Big Ten Week 5 Recap: Wisconsin and Michigan Dominate in Conference Openers

Deni MartinCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2011

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 01: Russell Wilson #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers throws the ball while playing the Nebraska Cornhuskers October 1, 2011 at Camp Randall stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 48-17. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
John Gress/Getty Images

Wisconsin and Michigan combined to outscore their opponents, 106 to 17, in their conference openers and they played teams at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

The Badgers beat Nebraska, 48-17, in what was billed as the College Football Game of the Week (CFGotW). The Cornhuskers entered the game undefeated and had been picked by many (myself included) to dominate the Legends Division and face Wisconsin, the projected Leaders Division champ, in the Big Ten title game.

The victory may have launched a campaign for Badger quarterback Russell Wilson as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Wilson, who I tagged as the Big Ten "Player to Watch" in Week 5, continued the trend of completing 70 percent or more of his passes by going 14 for 20 against the Cornhuskers.

The senior quarterback threw two touchdown passes and for 255 yards. Wilson also had six carries for 32 yards and a touchdown.  

On the other sideline, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini wondered what happened to his offense. If Wilson was the model of consistency, Cornhusker quarterback Tyler Martinez was the polar opposite.

Martinez did complete 50 percent of his passes, but he also threw three interceptions. The Badger defense grounded the Nebraska quarterback's effectiveness as a runner by holding him to 61 yards rushing. Martinez did run for one touchdown, but he averaged only three yards a carry.

And before we leave this one-sided victory to look at another, let's salute Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (pictured) who scored touchdowns 11 through 14 against Nebraska.

MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 01: Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers rushes on the Nebraska Cornhuskers October 1, 2011 at Camp Randall stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won the game 48-17.  (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
John Gress/Getty Images

Michigan played Minnesota, the lowest rated team in the Big Ten, and routed the Golden Gophers, 58-0, before a happy home crowd in the Big House.

Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson had another marvelous game. He was 15 for 19 and 169 yards passing. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for one touchdown.

My lone miscalculation last weekend was picking Ohio State to beat Michigan State in Columbus. The Spartans had a little more offense and the better defense in their 10-7 win.

Each team scored on identical 33 yard touchdown passes. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw his touchdown pass in the first quarter to wide receiver B.J. Cunningham. Ohio State quarterback Joe Bauserman threw his touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter to wide receiver Evan Spencer.

In between the touchdowns, Michigan State's defense rattled Bauserman and starter Braxton Miller and exposed the Buckeyes' offensive woes as Ohio State was equally ineffective running and passing the football.

The most exciting game (and I got it right) was the Northwestern-Illinois contest with the Fighting Illini rallying to win 38-35.

The game featured two of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Dan Persa threw four touchdown passes for Northwestern, but Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase countered with three touchdown passes.

The game-winning touchdown was scored on the ground and appropriately it was Scheelhaase who ran it in from the one-yard line.

As expected, Penn State beat Indiana, 16-10, and Notre Dame throttled Purdue, 38-10.