Braxton Miller's sprained left knee will be under the microscope this week as the Buckeyes head west to face Cal. The star Ohio State quarterback left the Week 2 game with San Diego State early after getting sandwiched by a pair of Aztecs defenders. The Heisman Trophy contender never returned to the game after being carted off the field.
While the league posted an 11-1 record this weekend — including a huge rivalry win by Michigan over Notre Dame — the biggest storyline in the Big Ten this week might be the health of Miller's left knee.
Early reports are Miller could return to action this week, but Urban Meyer didn't commit to it. All signs point to Miller returning to the starting lineup next weekend in Berkeley. And due to an excellent backup plan in Kenny Guiton, Ohio State still sits atop the Big Ten power rankings.
Big Ten Post-Week 2 Power Rankings:
|1.||(1)||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. Besides, Kenny Guiton isn't a bad backup option after throwing for 152 yards, rushing for 83 and scoring three times Saturday. The win over San Diego State was a much more complete effort from OSU than the opener against Buffalo, and Urban Meyer should be pleased with his team heading into a long West Coast road trip this weekend — as long as Miller plays. This Week: at Cal|
|2.||(2)||Michigan (2-0, 0-0): No one should ever have to get used to watching a quarterback wearing No. 98 throw pick-sixes to 300-pound defenders wearing No. 7. But Michigan fans should get used to watching their star quarterback run around and make plays. Devin Gardner delivered on big-time preseason hype in the league's first marquee showdown win of the year. Better still, the defense played better than the 30 points on the scoreboard indicate. This Week: Akron|
|3.||(3)||Nebraska (2-0, 0-0): More will be learned about Nebraska's defense next week when UCLA comes to town but, for now, the Blackshirts 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. This Week: UCLA|
|4.||(4)||Northwestern (2-0, 0-0): Kain Colter returned to the lineup while star tailback Venric Mark watched from the sidelines. Both were injured last week in the opener, but Colter took center stage this weekend. He led the team in rushing and completed 15 of 18 passes while accounting for two total touchdowns. Partnered with Trevor Siemian (259 yards, 3 TD), Northwestern rolled to an impressive and easy win over Syracuse. This Week: Western Michigan|
|5.||(5)||Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0): So far, so good for Gary Andersen. The Badgers have yet to 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 an impressive — and high-scoring — Sun Devils team. This Week: at Arizona State|
|6.||(6)||Penn State (2-0, 0-0): Christian Hackenberg started slowly but finished in grand fashion, setting a school freshman passing record with 311 yards. More important, the defense and running game looked improved from a week ago. The Lions rushed for 251 yards and allowed 183 total yards and no offensive points to Eastern Michigan. This Week: UCF|
|7.||(7)||Michigan State (2-0, 0-0): Mark Dantonio has major issues on offense after netting 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 continues 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 scored twice. This Week: Youngstown State|
|8.||(8)||Minnesota (2-0, 0-0): Philip Nelson was, along with Rodrick Williams, productive on the ground again this week, but he looked like a first-year starter through the air. The passing game wasn't needed in the relatively easy win over New Mexico State, but it will be a major factor in the very near future. The Gophers have a Michigan-Northwestern-Nebraska three-game stretch coming up in a few weeks. This Week: Western Illinois|
|9.||(12)||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 better than 70-percent passing to start the season. This Week: Washington (in Chicago)|
|10.||(9)||Indiana (1-1, 0-0): Kevin Wilson gave Nate Sudfeld the reins to the offense against Navy and he produced (355 yards, 4 TD), but the defense couldn't stop the Midshipmen's 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|
|11.||(10)||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 a Missouri Valley team. Next Week: at Iowa State|
|12.||(11)||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 this week after a horrendous performance in Week 1 and has yet to throw a TD pass in 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|
Big Ten Week 2 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Aside from one boneheaded play early in the fourth quarter, Gardner played Heisman-caliber football befitting a quarterback wearing No. 98 on his chest. He completed 21 of 33 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns and the one bizarre interception from his end zone when he would have been better off taking a safety. He also led the Wolverines in rushing with 82 yards on 13 carries and another score on the ground. The fans may never get used to seeing their dual-threat, new-age quarterback sporting a jersey number in the 90s, but they should welcome his big-play ability. Gardner danced away from a powerful Fighting Irish front seven all night to take advantage of weaknesses down the field in the secondary — especially, with Jeremy Gallon (who gets honorary mention with his 8-184-3 stat line).
Defensive Player of the Week: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
The Spartans emerging star at end has already scored three defensive touchdowns this season after scoring on a four-yard fumble return and a 56-yard interception return this weekend in the 21-6 win over USF. Calhoun finished the game with three tackles, two for loss, a sack and those two huge plays after scoring last weekend on a 16-yard fumble return touchdown as well. He has quickly become a front-runner for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Team of the Week: Michigan
It was one of the best three wins nationally by any team so Michigan's win over Notre Dame gave it the best weekend of any team in the league. Despite being entertaining the entire way, the game wasn't as close as the 11-point score indicates. The Wolverines held the Irish to fewer than 100 yards rushing, and Tommy Rees was lucky to be intercepted only twice. A late gift-wrapped defensive touchdown made the game tighter in the fourth quarter, but Michigan appeared to be the better team right from the kickoff. With a manageable schedule coming up — Akron, UConn, Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana — the hype will begin in earnest now in Ann Arbor.
Coordinator of the Week: Bill Cubit, Illinois
Illinois had to be mentioned somehow. Nathan Scheelhaase was runner-up to Gardner for player of the week and the team's performance was second only to Michigan due, in large part, to Bill Cubit's offense. In just two games with the maligned Illini quarterback, Cubit's offense has scored 87 points and matched last year's win total. Scheelhaase has been transformed into a stat-producing monster in the first two weekends as the Illinois signal-caller threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns (as many as he had all of last season) and a second consecutive week of better than 70 percent passing. More important, a team that had no running game to speak of in Week 1 rolled up 210 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries against a solid Cincinnati defense.
Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It was against lower-tier competition, but the prized freshman had arguably the best day of any Penn State freshman quarterback in school history. He set a school record for a PSU freshman with 311 yards and another long touchdown strike to Allen Robinson. The Lions offense churned out 574 yards of offense and 25 first downs in the lopsided 38-point win over Eastern Michigan. His 589 yards through two games rank him second nationally among all freshmen behind Cal's Jared Goff and second in the Big Ten only to Scheelhaase (728).
• Michigan State's defense is outscoring its offense with four defensive touchdowns to two on offense this season.
• Through two games, Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton is 20-of-29 with 173 yards and three touchdowns in the air to go with 89 yards rushing and another TD on the ground. He's played critical minutes in both Buckeyes wins.
• Wisconsin had three 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games to start the year. Melvin Gordon (144, 140), James White (143, 109) and Corey Clement (101, 149) have each rushed for 100 yards twice already. They are first, third and fourth in the league in rushing, respectively.
• The Badgers became the first Big Ten team since 2009 and the first UW team since 1958 with back-to-back shutouts.
• Iowa's Mark Weisman rushed for 180 yards and two scores to carry Iowa to its first win of the year. He trails only Gordon for the Big Ten rushing lead by 4 yards.
• Kain Colter returned to the field with 15-of-18 passing for 116 yards and a TD to go with 87 yards rushing and another TD on the ground (11 attempts) against Syracuse. Venric Mark didn't play due to a "lower body injury."
• The Cornhuskers defense allowed 318 fewer yards against Southern Miss (284) this weekend than it did to Wyoming (602) in Week 1.
• Minnesota's Philip Nelson has 205 yards rushing on 27 carries and three TDs on the ground through two games.