There’s no quarterback controversy in Columbus, just like there’s no controversy at the top of the Big Ten mountain.
No. 4 Ohio State won its 17th straight game and proved once again it’s the king of the hill. The Buckeyes beat Wisconsin 31-24 Saturday to virtually lock up the Leaders Division title just one game into the league season. Oh, there’s plenty of football yet to be played. And of course anything can happen. But Ohio State and Wisconsin were the only teams with realistic shots to win the division, the Buckeyes own the tiebreaker moving forward.
“The bottom line is there’s no magic fairy dust and everyone is in it this time,” Wisconsin Coach Gary Andersen said. “These guys are in it and where Ohio State ends up this time matters. Something has got to happen. We don’t completely control our destiny, but I like our chances.”
But perhaps the greater news Saturday night was the return of junior quarterback Braxton Miller. After sitting out the last two games with a injured knee, Miller came back in glory, throwing for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 98 yards. Many have speculated that Ohio State should stick with senior backup Kenny Guiton, who threw for 10 touchdown passes over the previous two games, but Miller proved why he was considered a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate.
The Buckeyes (5-0) stuck with Miller, and he rewarded them with multiple big plays. On third-and-7 from the Wisconsin 40, Miller threw toward the end zone and Wisconsin defensive back Sojour Shelton dropped an easy interception. On fourth down, Miller persuaded Coach Urban Meyer to let him pass again. Miller connected with a 40-yard strike to Philly Brown for a touchdown to push Ohio State ahead 24-14.
“I love playing in big games,” Miller said. “Brings excitement to myself and the team. That’s what we talk about all the time. We love night games, just like last year. We stepped up a little bit, different game plan, and defense was good.”
The Buckeyes did lose free safety and defensive captain Christian Bryant to a broken ankle. Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer is concerned about losing Bryant as both a player and a leader.
“My leader, our leader, is in an ambulance right now going to the hospital to have surgery on his leg,” Meyer said. “So that’s the concerning part. He’s our leader. There’s no doubt about who is one of our if not the defense leader, one of them. And he’s just devastated. So that’s concern number one. Concern probably one, two and three is who is going to fill his spot. Who is going to assume the leadership obligation, responsibility that he has, that he has shown?”
Ohio State held the nation’s leading rusher, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, to 74 rushing yards. Gordon entered the game averaging 156 yards a game.
Iowa (4-1) produced a stout defensive effort against Minnesota (4-1), holding the Gophers to 30 rushing yards on 27 carries in a 23-7 win. The Gophers entered the game averaging 282 yards rushing with a national-best 14 red-zone rushing touchdowns.
“I wish we could have left them with no points on the scoreboard because we want to be perfect up front,” Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “But we didn’t do that.
“(Defensive line coach Reese) Morgan, he did a good job. He kind of pressed and we were like ‘Hey, if you guys don’t play physical, these are going to run it down your throats.’ So we’re like, we took it as a challenge as a whole unit.”
Iowa matches its 2012 win total with the victory. But of its final seven opponents, six are ranked or are receiving votes in the latest polls.
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase threw five touchdowns in a 50-14 win against Miami (Ohio). Scheelhaase tossed a team-record four touchdowns in the second quarter, which is the same number of touchdown passes he had in 2012. He moved into fourth place all-time at Illinois with 46 career touchdown passes.
“I can’t say enough what Nate Scheelhaase has done, and it’s not just about throwing touchdown passes,” Illinois Coach Tim Beckman said. “It’s about coming in on Mondays (and) over-studying so he can have the best opportunities to be successful. Sitting with (offensive coordinator Bill) Cubit and coming up with a plan that we know that we can get adjusted on the football field through Nate. And I think that Nate’s really buying into this system and you can see the way that he’s been playing, and he grasps it and he loves doing this.”
Illinois (3-1) has scored 161 points over its first four games, the most in school history. The previous high was 158 in the first four games of the 1914 season, when Illinois won both the Big Ten and national title.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller threw for 198 yards and four TDs and rushed for another 83 yards. … Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 207 yards and a score. … Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase passed for 278 yards and five touchdowns.
Iowa linebacker James Morris spearheaded a solid defensive effort with eight tackles, one sack and an interception. … Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland totaled 16 tackles. … Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier had nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss. … Purdue wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey caught seven passes for 117 yards.
1. Ohio State (1) 5-0 1-0
2. Northwestern (3) 4-0 0-0
3. Wisconsin (2) 3-2 1-1
4. Michigan (4) 4-0 0-0
5A. Michigan State (5A) 3-1 0-0
5B. Penn State (5B) 3-1 0-0
5C. Nebraska (5D) 3-1 0-0
5D. Iowa (5E) 4-1 1-0
9. Illinois (11) 3-1 0-0
10. Indiana (10) 2-2 0-0
11. Minnesota (5C) 4-1 0-1
12. Purdue (12) 1-4 0-1
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