (142 yards, three touchdowns). Not to be outdone, quarterback Joel Stave threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over in the road win. The defense continues to play extremely well, forcing two turnovers and holding Illinois to just 72 yards rushing on 29 attemtps (2.5). With winnable games every stop the rest of the way, UW has an outside chance to sneak into BCS bowl contention. Next Week: Bye
Michigan (6-1, 2-1): Devin Gardner threw for a school-record 503 yards and accounted for a school-record five total touchdowns (two passing, three rushing) in a shootout win over Indiana. The Wolverines needed every one of the school-record 751 total yards of offense to top a Hoosiers team that scored 47 points. Jeremy Gallon rewrote the Big Ten receiving record book by catching 14 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan is wildly inconsistent on both sides of the ball, but Saturday was one of the greatest offensive performances in school history for the Maize and Blue. It was the 19th straight win at home and the 18th straight victory over Indiana. Next Week: Bye
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0): The offense wasn't very impressive against Purdue, but the defense was up to its old tricks. Denicos Allen scored yet another Spartans defensive touchdown as quarterback Connor Cook struggled in a big way. Jeremy Langford was solid in the backfield but the offense clearly wasn't as effective as it has been in MSU's first two Big Ten games. The defense was perfect though, holding the Boilermakers to just 226 yards of total offense and 1.9 yards per carry in the shutout. Next Week: at Illinois
Penn State (4-2, 1-1): The off week came at a perfect time for Penn State. Following an emotional win at home over Michigan in four overtimes, Bill O'Brien's staff will get two weeks to recover and prepare for a trip to Columbus to face the league's best team. Next Week: at Ohio State
Minnesota (5-2, 1-2): It wasn't from the sideline but Gophers head coach Jerry Kill was able to enjoy his team's victory over Northwestern from a private suite. Minnesota had fewer first downs, fewer yards, fewer offensive points and less efficient on third down, but it decisively won the turnover battle 3-0, including a critical 24-yard interception return by James Manuel. The defense held on for dear life. Next Week: Nebraska
Northwestern (4-3, 0-3): Three critical turnovers by quarterback Trevor Siemian and the wheels have fallen off the Wildcats' 2013 season. After physical losses to superior opponents, Pat Fitzgerald's team couldn't come from behind at home against a Minnesota team without its head coach. The Cats outgained Minnesota in nearly every category except turnovers. With a brutal schedule looming ahead for Northwestern — at Iowa, at Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, at Illinois — the home loss to the Gophers crippled any Big Ten title hopes. Next Week: at Iowa
Indiana (3-4, 1-2): Not many teams lose when scoring 47 points and racking up 572 total yards of offense, but that is what happened to Indiana on Saturday. Kevin Wilson's offense wasn't the issue. The defense couldn't stop Michigan's Devin Gardner or wideout Jeremy Gallon. The Hoosiers allowed over 750 yards of offense and allowed the Wolverines to reach the end zone nine times in the loss. After back-to-back losses in the state of MIchigan, IU gets a much-needed off weekend. Next Week: Bye
Iowa (4-3, 1-2): Moral victories are one of the most hated philosophies by football coaches, but that is all Iowa can claim after losing by 10 to Ohio State in Columbus. Jake Rudock played well, the ground game averaged nearly five yards per carry and the defense held its own for the better part of three quarters against the No. 4 Buckeyes. But the final frame belonged to the Buckeyes, and Kirk Ferentz watched the more powerful team pull away in the final moments. Next Week: Northwestern
Illinois (3-3, 0-2): The Illini were never really in contention against Wisconsin. It spotted the Badgers a 21-0 first quarter lead and cut it to 11 twice before the power running game of UW put the game out of reach. The Illini allowed 478 yards of offense and let Wisconsin score eight touchdowns in yet another Big Ten loss. Illinois has lost 16 straight conference games. Next Week: Michigan State
Purdue (1-6, 0-3): Darrell Hazell's defense held the Spartans to one offensive score and just 294 yards of offense. However, both lines of scrimmage were controlled by the Spartans. Quarterback Danny Etling was ineffective, and the Michigan State power rushing attack (182 yards) was just enough to give Purdue its sixth loss of the season. A much-needed off weekend is on the docket for Hazell and the Boilermakers. Next Week: Bye
Big Ten Week 8 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Players of the Week: Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
Gardner set Michigan records with 584 yards of total offense, 503 yards passing and five total touchdowns in the win over Indiana. Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten record with 369 yards receiving on 14 catches, two of which went for touchdowns. His 369 yards are No. 2 in FBS history behind Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards 405 yards in 1998. Michigan rolled up a school-record 751 yards of offense and scored nine touchdowns. Gardner came up two yards shy of a Big Ten record for total offense (Illinois' David Wilson, 585, 1980).
Defensive Players of the Week: Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, Michigan State
The other school in Michigan wins games in a completely different style and fashion than the Wolverines. The Spartans linebackers played well all afternoon and combined on one huge play to give the Spartans the lead for good early in the tigher-than-expected win over Purdue. Bullough finished with 10 tackles, two for a loss and a forced a fumble on a sack that was scooped up by Allen and returned 45 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Allen finished with eight tackles and the Spartans fifth defensive touchdown on the season.
Team of the Week: Minnesota
Without their head coach, the Gophers were a near two-touchdown underdog on the road against Northwestern. But with Jerry Kill watching from a private suite at Ryan Field, Minnesota proceeded to knock off the division rival Wildcats with an excellent defensive performance. The Gophers controlled time of possession, won the turnover battle (3-0), registered three sacks and held on for the three-point win. The victory was Minnesota's first conference win of the season and puts the Gophers one win away from getting bowl eligible.
Coordinator of the Week: Tracy Claeys, Minnesota
The defensive coordinator-turned-interim head coach deserves a ton of credit for what the Gophers accomplished on Saturday. Minnesota allowed just 328 yards of offense to Northwestern and forced three huge turnovers, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter that gave the Gophers the lead for good. Everyone is rooting for head coach Jerry Kill to get healthy and a win like this on the road over a good Wildcats team is something this fan base dearly needed.
Freshman of the Week: T.J. Simmons, Indiana
The freshman linebacker from Lakeland (Fla.) posted his fifth game of his career with at least seven tackles by making eight stops, two for a loss, a sack and a QB hurry against Michigan. Simmons is tied for 13th in the Big Ten in tackles and is leading all Big Ten freshman (49 total tackles, seven per game).