I remember when Big Ten divisional play was about to start and I suggested only half-jokingly that there could be a six-way tie for the Legends title at 4-4.
Michigan State (5-0) and Northwestern (0-5) refused to play along. That said, on with the rankings for Week 10, and only Week 10:
1. Michigan State, W 29-6 vs. Michigan. It was the largest winning margin for the Spartans in this series since their 34-0 win in 1967.
“You can call us what you want, call us little brother, call us big brother,” said MSU linebacker Denicos Allen. “But when it’s on the field, we show who’s the big brother and who’s the little brother.”
The Spartans had seven quarterback sacks. Their defense, deservedly touted all season, just seems to get better. It has allowed 210.2 yards a game, 34 yards less than anyone else in the nation. Michigan was held to 168. Michigan State has allowed 3.47 yards per play. No one else in the nation has allowed less than 4.
Michigan had been averaging 184 rushing yards per game. It had minus-48 against the Spartans.
“When you look at things statistically, it’s pretty one-sided,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said in this column by Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press. “That’s the way we like ’em.”
2. Wisconsin, W 28-9 vs. Iowa. Star Badgers linebacker Chris Borland couldn’t play because of a hamstring injury. Junior Marcus Trotter stepped in, had a teamhigh nine tackles, and the Badgers were just fine.
“The one thing I’m going to remember this team for forever, regardless of what happens the rest of the season,” UW Coach Gary Andersen said, “they are never fazed. The next kid that’s got to go in — whether it’s on special teams, offense or defense — they seem to be prepared. They get in the moment.”
The Badgers probably won’t be going to a fourth-straight Rose Bowl. But they’re better than they were last year when they did go.
3. Minnesota, W 42-39 at Indiana. How can you not be impressed with the Gophers, never mind their 7-2 record?
They began their Big Ten season with two resounding losses and head coach Jerry Kill had to step away from his duties because of his battles with epileptic seizures. Now they’re 3-2 in the conference, ahead of Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern. All three of the wins have been upsets.
In fact, Minnesota is only the third team since 1980 (1991 Arkansas and 2006 Arizona) to win three straight games as an underdog of a touchdown or more.
“You look back on these last two years, and there were so many missed plays — missed wins,” Minnesota senior defensive back Brock Vereen said. “Two years ago, we’re not winning these games.”
The Gophers blew a 22-point second-half lead, but came back to re-take the lead on a 50-yard TD pass with 3:06 left, and stopped Indiana at the Gophers 9 on the Hoosiers’ final possession after IU fumbled a lateral.
“To have the opportunity to win five games in a row now, it’s what this program needs,” Vereen said. “It’s what coach (Jerry) Kill needs. It’s all thanks to him and this coaching staff — everyone who stepped up.”
4. Ohio State, W 56-0 at Purdue. The ranking for the Buckeyes is this low only because of the quality of competition. It’s not as if OSU didn’t do absolutely everything required of it.
Ohio State doesn’t think it has the best quarterback in the Big Ten. It thinks it has the two best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton.
“If we’re drafting,” Buckeyes Coach Urban Meyer said in this Cleveland.com story, “I have the two I like.”
“For sure – that’s not even an argument,” said OSU wide receiver Philly Brown. “We definitely have the two best quarterbacks in the Big Ten.”
Miller completed 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns at Purdue. Guitton hit on 8 of 11 passes for 59 yards and a TD, and rushed nine times for 98 yards and two scores.
Miller has 15 touchdown passes this season. Guitton has 14.
5. Nebraska, W 27-24 vs. Northwestern. The Husker’s “Hail Mary” was full of grace Saturday. The 49-yard, last-second, game-winning heave from fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg III to redshirt freshman Jordan Westerkamp may be college football’s Play of the Year.
“I feel like I hit a shot to go to the Final Four,” said Kellogg, whose father scored 22 points for Kansas in its loss to Duke at the 1986 Final Four. “I’m still stunned.”
“That’ll be remembered in this place forever,” said Nebraska offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles. “That’s something that I’ll remember forever.”
6. Penn State, W 24-17 (OT) vs. Illinois. Penn State threw a touchdown pass in the overtime. Illinois threw an interception.
“I don’t feel fortunate,” Penn State Coach Bill O’Brien said. “Fortunate is when you win the lottery.
“To me, we went out and did what we have to do to win the football game. I feel happy we won, but I don’t feel fortunate.”
It was the Nittany Lions’ third overtime win in their last six home games.
“I guess we like to make things interesting,” said Lions linebacker Glenn Carson.
7. Illinois, L 24-17 (OT) at Penn State. That’s 18 straight Big Ten losses for the Fighting Illini.
“That one hurt,” said Illinois wide receiver Spencer Harris. “We’ve been trying to get the monkey off our back — 18 Big Ten games that we lost. … That one hurt bad like they all hurt, but that one especially hurt.”
“I do believe this will be a learning experience and we’re going to get that ‘W,’ ” Illinois Coach Tim Beckman said in this Chicago Tribune story. “It’s going to come, and it’s going to come this year.”
Illinois still gets to play Purdue.
8. Northwestern, L 27-24 at Nebraska. What do you call it when you’re at the wrong end of a “Hail Mary?”
“What words can change your feelings after something like that?” Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Westerkamp, who caught the winning pass for Nebraska is from Chicago west suburb Lombard, was offered a scholarship from Northwestern. He is Illinois’ all-time high school leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
“You can never let someone get behind the pile,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s pretty much it.
“Maybe I should have done something different. It’s on me. Obviously we can’t keep doing this.”
9. Indiana, L 42-39 vs. Minnesota. Lots of people said Indiana would go to a bowl game this year. They were wrong.
The Hoosiers are 3-5 and still must play at Wisconsin and Ohio State.
David Woods of the Indianapolis Star summed it up in this story from the game:
An incomplete pass that was supposed to go forward went backward … thus a lateral, thus a fumble, thus a loss damaging the rebuilding project of coach Kevin Wilson and affirming the decision of all the students who left at halftime. It’s as if the students, who haven’t endured more than a century of futility, knew what was coming. Alumni in town for homecoming knew only too well.
Indiana surrendered 573 yards to the Gophers. What will they allow at Wisconsin and Ohio State?
10. Iowa, L 28-9 vs. Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes’ defense did play well for the most part. It held Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon to 3.6 yards per carry on 17 rushes. He had been averaging 9.5.
But Iowa averaged just 4.1 yards per play. That doesn’t work.
11. Michigan, L 29-6 at Michigan State. The Wolverines have lost five of their last six games against Michigan State. After this loss, Michigan Coach Brady Hoke was asked if the gap between the two teams is widening.
“I don’t think there is a gap,” Hoke said. “I think they played awfully well, they executed awfully well. “I don’t think we did.”
Michigan had 168 yards. Michigan State 394.
12. Purdue, L 56-0 vs. Ohio State. That’s 155 points for Purdue’s Big Ten opponents, 17 for the Boilermakers.
This was the Buckeyes’ most-lopsided win over the Boilermakers. Purdue ran only one play inside the OSU 40 … and got sacked.
“Everything that we’re doing right now, we’ve got to do a whole lot better,” said Purdue Coach Darrell Hazell.
So at least there are no delusions.
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