Athlon recaps the Week 5 action in the Big Ten.
In what was the best weekend of football the Big Ten has experienced all season, some order appeared to be restored. Iowa and Penn State both posted huge wins in league openers, indicating that the traditional powers both still have much to say about the title race. Northwestern and Nebraska held serve in tough home wins. And Ohio State continues to overcome mistakes and imperfections to stay unbeaten, as evidenced by its gritty performance against Michigan State.
Post-Week 5 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - He fumbled twice and threw an interception, but Miller was once again the best player on the field. He simply won't allow his team to lose and continues to be one of the toughest leaders in the nation. He ran for 136 yards on 23 carries and added a beautiful game-winning 63-yard scoring strike late in the third.
2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - The Huskers quarterback threw for 176 yards, 0 TD and 3 INTs in the ugly loss to Wisconsin last fall. He got his revenge Saturday night. The league's most efficient passer threw for 187 yards, rushed for 107 and accounted for three touchdowns.
3. Kain Colter, AP, Northwestern - There aren't too many season stat lines like this: 369 yards passing, 2 TD, INT, 59 att., 371 rush yards, 6 TD, 9 rec., 131 receiving yards. He was all over the field on Saturday against Indiana. His teammate Venric Mark deserves a mention as well.
Post-Week 5 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - The Nittany Lion leader posted six total tackles, two interceptions for 105 yards and half a sack in the dominating performance against Illinois.
2. Kawann Short, DL, Purdue - Purdue finished the non-conference slate with a tidy 3-1 mark after Short posted three tackles, a sack, a blocked kick and a forced fumble in the win over Marshall.
3. Will Compton, LB, Nebraska - There are a lot of solid LBs that deserve to be in this slot. This senior posted 10 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and got consistent pressure on Wisconsin's quarterbacks.
Post-Week 5 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - Meyer's team hasn't been perfect on the field, but this team continues to win tough games with clutch play from the most important player in the league.
2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - This team consistently over achieves on offense, even with multiple quarterbacks. Coach Fitz is off to a great start, but the schedule definitely gets tougher from here out for the Wildcats.
3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska - This was a gut-check performance from the Huskers after trailing big in the first half. His team scrapped and clawed its way to a win, setting up a huge trip to Columbus this weekend.
Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 5 result: Beat Michigan State 17-16
As long as No. 5 is under center, the Buckeyes will have a chance to run the table. However, staying on the field for the Big Ten POY front runner is looking more and more like a long shot. Braxton Miller had to leave twice due to injury, after another 23 carries took its toll on his body. At the end of the game, however, when Ohio State needed clutch decision making, Miller was there to lead his team to yet another hard-nosed win. So was OSU's defense. They held the league's leading rusher Le'Veon Bell to only 45 yards on 17 carries. This was a physical battle that left both teams battered and bruised. It personified Big Ten football and was a great showcase for a league that needed a good showing.
This week: Nebraska (4-1)
2. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0)
Previous rank: 4
Week 5 result: Beat Wisconsin 30-27
The Huskers got off to a slow start and fell behind 20-3 in the second quarter. But another efficient performance from quarterback Taylor Martinez gave Nebraska sweet revenge over Wisconsin. T-Mart led four straight second half drives resulting in points that took a 27-10 deficit and turned it into a three-point lead with 9:41 left in the game. The Huskers defense never looked back, holding the Badgers scoreless for the final 25 minutes of play. Will Compton led a unit that knocked starting Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave out of the game and held Montee Ball to 2.8 yards per carry on 32 attempts. This team leads the Big Ten in rushing, scoring, total and pass efficiency offense.
This week: at Ohio State (5-0)
3. Michigan (2-2, 0-0)
Previous rank: 3
Week 5 result: Off
The down time came at just the right time for Michigan. A rough 2-2 start isn't what Brady Hoke planned for this fall, and a breather before starting eight straight weeks of Big Ten play likely helped to recharge the Maize and Blue's batteries. The remaining slate starts off with a tricky road trip to Purdue.
This week: at Purdue (3-1)
4. Michigan State (3-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 5 result: Lost to Ohio State 17-16
It was an old school, Mark Dantonio slugfest that nearly went the way of the Spartans. And as many believed going into the game, the difference was quarterback play. Andrew Maxwell continues to struggle, as do his pass-catchers, but this time around he got zero production from the league's top running back. Le'Veon Bell was held in check all day and never provided Maxwell with any support. The defense was stout, physical and opportunistic, but Braxton Miller was simply better. This team can still have something to say in the Legends Division race, but only if Sparty can figure out a way to produce a balanced offense
This week: at Indiana (2-2)
5. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0)
Previous rank: 5
Week 5 result: Beat Indiana 44-29
This Northwestern offense has a chance to be scary if it can continue to run the football like it has of late. Kain Colter rushed for 161 yards and four touchdowns, while Venric Mark added 139 yards and a score in the workman-like win over Indiana. The balanced, two-quarterback offense finished with 394 yards rushing and 310 yards passing to set a school record for total yards (704). To top it off, Colter was the game's leading receiver (9 rec., 131 yards). Mark has gone over the century mark in three of his last four, and with his emergence, the Wildcats offense has posted 82 points in the last two games. Now the hard work comes in the form of back-to-back conference road games.
This week: at Penn State (3-2)
6. Purdue (3-1)
Previous rank: 6
Week 5 result: Beat Marshall 51-41
It was a tale of two halves in the final non-conference game for Purdue. The Boilers won the first half 42-14, while Marshall countered with a 27-point second half. Big plays, record-setting performances, 92 points and 977 total yards of offense top the headlines. Quarterback Caleb TerBush threw four touchdown passes and went toe-to-toe with the Herd's Rakeem Cato — who completed 45 of his 68 passes. In the end, the defense did just enough to hold off the C-USA program to top off a quality first month of the season for a sneaky Purdue team.
This week: Michigan (2-2)
7. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 7
Week 5 result: Lost to Nebraska 30-27
The Badgers capitalized on some Nebraska miscues early to jump out to a 20-3 lead. And with a 27-10 edge five minutes into the third quarter, Big Red faithful (of the dairy variety) were feeling very confident. Clearly, this team played up to the competition, looking as good as it has all season for the first 35 minutes. However, Joel Stave was knocked out the game, Montee Ball was held to only 30 yards rushing, and the Nebraska offense used big plays from their star quarterback to simply wear down the Badgers. This team showed fight and was extremely competitive, but Bret Bielema has to feel like he let a crucial win slip through his fingers.
This week: Illinois (2-3)
8. Penn State (3-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 10
Week 5 result: Beat Illinois 35-7
This one had to be particularly satisfying for head coach Bill O'Brien. After a sensitive summer for the coaching staffs from Penn State and Illinois, the play on the field told the story in the end. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 21-0 first half lead and never looked back in the dominating win over the Illini. Matt McGloin continues his renaissance by playing efficient and turnover free football, while the running game welcomed Bill Belton back to the line-up after missing the last three contests. And for the second straight week sophomore tailback Zach Zwinak played a big role, this time rushing for 100 yards on 19 carries, including a pair of one-yard touchdown runs. This Penn State team is a few plays from being unbeaten and will have an under-the-radar showdown with unblemished Northwestern on Saturday.
This week: Northwestern (5-0)
9. Iowa (3-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 11
Week 5 result: Beat Minnesota 31-13
The Floyd of Rosedale returns to Iowa City after two seasons in the Twin Cities. And it could not have come at a better time for Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes used four Golden Gopher turnovers and a 24-0 run to start the game to put away rival Minnesota and earn a huge Big Ten victory for the embattled coach. Walk-on fullback Mark Weisman continues to be one of the better stories in the league, rushing 21 more times for 177 yards and his seventh rushing touchdown in three games. Thanks to him, this team has rediscovered its running game, topping the 180-yard mark for the third straight contest. It appears to have helped quarterback James Vandenberg as well. The senior has struggled most of the year, but had his best game of the season in the Big Ten opener, accounting for two touchdowns, 192 yards passing and no turnovers. He has to regain his 2011 form if the Hawks expect to win more than it loses in the league this fall.
This week: Open Date
10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 8
Week 5 result: Lost to Iowa 31-13
Backup quarterback Max Shortell, who is playing in place of senior starter MarQueis Gray, didn't fare too well. He threw three interceptions and the offense created only 300 yards of offense — which is less than two different receivers in the Baylor-West Virginia game. However, Gray might not have made any difference. The running game struggled to get anything done as Donnell Kirkwood was held to nearly 60 yards under his per game rushing average (12 att., 33 yards). The straw that broke the Gophers' back was a Shortell interception returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter when they were driving to cut the lead to 10 points. The road trip to Iowa City was easily the toughest game of Goldy's schedule thus far, and Jerry Kill's team forgot to show up. A 24-0 start for Iowa in the first 21 minutes of play says as much.
This week: Open Date
11. Illinois (2-3, 0-1)
Previous rank: 9
Week 5 result: Lost to Penn State 35-7
Year one under Tim Beckman isn't going as fans might have hoped. Nathan Scheelhaase was able to play an entire game, attempting 46 passes, carrying the ball 11 times and ending with 277 yards of total offense. However, it made little difference as a pair of interceptions and the offense's inability to run the ball kept the Illini from being competitive. The defense let Penn State jump out to a 21-0 halftime lead and then couldn't stop the ground game — it allowed 173 yards and four touchdowns rushing. Beckman's team is allowing more points than any other team in the league and is ranked 11th in total offense. Bad offense + bad defense = Ugly 28-point blowouts at home. And things won't get any easier this weekend.
This week: at Wisconsin (3-2)
12. Indiana (2-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 12
Week 5 result: Lost to Northwestern 44-29
The Hoosiers defensive front was outmatched from the word go, as the Wildcats rushed to a 27-0 lead early in the third quarter. Indiana showed heart, scoring 29 points in the final 26:24 as IU continues to pace the Big Ten in passing offense (311.0 ypg). Kevin Wilson's offense is ranked No. 2 in the league and has been using a third-string quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, to spark slow starts in the last two games. But until something is done about a defense that allowed Northwestern to produce in record fashion, Indiana will have trouble competing in the league.
This week: Michigan State (3-2)
by Braden Gall
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