7 Things We Learned About the Big Ten in Week 5

Ben Stepansky@@benstepanskyCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2012

7 Things We Learned About the Big Ten in Week 5

0 of 7

    Week 5 in college football brought us the start of Big Ten play. Eight teams faced off against a conference foe.

    Northwestern's offense exploded versus Indiana, Penn State clobbered Illinois, Iowa handed Minnesota its first loss of the season, Ohio State held off Michigan State and Nebraska stormed back against Wisconsin.

    Let's take a look at seven big stories from this exciting week.

Ohio State Deserves a Top-10 Ranking

1 of 7

    In his first year as the head coach of Ohio State, Urban Meyer has started both his season and his Big Ten play undefeated. 

    Quarterback Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes fought tooth-and-nail against a strong Michigan State defense to win 17-16, improving to 5-0.

    Miller combined for 210 total offensive yards—176 through the air and 136 on the ground, including a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith. The score regained the lead for Ohio State, 17-13, after losing it less than two minutes earlier on a Spartan touchdown drive.

    The 5-0 Buckeyes are among a myriad of undefeated teams, but with No. 8-ranked Stanford falling to Washington and many other teams having an off week, Ohio State will approach a top-10 ranking.

    They face off against another Big Ten opponent, No. 22-ranked Nebraska, next weekend. 

Michael Mauti Is a Contender for the Dick Butkus Award

2 of 7

    The Dick Butkus Award is handed to the best college football linebacker each season. If Michael Mauti keeps up his outstanding play, he could be considered for the best overall defensive player of the year.

    Mauti turned in an inspired performance on Saturday, intercepting Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase twice, which included a 99-yard interception return.

    He also added six tackles and half a sack.

    Through five games this season, Mauti has an incredible 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

    He has been a driving force on a Penn State team that has surged back from an 0-2 start to win its last three games. 

Kain Colter Is a Freak

3 of 7

    Northwestern's offensive onslaught against Indiana set a school record for the most total offensive yards—704, to be exact. 

    Kain Colter was single-handedly responsible for over 40 percent of that total.

    The versatile Colter rushed for 161 yards, caught nine passes for another 131 yards, and even passed for two yards on three attempts. 

    He set career highs in rushing yards, receiving yards, receptions and rushing touchdowns, of which he accumulated four.

    His 161 rushing yards came on just 14 attempts, an average of 11.5 yards per carry.

    Quarterback Trevor Siemian added 308 yards through the air as he and Colter combined for nearly 86 percent of the team's total offensive output.

    Northwestern improved to 5-0 on the year.

Michigan State Can't Beat a Ranked Opponent

4 of 7

    Ever since their Week 1 victory against then-ranked Boise State, Michigan State has gone 2-2, with both losses coming against ranked foes, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

    The Spartans’ most recent loss sent them to the basement of the Big Ten’s Legends Division—their overall record better than only Michigan's (2-2).

    Michigan State had opportunities to put the Buckeyes away in Week 5, but Andrew Maxwell and the Spartans could not fend off what turned out to be a superior Ohio State team.

    Week 3 featured a disheartening loss to Notre Dame at home in East Lansing in which Michigan State had one of the worst showings in recent memory of a top-10 ranked team at home.

    Thankfully, Nebraska is the only currently ranked opponent left on the schedule for the Spartans. They play Indiana next week.

Taylor Martinez Is a Born Leader

5 of 7

    Nebraska's game against Wisconsin could have spelled disaster, especially when it saw itself down 27-10 early in the third quarter.

    Then Taylor Martinez decided to step up.

    Martinez threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns, adding 107 yards on the ground and a score.

    He led the Cornhuskers to 20 unanswered points through the third and fourth quarters to lead Nebraska to a come-from-behind win, 30-27. This included four straight scoring drives, three of which were for 60 yards or more.

    Nebraska improved to 4-1 and will clash with Ohio State next weekend in what should be a tough test.

Iowa Can Surprise Teams

6 of 7

    Running back Mark Weisman and the Iowa Hawkeyes handed the Minnesota Gophers their first loss of the season, decisively winning 31-13.

    Weisman rushed for 177 and one score, averaging 8.4 yards per carry.

    The Hawkeyes, who were 2-2 before the game, surprised Minnesota with their successful running game and suffocating defense, forcing Gophers quarterback Max Shortell to throw three interceptions.

    Now standing at 3-2, the road does not get any easier for Iowa, which faces a struggling Michigan State team on October 13, then goes up against Penn State and Northwestern.

    If the Hawkeyes can harness the success they discovered against Minnesota, they can continue to surprise opponents.

Nebraska vs. Ohio State Could Be Game of the Week

7 of 7

    Taylor Martinez and Nebraska will march into Ohio Stadium next Saturday for Braxton Miller and Ohio State's Big Ten home opener.

    The crowd will be wild, tensions will be high and the competition will be stiff. This game has potential to be the college football game of the week.

    With Michigan State's loss on Saturday, Nebraska and Ohio State are arguably the two best teams in the Big Ten. The winner of this matchup will nearly solidify its position at the top of its division.

    Nebraska needs to overtake Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten), while Ohio State will not want to take a Big Ten loss this early in the season, especially with Penn State (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) playing fantastic football.

    Could this also be the Big Ten game of the year?