Ohio State and Minnesota stole the show again this week in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes need to win out and do so in convincing fashion — and likely get some help — to get into the BCS title game and a 49-point win over Penn State was just that for Urban Meyer.
Meanwhile, the Gophers won a second straight game as a double-digit underdog in the division as they toppled Nebraska in impressive fashion at home. This team is clearly rallying around head coach Jerry Kill and their two wins have opened up the Legends Division in short order.
Big Ten Post-Week 9 Power Rankings:
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0): Urban Meyer knows he needs to win big the rest of the season and get some help to make it to the national title game. Style points mean more for the Buckeyes than anyone else in the nation, so the 49-point win over Penn State was an important one. The Bucks jumped out to a big lead over the Nittany Lions and never looked back. Braxton Miller threw for 261 yards, rushed for 68 more and accounted for five total touchdowns. Next Week: at Purdue
Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1): Wisconsin bounced back from a loss to Ohio State in impressive fashion over Northwestern and Illinois. But the final month won't be easy for the Badgers with two road trips to rivals Iowa and Minnesota as well as home games with BYU, Penn State and Indiana. There is a wide range of outcomes in Madison. Next Week: at Iowa
Michigan State (7-1, 4-0): The Spartans trailed 3-0 at the end of the first quarter before scoring two touchdowns in each of the next three quarters. The defense did the rest by shutting down Illinois' offense. Connor Cook was fantastic, completing 15-of-16 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns while the rushing attack posted 269 yards on the ground. Sparty had 14 third-down conversions and 29 first downs to Illinois' three conversions and eight total first downs. The nation's No. 1 defense only improved its resume this weekend. With Nebraska losing, Mark Dantonio's bunch has taken over as the frontrunner in the Legends Division ... with Michigan coming to town. Next Week: Michigan
Michigan (6-1, 2-1): Two weeks to prepare for a visit from in-state little brother Michigan State and the nation's top defense is a huge blessing. In fact, the next two games for the Wolverines will decide their fate in the Legends Division. Nebraska comes to town in Week 11. Next Week: at Michigan State
Nebraska (5-2, 2-1): The Huskers should have carried a lot confidence into a road meeting with Minnesota. Taylor Martinez returned to the lineup, Nebraska hadn't lost to the Gophers in more than five decades and it was the clear frontrunner in the Legends Division. But Bo Pelini's defensive woes reared their ugly head once again as Minnesota pounded the Huskers defense for nearly 300 yards rushing. The offense got going in the second half but it was never enough to threaten. A home game with the Wildcats next week becomes a must-win. Next Week: Northwestern
Minnesota (6-2, 2-2): For the second consecutive weekend, the Golden Gophers rallied to win as a double-digit underdog without their head coach on the sidelines. Acting coach Terry Claeys moved to 2-0 after dominating the Nebraska defense with 271 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries. It was the first win over the Huskers for Minnesota since 1960 and the victory makes the Gophers bowl eligible for the second straight season. More important, two straight wins over divisional contenders has vaulted Goldie into Legends Division contention. Next Week: at Indiana
Penn State (4-3, 1-2): Bill O'Brien was fighting an uphill battle by heading into the Horseshoe this weekend but he likely didn't see a 63-spot coming. His star freshman quarterback has serious long-term upside, but Christian Hackenberg looked like a first-year player making his first start in Columbus as he threw two interceptions. Ohio State jumped all over the Lions early and never really gave PSU a chance to compete. It marks the first time in school history that Penn State has allowed 40 points in three straight games. Next Week: Illinois
Iowa (5-3, 2-2): It wasn't pretty, but Kirk Ferentz squad moved to within one win of the postseason when Jake Rudock connected with tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz in overtime. The Hawkeyes, much like Northwestern, had plenty of chances to win the game in regulation late but could never finish a drive with points. Iowa won with 19 first downs, went 6-of-14 on third downs and totaled just 305 yards of offense. Ferentz's team will have to be better than that to defeat the Badgers next weekend. Next Week: Wisconsin
Indiana (3-4, 1-2): Kevin Wilson needs three wins in the final five games to reach the postseason. With road trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State still looming, the Hoosiers must win all three home contests. It starts with two in a row against beatable opponents — Minnesota for Homecoming this week and Illinois the following Sautday. Next Week: Minnesota
Northwestern (4-4, 0-4): Kain Colter returned to the starting lineup, but it made no difference to Pat Fitzgerald's bunch as Northwestern dropped its fourth straight Big Ten game. The Cats had chances to win the game in regulation but couldn't make critical plays in the final quarter. Colter played well in his return but could muster only two scoring drives all afternoon. The Wildcats are in a complete free fall and have Nebraska, MIchigan and Michigan State next on the slate. Next Week: at Nebraska
Illinois (3-4, 0-3): The Illini lost its 17th consecutive Big Ten game at home in ugly fashion this Saturday. Michigan State walked into Memorial Stadium and abused Illinois in all three phases of the game. Nathan Scheelhaase and the offense totaled 128 yards, eight first downs and three points while the defense couldn't stop a balanced Spartans' attack. Things are starting to slip away for head coach Tim Beckman. Next Week: at Penn State
Purdue (1-6, 0-3): One look at the Boilermakers schedule and it's easy to see why they have one win. Unfortnately, there aren't many chances left for Ws: Ohio State, Iowa, at Penn State, Illinois and at Indiana. Two wins would be impressive (but not unreasonable) in that bunch. Next Week: Ohio State
Big Ten Week 9 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Urban Meyer needs style points, and his star quarterback delivered in a big way. Against Penn State, Miller was efficient, completing 18-of-24 passes for a personal-best 252 yards and three touchdowns passes while rushing for 68 yards on 11 carries and two more touchdowns. He led his offense to season highs in points (63) and total yards (686) while posting the best passing game of his career.
Defensive Player of Week: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Facing the Nebraska rushing attack, Hageman was going to play a huge role in the outcome no matter how he played. But he had one of his best games of the season, disrupting the line of scrimmage and playing in the Huskers backfield all game long. He finished with three tackles, two tackles for loss and his second sack of the season. Hageman and the Gophers held Nebraska to its second-lowest rushing output of the season and its lowest total yardage output of the year (328 yards).
Team of Week: Minnesota
For the second straight week the Gophers are the team of the week in the Big Ten after pulling an upset as a double-digit underdog. This time it netted the Gophers its first win over old-time rival Nebraska since 1960 — giving the school its second straight win over a division contender. Not only had the Gophers lost 16 straight against Nebraska but it hadn't had a lead over Nebraska since 1969.
Coach of Week: Matt Limegrover, Minnesota
Acting head coach Tracy Claeys did another fantastic defensive job on a high-powered divisional foe but Limegrover's offensive gameplan was the biggest difference maker in Week 9. Minnesota ran the ball 54 times and threw just 17 passes and outgunned the Huskers by more than 100 yards (430-328). Limegrover didn't ask Philip Nelson to make many plays with his arm but put him in good positions all while pounding the rock for five yards per carry. Minnesota simply took the action to the Huskers' defense and the Blackshirts couldn't handle it.
Freshman of the Week: Tyvis Powell, DB, Ohio State
With Christian Bryant out for the season, Urban Meyer will need some younger players to step into the secondary and provide support. The 6-foot-3 Powell is one of those players. He posted seven tackles in the blowout win over Penn State at home. The Buckeyes defense allowed 357 yards of offense and forced three turnovers as the secondary forced bad decisions from Christian Hackenberg all night.
• Minnesota took the lead against Nebraska for the first time since 1969 when it went up 14-10 with three minutes to go in the second quarter. The Gophers never trailed the rest of the way. Minnesota has created five total turnovers without giving it up once over the last two games against Northwestern and Nebraska combined.
• For the third straight week, Penn State allowed more than 40 points in a game, the first time it's happened since the turn of the century — the 20th century.
• The Spartans scored 42 points in the road win over Illinois. Michigan State is averaging 31 points per game in Big Ten play this year. Connor Cook completed 15 of his 16 passes.
• Iowa's James Morris and Anthony Hitchens combined for 17 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
• Minnesota's David Cobb carried a 31 times for 138 yards, both career highs, in the Gophers win over Nebraska. He had 11 career carries entering 2013.
• Ohio State won its national-best 20th consecutive game.
• Northwestern lost to Iowa in overtime 17-10. It was the Wildcats fourth consecutive Big Ten loss in four 2013 Big Ten games.