Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Recap - Week 6
Big Ten Week 6 Football Results
Ohio State 63, Nebraska 38
Penn State 39, Northwestern 28
Wisconsin 31, Illinois 14
Michigan 44, Purdue 13
Michigan State 31, Indiana 27
Week seven witnessed the clear and convincing emergence of two teams that are better than anyone else in the Big Ten Conference, the two schools that have lorded themselves over the league so many times in the past. Yes, it seems apparent that for yet another year, Ohio State and Michigan are the preeminent forces in Midwestern football. They can't meet in the Big Ten Championship Game due to Ohio State's postseason ineligibility, but they have shown that they deserve to be seen as the two top teams in the conference.
Ohio State is the clear No. 1 team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes thrashed Nebraska by 25 points and put up video-game numbers to do so. It's true that Ohio State received an early and timely lift from Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who threw a pick-six that kept the Buckeyes in the game. Nebraska gained a 17-7 lead that, without Martinez's costly interception, could have been a 17-0 bulge that might have made Ohio State panic. Instead, the Buckeyes were still able to feel that they could play their normal offense at a normal pace and succeed.
Did they ever.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller used a 70-yard run to jump-start his team and his offense on Saturday. After that bolt from the blue – which occurred when Nebraska held a 17-7 advantage – the Buckeyes roared to life. Ohio State accumulated 371 rushing yards against a Nebraska defense that is a shell of its former self. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is a defense-first coach, having served as a defensive coordinator for LSU and Oklahoma in the past 15 years. Even a few years ago, Nebraska depended on its defense for the majority of its wins and its overall production. This was very much the case in the 2009 season, when the Cornhuskers engaged the Texas Longhorns in a low-scoring Big 12 Conference Championship Game. Now, though, Nebraska is utterly toothless on defense. Ohio State's ability to make a few more defensive plays left the Huskers wondering what has happened to their program. The result undercut Nebraska's ability to gain leverage in the Big Ten Legends Division as well.
Ohio State's offense did not look very good against Michigan State, so this A-plus performance versus Nebraska should enable the Buckeyes' offense to flourish in the second half of the 2012 season. Miller is a magician with the ball, and Meyer's zone-read-based concepts should continue to give the Buckeyes matchup advantages at the line of scrimmage. Penn State and Northwestern are the only other Big Ten Leaders Division teams that have shown an appreciable degree of offensive competence this season, and since Penn State beat Northwestern this past Saturday, the Nittany Lions might be the only team in that division that can reasonably challenge the Buckeyes. Penn State is not likely to be able to stand in the ring for 60 full minutes, however. Ohio State looks too strong right now.
Since Penn State is – like Ohio State – ineligible for the postseason, it's clear that the Leaders Division representative in the Big Ten Championship Game will not be a very good team. Therefore, the Legends Division winner is quite likely to win the Big Ten this year. Michigan staked a claim to divisional supremacy with a 31-point rout of Purdue on the road in West Lafayette, Ind. Michigan dominated this contest from the start, thanks to a stout defense and the running ability of quarterback Denard Robinson. Michigan blasted Purdue in the trenches, leading a lot of pundits to reassess the view that Purdue is the Leaders favorite over and against Wisconsin. Michigan also looked a lot better than Michigan State did against Indiana. The Wolverines have made more progress to this point in the season than the Spartans have.
Ohio State and Michigan won't contest the Big Ten title on the same field, but they are the teams to watch as the season continues. This year's Big Ten season is a weird one, given the fact that two schools are not eligible for the postseason, but in other ways, this season feels very much like the 1970s and the 1980s, when the Buckeyes and Wolverines often stood above the rest of the crowd in the Midwest.
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