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Weekly Overview of Big 10 Action, Sans the Iowa Upset

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Ohio State 45, Northwestern 10

When this game was somewhat close in the 3rd quarter, I began writing an article about how good game planning and team toughness were allowing this injury ridden, overmatched Wildcat squad to stay in the game. Then Terrelle Pryor put his Superman cape while throwing a touchdown pass to Rory Nicol, Nathan Williams sacked Kafka twice in a row, and Jim Tressel continued his recent ritual of blowing out the Wildcats. Northwestern Notes: Kafka is one hell of a runner and I think the Buckeye defense was surprised early by his ability to gain yardage and run between the tackles. He actually ran for 122 yards, minus the 39 yards lost on sacks...One of the weirdest stats of this college football year was provided by this Northwestern defense. Out of Beanie Wells 28 rushes, 1/3 of them were for no gain or loss of yardage - but the bruising back still ran for 140 yards. Usually when a defense stuffs a running back nine times for no loss or negative yardage, that signifies good things...The offensive line (Al Netter, Keegan Kennedy, Doug Bartels, etc) has done an impressive job of opening holes for the NW running backs this year, but couldn't move the pile for RB Simmons (14 carries, 34 yards). OSU Notes: Three early personal fouls, including the amazing WWF headbutt by Alex Boone, showed that the Bucks were either undisciplined or that they were playing revved up defense; I am going to err towards the latter...Tressell is allowing Pryor to take shots down the field in every game, a good strategy for such a run focused offense. Its good old fashioned Big 10 football: lull ‘em to sleep with the run, shock ‘em with the long ball...James Laurinitis is a monster; I know it's all been said about this All-American, but it was a lot of fun to watch him chase down Kafka...

Michigan State 21, Purdue 7

This was probably the most boring game of the week due to the abhorrent quarterback play by Brian Hoyer and Justin Siller. The Spartans overwhelmed Purdue's O Line and the Spartan offense did just enough to win. Purdue's young quarterback Justin Siller showed his youth, only throwing for 83 yards and having one ugly INT returned for a touchdown. MSU Notes: Hoyer, fresh off leading MSU to a comeback win over Wisconsin, threw low percentage deep passes that led to interceptions. He was also unusually inaccurate even though the O Line gave him a lot of time to throw...Linebackers Ryan Allison and Greg Jones (12 tackles) helped MSU stuff the Boilermaker run game with hard hitting and smart play...The Spartans short yardage stack formations make football purists smile...Purdue Notes: Purdue was 0-9 on third down in the first half...Purdue's kicking has been bad this year and punter Chris Summers looked unimpressive, averaging only 36 yards per kick...I have an odd feeling that Purdue's 83 yards passing is the lowest single game total for a Big 10 team this year, but I will have to check the stats.

Michigan 29, Minnesota 6

The Michigan defense has struggled badly against every kind of offensive system this year: downfield passing teams like Notre Dame and Illinois, a power running team in Michigan State, ball control offenses like Utah and Purdue that throw short passes. But it looks like all the pressure and anger directed at this highly hyped defensive unit finally triggered something good as the Michigan D led RichRod to his third victory of the year. Minnesota wasn't helped by the early loss of star WR Eric Decker. Michigan Notes: Nick Sheridan showed an accurate arm and a quicker release than starting QB Threet...RichRod's dialed up some smart passing routes: Sheridan would look right and then quickly turn left and complete a slant or swing pass...The Michigan cornerbacks were coached correctly to shut down this Minnesota offense. Kyle Theret, Stevie Brown, and Morgan Trent spent the entire game jumping the short routes that Gopher QB Adam Weber has thrown well all year. Not only did the Wolverine secondary jump the routes, they delivered some highlight reel hits on the Minnesota wide receivers...I know Sam McGuffie was injured a couple games ago, but the fact remains that Shaw and Minor are better running backs than Leapin' Sam. McGuffie doesn't have the power to finish runs in the east-west running scheme and Shaw and Minor have just as much wiggle...RichRod had to feel good watching offensive linemen Steven Schilling and David Moosman throw perfect blocks in his zone blocking system...Minnesota Notes: The Gophers looked hungover from their heartbreaking NW loss, not getting a first down until 8 minutes remained in the 2nd quarter...the supposedly staunch Minnesota defensive line (including probable All Big 10 selection Willie VanDeSteeg) has been ravaged on the ground for two consecutive weeks...Adam Weber looked less confident without Decker. His timing was off with the other wide receivers...

Western Michigan 23, Illinois 17

The frighteningly inconsistent Illini couldn't muster enough firepower to come back against the well coached Broncos from Kalamazoo. Western quarterback Tim Hiller completed 28 out of 40 passes for 301 yards and this high completion percentage helped the surprising MAC team control the clock and keep the potentially lethal Illinois offense off the field. The Western defense blitzed all day, making Williams throw some unconscionable picks in the first quarter and disrupting the entire offense. Illinois Notes: Juice Williams continued his nasty habit of locking his eyes onto wide receivers instead of putting his head on a swivel...The Illinois coaches were unable to slow the Bronco blitz and linebackers were getting clean shots on Williams the entire game. I blame this on the coaches because Western was blitzing from the start and Illinois couldn't find an answer to stopping it...Awards like the Jim Thorpe Award are sometimes head-scratching because realistically, even though Vontae Davis is a future NFLer and might even win the award this year, the Illinois secondary (Davis included) looked overmatched against a MAC school...

Wisconsin 55, Indiana 20

The Badgers rolled over the Hoosier front line to rush for 441 yards and knocked out surprisingly effective Indiana QB Ben Chappell. The 441 is the most yards rushing for a Big 10 team this year and tied for the most ever at Memorial Field; it also showed what Wisconsin looks like with both P.J. Hill and John Clay healthy. Indiana Notes: The Hoosiers continued a disappointing year that's been riddled with injuries and uncertainty at the quarterback position. They are no longer bowl eligible and are tied for last place in the Big 10 with Purdue...At least Ben Chappell has looked like a solid starting quarterback and the possible future of this Indiana team...Wisconsin Notes: I love watching Wisconsin run the ball, but I also love it when they add twists to the running game. The end-arounds to David Gilreath were just that...