For the second straight week a feel-good story will get overlooked for a job-saving performance in the Big Ten. Last week a Ron Kellogg III Hail Mary overshadowed a thrilling road win for Minnesota. This week, the Huskers defense stole the show by totally stuffing Michigan on the road while the Golden Gophers continue to rally around a head coach with health concerns to win their fourth straight Big Ten game. Additionally, Iowa gets to bowl eligibility, and Wisconsin posts what might be the best non-conference victory for the entire conference over BYU.
For the second straight week, the Big Ten was one of the more entertaining leagues in the nation. And it sets up a huge final few weeks of Legends Division play.
Here are the Big Ten's Week 11 Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: James White, RB, Wisconsin
The Badgers running back has more than 3,500 yards rushing and has scored more than 40 times in his career in Madison but has never been the featured back. Against a solid BYU defense, White was the star of the show. He carried 23 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns while catching six passes for 47 yards and another score as a receiver. The Badgers senior is one of the most consistent players to ever play for UW but may never get the recognition he deserves nationally due to his place on the depth chart.
Defensive Player of the Week: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
Chris Borland returned to Wisconsin in a big way (13 tackles, 2.0 sacks) and may be your Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, but Gregory was a man among boys in Ann Arbor this weekend and he may be the top challenger to Borland for that honor. The star defensive end finished with four tackles and three sacks for a unit that played its best game in years against Michigan. The Huskers harassed Devin Gardner all game and won a critical game due in large part to Gregory's play. He now leads the Big Ten in sacks (6.5) and is second in tackles for loss (11.5). And not too many defensive linemen are third on their team in tackles (39).
Team of the Week: Nebraska
The Golden Gophers are a great story, and Wisconsin got a great non-conference win. But Nebraska made the most noise in the Big Ten this week. The Huskers rode running back Ameer Abdullah (105 yards rushing, two total TD) on offense to the game winning touchdown but it was the defense that deserves the credit for getting the job done against Michigan (more on that in a second). The win snapped the Wolverines 20-game home winning streak under Brady Hoke and it sets up a de facto Legends Division championship game with Michigan State in Lincoln next weekend.
Coordinator of the Week: John Papuchis, Nebraska
The once-proud Blackshirts defense has fallen on hard times the last few seasons and this weekend could have been a breaking point. Nebraska had allowed 271 yards and 245 yards rushing the last two weeks but Papuchis' unit played the best game of the Huskers season in The Big House. It held held Michigan to minus-21 yards rushing and was able to get critical stops on third down — the Wolverines to 3-of-15 on third downs. Nebraska posted seven sacks and allowed a season-low 175 yards of offense to the Maize and Blue.
Freshman of the Week: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
In a veteran-laden league with few star freshman, Williams was one of the few star first-year players this weekend. But the redshirt freshman tight end has become a big part of the Gophers four-game winning streak. Williams caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes of the first half against Penn State that put the game officially out of reach for Minnesota. He finished with two catches, 48 yards and his second straight game with a TD catch. He also is a key blocker for a power rushing attack that is one of the best in the nation (218.5 ypg). Avery Moss (two tackles, one sack) deserves some credit for his performance for the Nebraska defense against Michigan.
Big Ten Post-Week 11 Power Rankings:
W, BYU, 27-17
W, Michigan, 17-13
W, Penn St, 24-10
L, Nebraska, 17-13
W, Purdue, 38-14
W, Illinois, 52-35
L, Minnesota, 24-10
L, Indiana, 52-35
L, Iowa, 38-14
at Penn St