Michigan State posted one of the most complete outings of the Big Ten season thus far in a critical road division win over Iowa. Indiana exercised some demons with the first win in school history over Penn State. Without Taylor Martinez, Nebraska handled its business at home against overmatched Illinois team. And Michigan kept control of the Little Brown Jug.
But Ohio State made the biggest statement of the weekend by clearly yet another big hurdle. The Buckeyes turned to the power running game to make a big statement against a very good Northwestern team in a hostile environment in Evanston.
Big Ten Post-Week 6 Power Rankings:
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0): Braxton Miller didn't play his best game, but the Buckeyes still managed to win on the road against Northwestern. After three turnovers, Urban Meyer took the ball out of his star quarterback's hands and instead gave it to burly running back Carlos Hyde. The tailback carried his team to victory with three second half touchdowns and physical play all evening long. This Week: Bye
Michigan (5-0, 1-0): Brady Hoke needed a performance like this. The Wolverines played a squeaky clean games against Minnesota by converting on all but three third downs (10 of 13), not turning the ball over and registering just two penalties. Devin Gardner played efficient football, and the running game did just enough to let the defense win the game. This was an impressive showing for the Maize and Blue in the Big Ten opener before heading to Happy Valley in Week 7. This Week: at Penn State
Nebraska (4-1, 1-0): The Cornhuskers played their best defensive game of the year. The Blackshirts held an Illini offense averaging 40 points 478 to just 19 points and 372 yards on Saturday. And the offense clicked on all cylinders despite not having Taylor Martinez under center. Tommy Armstrong did his job by getting the ball to his backfield. Ameer Abdullah (225 yards, 2 TD) spearheaded a rushing attack that posted 335 yards on the ground. This Week: at Purdue
Northwestern (4-1, 0-1): The loss to Ohio State was one of the most entertaining games of the season, but Wildcats fans likely don't care about style points too much. The Cats had a chance to pull a marquee upset and take control of the conference but couldn't match the physicality at the point of attack in the second half. The Legends Division is completely wide open and a rematch in the Big Ten title game isn't out of the question. But the Cats continue to struggle to beat more talented teams in the league, and things don't get any easier in Week 7. This Week: at Wisconsin
Wisconsin (3-2, 1-1): After the tough road loss to Ohio State, the Badgers will have two weeks to prepare for the dynamic and versatile Northwestern attack that came up just short against Ohio State. This Week: Northwestern
Michigan State (4-1, 1-0): The Big Ten season couldn't have started any better for the Spartans. A key divisional road win over Iowa was the most complete team effort Michigan State has had all season. Connor Cook threw for a career-best 277 yards, the defense pitched a second-half shutout and special teams were a huge factor as the Spartans connected on all four field goals and converted a big fake punt in the second half. It was blue collar, physical and not always exciting, but that is the way Mark Dantonio likes it. This Week: Indiana
Penn State (3-2, 0-1): Christian Hackenberg threw the ball 55 times for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but maybe that was the problem. The Penn State offense couldn't find any balance in the loss to Indiana, rushing for just 70 yards on 38 carries at a 1.8 yards per carry. On the flip side, the Lions defense played well for three quarters before cracking in the final frame and allowing nearly 500 yards of offense to the Hoosiers. Penn State gets Michigan and Ohio State in its next two. This Week: Michigan
Iowa (4-2, 1-1): The Hawkeyes head into the off weekend with a bad taste in their mouths. After leading 14-10 at halftime against the Spartans, Iowa was dominated in all three phases of the game in the final 30 minutes. Kirk Ferentz squad entered the game fourth nationally in time of possession (35:50 per game) but managed to hold the ball for 22:47 against Michigan State. Ferentz better not let the off weekend go to waste since the Hawks next three opponents are Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. This Week: Bye
Indiana (3-2, 1-0): The Hoosiers had a slim 21-17 lead at the end of three quarters against Penn State but an offensive explosion to start the fourth quarter gave Kevin Wilson a signature home win — Indiana's first victory over Penn State. Nate Sudfeld threw for 321 yards and two scores on the game while Tre Roberson scored twice on the ground during the 23-point fourth quarter. This was a huge division win at home against a more talented team and it keeps IU's bowl hopes alive. This Week: at Michigan State
Minnesota (4-2, 0-2): The Gophers were without coach Jerry Kill after another seizure forced him to stay home for the road trip to Ann Arbor. Without their leader, Minnesota looked lost against Michigan, losing the Little Brown Jug in uncompetitive fashion. Mitch Leidner got the start at quarterback but led his offense to just 281 total yards and 13 points in the blowout loss. This Week: Bye
Illinois (3-2, 0-1): Tim Beckman began Big Ten play with a big thud this weekend. Nathan Scheelhaase entered the weekend as one of the most productive and improved quarterbacks in the nation. He looked a lot more like the player who struggled the last two seasons, completing 13 of 26 passes for 135 yards, no scores and one interception. Following the off week, the Illini faces Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. This Week: Bye
Purdue (1-4, 0-1): After a horrible first month of the season, Purdue spent two weeks preparing for October — which begins with a visit from the Cornhuskers. And there is a good chance that Taylor Martinez will return to the lineup. Best of luck, Boilers. This Week: Nebraska
Big Ten Week 6 Awards and Superlatives:
Offensive Player of the Week: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
The 235-pound running back from Florida was simply too much for Northwestern to handle. On a night when Braxton Miller didn't play his best, Hyde stepped up and salvaged the Buckeyes national championship hopes. He entered the night with just 22 rushing attempts and 126 yards on the season but finished with 26 carries, 168 yards and three crucial second-half touchdowns. The worn-down Wildcats had no answer for Hyde's physicality in the second half. The Ohio State tailback also caught four passes for 38 yards.
Defensive Player of the Week: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Michigan State cornerback was preseason first-team All-Big Ten pick by Athlon Sports and he showed why Saturday. In a key division road win, Dennard led the team with eight tackles and added two interceptions as the Spartans shut out of the Hawkeyes in the second half. This unit held Mark Weisman to just nine yards and is still leading the nation in total defense (203.8 ypg).
Team of the Week: Ohio State
Both Michigan State and Indiana had critical — and historic in the Hoosiers case — wins in Week 6 over Iowa and Penn State respectively. But the Buckeyes were once again the class of the Big Ten conference after defeating Northwestern 40-30 on the road. With a power rushing attack, a dynamic quarterback, elite-level coach and, now, two huge wins over ranked conference opponents, there is little doubt who the best team in the league is after six weeks of play.
Coordinator of the Week: John Papuchis, Nebraska
Illinois entered the game against Nebraska averaging nearly 500 yards of offense and more than 40 points per game. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was averaging 307.5 yards per game with 12 touchdowns in four games. Nebraska's defense, though, played its best game of the year, holding the Illini to 372 yards, 19 total points, 4-of-15 on third downs, registering three sacks and forcing two turnovers. Without Taylor Martinez, the Huskers' defense came up big once again.
Freshman of the Week: Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB, Nebraska
In the absence of Taylor Martinez, Armstrong (and fellow reserve signal caller Ron Kellogg III) has been charged with running the Huskers offense. Armstrong played excellent football against the Illini, completing 8 of 13 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the impressive win. He also ran the ball nine times for 18 yards on the ground and didn't throw an interception for a second straight game. With a road trip to Purdue up next before another week off, don't be surprised if Bo Pelini goes to his freshman again in an effort to get Martinez fully healthy.
• Penn State's Christian Hackenberg broke his own school freshman passing record with 340 yards against Indiana.
• Allen Robinson had 12 receptions for 173 yards and two TDs against Indiana. He moved into seventh place all-time in school history with 118 career receptions and fifth all-time with 16 career TD receptions.
• Iowa was leading the Big Ten and was fourth nationally in time of possession entering Week 6 (35:50). The Hawkeyes held the ball for 22:47 in the loss to Michigan State.
• Nebraska is now leading the nation all by itself with just two sacks allowed in 2013.
• Indiana is now 1-16 all-time against Penn State after the win over the Nittany Lions this weekend.
• Ohio State still owns the nation's longest winning streak at 18 and Michigan owns the longest home winning streak with 18. These two will play in Ann Arbor on the final weekend of the regular season.
• After going 10 of 13 on third downs against Minnesota, the Wolverines are leading the Big Ten in third-down conversions at 53.7 percent (36 of 67) which is good for 11th nationally.
• Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah ran for a personal-best 225 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois.
• Despite two different outcomes, Iowa and Michigan are still the nation's only teams that have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
• Michigan State's Connor Cook set a career high with 277 yards passing. He also had two long scoring strikes in the win over Iowa.
• Saturday was the first game of the season that Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste didn't have an interception in 2013.