The stage is set for another epic showdown in the Big Ten between title contenders Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.
Since 2005, the first year the two schools shared the Big Ten Championship, the teams have each won twice (once at home and once on the road. In both victories by the Lions, the Big Ten Championship was on the line and both times the Lions used a fumble by an Ohio State quarterback to propel them to victory.
In 2005, the Buckeyes were driving late in the fourth quarter, down by seven when Troy Smith fumbled trying to escape a sack. The Nits would run out the clock to preserve a 17-10 lead and secure the league's automatic BCS berth.
In 2008, the Buckeyes were clinging to a 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter and driving when Terrelle Pryor took a quarterback sneak to the edge and was stripped of the ball by a pouncing Nittany Lion defense. The Lions would go on to score 10 unanswered to win the game 13-6.
Saturday's game in Happy Valley is setting up to be another intense, defensive battle.
Joe Paterno's defense is eager to get after Pennsylvania native Terrelle Pryor and ready to prove that an easy schedule isn't the only reason why they are sitting at 8-1 and lead the conference in most defensive statistics.
Jim Tressel's defense sits right behind the Lions on all of those defensive statistic lists and after posting their third shut-out of the season are eager to prove that they are indeed the Big Ten's best defensive unit.
This important battle for position may just come down to another turnover ... will the Buckeyes change history?
The 2009 roundtable members are J.A. Allen, Tim Cary, Bret Feddern, Kristofer Green, Ryan Jelley, and Kevin Trahan.
On to the Week 10 Power Rankings...
The B/R Big Ten Players of the Week:
Offensive Player of the Week: QB Adam Weber, Minnesota
Defensive Player of the Week: S Tyler Sash, Iowa
Special Teams Player of the Week: KR/WR Keshawn Martin, Michigan State
KT: Illinois has finally found its way out of the cellar of the Big Ten, showcasing its explosive offense against Michigan, something we have waited to see all year.
JA: It was quite an afternoon for Juice Williams and company on Saturday. Most teams would have given up the dream of a win after losing their first five conference games. But Illinois did not give up and they played hard-nosed aggressive football and won an important game. Michigan turned the ball over to help the Illinois cause; but Juice Williams ran for 97 yards and threw for another 123. Illinois still has a chance to achieve respectability before the season ends. Next week they travel to Minnesota.
BF: 500 yards of total offense for Illinois must have been a refreshing change of pace for fans at the game. The Illini defense stepped up this week, too, preventing Michigan from a second half touchdown.
RJ: The Illini pulled out their first victory of the season against an FBS team but must find some consistency if they hope to save Ron Zook in the long run.
TC: The streaky Illini offense finally clicked: now it's up to Juice Williams, Arrelious Benn, and Ron Zook to prove Saturday's beatdown of Michigan wasn't a fluke. How's this for going out on a limb: if Illinois can get past Minnesota and Northwestern the next couple of weeks, they could have enough momentum to throw a scare into undefeated Cincinnati later in November. That would make some scoreboard-watching Hawkeyes very happy.
KG: With the win over Michigan on Saturday, the Illini have officially rekindled their bowl aspirations. If Juice Williams and company can figure out a way to win against Minnesota and Northwestern, momentum (and a bit of luck) may swing the Illinis' way on a trip to Cincinnati. Then it would all come down to winning a final home game, in December, against some California boys from Fresno State to secure bowl eligibility. Illini fans can dream right?
BF: It can't get much worse for Purdue. They had 141 total yards, and failed epically at trying to score. 2-for-16 on third-down conversions? I'm no expert, but that's what some might label awful.
KT: The impressive win over Ohio State seems like it happened years ago and the Boilermakers were embarrassed 37-0 by Wisconsin. So much for all the hype about Purdue being a team on the rise.
JA: After defeating Ohio State and Illinois on back-to-back weekends, Purdue felt they had a chance to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison last weekend; but, the Badgers had a different outcome in mind. Purdue could not move the ball against Wisconsin, managing to scrape together a mere 141 yards on offense for the entire game. Add to that miscues and turnovers and you end up with the recipe for disaster which was exactly what the Purdue Boilermakers served last Saturday.
TC: The Boilermakers reached the low point of their season Saturday, dropping a 37-0 blowout loss to Wisconsin. Purdue hasn't won a road game since 2007 and now needs to win out to be bowl-eligible. Let's just say that probably won't be happening, considering their next game is in Ann Arbor. If you need a brief history lesson, the last time Purdue won at Michigan, Boilermaker alum Neil Armstrong hadn't landed on the moon yet.
RJ: The Boilermakers were crushed in Madison but hope to rebound against the struggling Wolverines next week.
KG: I guess one week of turnover-free football is all that can be expected from this Purdue team, who have fallen back to earth after a pair of victories. Joey Elliott and the Purdue offense managed 141 total yards of offense for the game, nine fewer than Wisconsin rolled up in a 150-yard first quarter.
TC: The Wolverines are officially in free-fall mode after an embarrassing one-sided loss to Illinois. Hard to imagine after the Maize and Blue's 4-0 start, but Saturday against Purdue looks like a must-win for bowl eligibility, since difficult matchups against Wisconsin and Ohio State remain.
JA: Michigan played just good enough to beat Illinois, except that they didn’t win. Illinois played better—enough so that they defeated the vaunted Wolverines and notched their first Big Ten win of the season. No one expected Illinois to win, and Michigan may have expected to face a team without fire, without execution and without a game. But the Illini came out ready to win and they did that as Michigan appeared flat-footed and uninspired on the afternoon. Michigan turned the ball over and over. It was a long afternoon for the Wolverines.
KT: In all reality, Michigan should be much lower than this after an embarrassing 38-13 loss to Illinois. But it's hard to put them much lower because all the teams below them are awful.
BF: Michigan gave up 377 rushing yards. Against Illinois. And that wasn't even the worst thing about their loss. They failed to score in the second half against the team last in total defense in the Big Ten.
KG: No Big Ten team started hotter than the young Wolverines. But after four losses in five games, Rich Rodriguez's team is reeling and suddenly faces a must-win situation Saturday against the Boilermakers. Michigan's loss to an Illinois team that had yet to win a game against FBS competition was shocking. The fact that the Illini blew the Wolverines out of the water, holding a suddenly stagnant Michigan offense scoreless in the second half, should be of great concern with Wisconsin and Ohio State still to come.
RJ: Since starting 4-0 the Wolverines have lost four of their last five, though this shouldn't come as a surprise as the Wolverines have turned the ball over 14 times in these four games compared to only seven times in their five wins.
RJ: The Hoosiers benefited from five Ricky Stanzi interceptions but still were unable to pull out a win.
TC: While there's no such thing as moral victories, the Hoosiers still impressed me with their performance on the road at Iowa. However, does Bill Lynch's team have the mental toughness to shake off a heartbreaking defeat and snap a disappointing string of five losses in six games? Things don't get any easier with the now-ranked Badgers looming.
BF: Get over the penalties and focus on fourth quarter defense. Indiana gave up four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and allowed Iowa to come from behind. This is the second week in a row that this has happened to the Hoosiers.
KT: You know you're a bad team when you get six turnovers and still lose. The Hoosiers gave up 28 points in the fourth quarter, losing to the Hawkeyes 42-24.
KG: It is remarkable that the Hoosiers still had a chance to win the game heading into the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Despite having an obvious touchdown overturned by the increasingly inept Big Ten replay officials, the Hoosiers led through three quarters. Then it all fell apart. Allowing a goal-line pick-six and two long touchdown passes will kill you every time.
JA: The Indiana Hoosiers shot out to a 21-7 halftime lead. They played superlative football for three quarters, leading all the way. But the Iowa defense pretty much shut them down in the second half and the Iowa offense came to life in the fourth quarter and scored 28 points. Iowa won the game and Indiana left Iowa City with another loss. Next week they host Wisconsin and the Hoosiers will be hoping for another win to edge closer to bowl eligibility.
BF: They tried to hang in there with PSU after they lost starting quarterback Mike Kafka, but at the end of the day Penn State was too much. The Wildcats were shutout in the second half of the game. Northwestern will need Kafka if they want a fighting chance against the Hawkeyes.
TC: Losing quarterback Mike Kafka Saturday afternoon hurt the Wildcats, who played Penn State tough at home before fading in the second half. At 5-4, the 'Cats seem to have a good shot a bowl berth, but the schedule does them no favors over the next three weeks: at Iowa, at Illinois, and Wisconsin.
RJ: The wildcats played well against Penn State for three quarters before breaking down in the fourth and dropping their third conference game.
JA: The Northwestern Wildcats took off in fine fashion against the mighty Penn State Nittany Lions. They led at halftime 13-10. But after their quarterback Mike Kafka was injured, the fight seemed to go out of the Cats and they failed to answer the bell in the second half. The Penn State defense stopped them dead in their tracks. Although the Wildcats rolled up 371 yards of total offense, 246 of that came in the first half. Life gets even more complicated. Northwestern must travel to Iowa City for a play date with the Iowa Hawkeyes next Saturday.
KT: The Wildcats had an impressive first half showing against Penn State, and if Mike Kafka hadn't gone down, they may have had a shot at the upset.
KG: Sure, the Wildcats missed quarterback Mike Kafka after he left because of injury in the second half, but Kafka doesn't play defense. The Nittany Lions were able to move the ball on the Northwestern defense, who failed to adjust to the Lions in the second half. The 'Cats will have another chance at a huge upset this weekend, but collapsing in the fourth quarter against the Hawkeyes could be frightening.
RJ: The Spartans almost avoided defeat Saturday but now must win two of their last three games if they hope to be bowl eligible.
BF: MSU gave up 416 passing yards??? It was a battle back and forth, but the Spartans couldn't hold off Minnesota. Luckily, they have Western Michigan (4-5) this week so they can figure some things out.
JA: In their previous game, Michigan State played Iowa right down to the wire only to come up short on the last play of the game, 15-13. This week they traveled to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Gophers. Although they played tough football, keeping the score close; in the end the Spartans could not finish it. Saturday their miscues and turnovers cost them in the final quarter. This seems to be a familiar pattern for the talented Spartan team. Close, but no cigar.
TC: The Spartans suffered through a predictable hangover in Minneapolis and now need to right the ship with Western Michigan up next. Coach Mark Dantonio will have his squad's full attention in practice this week, considering what happened the last time a "Directional-Michigan" MAC school came to town.
KG: The Spartans have a right to be furious over the Big Ten officials' horrible call on the play before the "Immaculate Deflection." The ball was clearly fumbled and recovered by the Spartans and would have given Michigan State an opportunity to win the game with a field goal. However, that play isn't an excuse for awful tackling and sketchy play by the secondary for most of the game on Saturday.
KT: After playing very well in a heartbreaking loss to Iowa, the Spartans completely fell apart against Minnesota, particularly the Michigan State defense. Now, they have an uphill climb to even become bowl eligible.
KT: No Eric Decker, no problem. The Gophers beat Michigan State without their top wide receiver and quarterback Adam Weber played his first complete game this season.
JA: Minnesota also decided to reclaim their season this weekend. Behind the leadership of quarterback Adam Weber who passed for 416 yards and five touchdowns, the Gophers got back on track and back into the Big Ten race. Minnesota had been shut out in Happy Valley followed by a similar performance in Columbus against Ohio State. In the process the Gophers lost their most talented receiver, Eric Decker. But they held off a very potent Michigan State team and steadied themselves for Illinois next week.
TC: After the top four teams, things get a bit muddy, but Minnesota deserves some recognition for disposing of Michigan State in a game no one figured they could win without Eric Decker. The Gophers continue their home stand with winnable contests against Illinois and South Dakota State, so they could be 7-4 when they head to Iowa City for the regular-season finale.
RJ: The Golden Gophers won a close one against Michigan State and now will face off against Big Ten bottom dweller Illinois.
BF: The Gophers found a way to squeak one out, and Weber's five touchdowns proves he doesn't need Decker to score.
KG: No Gopher could have envisioned that the offense would actually be better without superstar receiver Eric Decker, but it was. Adam Weber had the game of his career and the "Imaaculate Deflection" has become the signature play in the young history of the Gophers new TCF Bank Stadium. The question remains as to whether Tim Brewster's squad can do it again.
TC: The Badgers are bowl-eligible after pounding Purdue, and John Clay is as strong and punishing a tailback as ever. Wisconsin's schedule sets up nicely for nine or 10 wins, as long as they don't overlook a potential trap game in Bloomington this weekend.
KT: Wisconsin had a very impressive 37-0 win over a rising Purdue team, and a January Bowl is looking very likely at this point.
JA: Idle last weekend, Wisconsin made a decision on Saturday to win out and go to a decent bowl game rather than to let the back to back losses to Ohio State and Iowa flatten their season. Their game against Purdue made a statement as the Badgers shut out the Boilermakers completely. Purdue gained only 141 yards on offense for the whole game while Wisconsin produced more yardage than that in the first quarter alone. With the Badgers traditionally winning big at home against unranked opponents, this smackdown had some real sting.
BF: The Badgers gave the Boilermakers an absolute beat down. To add insult to injury, they completely shutout Purdue on the way to a 37-0 victory. Clay had a monster day with 123 yards rushing and three TDs.
KG: The Badgers went from being the league's most balanced team to being one of the league's most unbalanced after back to back losses to Ohio State and Iowa. Scott Tolzien has become nothing more than a tool to hand the ball off to John Clay who was fantastic in last week's romp over Purdue.
RJ: The Badgers handle the Boilermakers quite easily and look like they could go perfect the rest of the season.
BF: OSU won big, and put up an amazing 559 yards of total offense. Other than a fumble, it was hard to find anything wrong with the Buckeyes performance. But am I the only one wondering why New Mexico St. was a late October game?
RJ: The Buckeyes won easily as they should have but now they head to Penn State where the Buckeyes will try to not lose their third regular season game of the year, it'd be the first time the Buckeyes did since 2004.
KT: Congrats Ohio State. You beat New Mexico State 45-0. I've got to say that even though you want style points, kicking the ball onside against a lowly team that can't even afford lunches for its players during training camp is a bit much.
JA: The Buckeyes spent this past Saturday “treading water,” waiting to pack their bags and head off to Happy Valley to face Penn State on Nov. 7 in a pivotal contest in the Big Ten. New Mexico State showed up in Columbus to take a beating and they did. The Aggies did it for lunch money—what a deal! It proved nothing, except that Ohio State can flex their muscles when they face minimal opposition.
TC: The Buckeyes easily disposed of New Mexico State Saturday, posting their third shutout of the 2009 campaign. The return of running back Daniel "Boom" Herron is a welcome addition for Ohio State, and the Bucks will need their running game to click in order for Pryor to succeed at Happy Valley Saturday.
KG: Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been made a pariah by the folks in Central Pennsylvania who still haven't forgiven the Pennsylvania native for scorning his home state in favor of the enemy. Pryor's former coaches insist the quarterback feeds off negative energy and thrives in pressure situations. Buckeye fans are still waiting to see that Pryor and Nittany Lion fans are praying he doesn't finally show up in Happy Valley.
TC: The Lions took care of Northwestern after a slow start, and now it's time for the game everyone had circled on their calendar for 12 months: the rematch between last year's co-champions. Penn State won the 2008 meeting in Columbus, so on paper, they should have the edge at home this weekend. Of course, they don't play the games on paper anymore.
JA: Penn State also had its hands full and had to resort to fourth quarter heroics to win this game. Northwestern led the Nittany Lions 13-10 at the half but the Penn State team shut out Northwestern in the second half and used a late surge in the fourth to put this game away. Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka was forced out of the game in the second quarter with a left leg injury. Subsequently the Penn State defense denied the Cats further scoring and in time the Nittany Lions offense roared to life—better late than not at all.
BF: Penn State trailed 13-10 at halftime, but then followed Iowa's playbook. Clark threw two long TDs on two consecutive offensive plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter to secure the victory for the Nittany Lions. PSU is on a tear.
KT: It took Penn State a while to get rolling against Northwestern, but the Nittany Lions blew the Wildcats out of the water in the second half to get a 34-13 win.
RJ: The Nittany Lions weren't able to pull away until late but look charged and confident heading into their matchup against the Buckeyes.
KG: Darryl Clark hasn't forgotten that he was on the sidelines watching as his team went up (for good) on the Buckeyes last season in the Horseshoe. Up to the point of Clark's exit because of a concussion, the quarterback had not been stellar and the offense had only managed three points. This season's rematch offers Clark the chance to be on the field for the victory ... if Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes don't get in the way.
KT: It wasn't pretty, but Iowa is 9-0 and remains the only undefeated team in the Big Ten.
RJ: The Hawkeyes victory wasn't very pretty but once again they got it done when they had to and should now head into Columbus in two weeks undefeated to take on the Buckeyes and determine whether they will be heading for the Rose Bowl or another BCS bowl.
TC: The Hawkeyes remind me of one of those cats with nine lives ... but will they need 13 to finish undefeated? The danger for Kirk Ferentz's team is that they may start scoreboard watching and cheering against Florida, Alabama, and Texas: can the veteran coach keep his squad's attention on Northwestern while the Buckeyes loom and BCS talk swirls?
JA: Iowa continues its extraordinary winning streak. Although the Hawkeyes trailed in the fourth quarter, they struck back like lightening to fry the Indiana Hoosier’s hopes of an upset in Iowa City. Ricky Stanzi threw for more than 300 yards for the first time in his career while also setting a career record for interceptions at five, four in the third quarter alone. This was one great Halloween special
with plenty of tricks and quite a few treats for the discouraged Iowa crowd in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes delivered one quintessential rally special of the year.
KG: Ricky Stanzi offered up another fourth quarter miracle for the Hawkeyes who seem to play at their best with their backs against the wall. Typically, a game like this week's contest with Northwestern in Iowa City, could be considered a trap game. But after a dismal three quarter performance against the Hoosiers last week, the Hawkeyes need to show they are a team that can put a full game together before they travel to Columbus to face some real competition.
BF: 9-0. Enough said.