Week 5 Rewind: Start of Big Ten play sets the tone for what could be a wild ride


As far as opening weekends go, the debut of Big Ten play only increased the anticipation for what is to come and set the scene for what could be a wild two months.

New contenders announced their presence on the scene. Consensus favorites found out there wouldn't be any easy strolls to the conference title game. And while there was some ugliness to be seen at the bottom of the league, there appears to be a reasonable amount of talented depth that should make every Saturday appointment viewing.

The first one is in the books. And before moving on to the second, zip back through the opening Saturday of October with a quick rewind.

Team of the week: They weren't the only guys to unexpectedly stamp themselves as a threat in the West Division, and they also didn't have the only defense to post a shutout to open conference play. But nobody posted a more complete outing than Northwestern in its 27-0 blowout of Minnesota, and Pat Fitzgerald's team proved that this time it has the mental makeup and the talent to keep the momentum rolling after a perfect run outside of the league. There's another surprising squad waiting this weekend for a matchup with much more on the line than might have been predicted a month ago, and it just so happens to come against the team that matched Northwestern's clean sheet with Michigan posting one of its own against Maryland. Points figure to be at a premium when the Wolverines square off with the Wildcats, and they are both proving that there's nothing wrong with a defense-first approach.

Big man on campus (offense): Welcome back to the Heisman Trophy conversation, Ezekiel Elliott. The Ohio State running back had been consistently racking up 100-yard games to open the season, but other than his electrifying touchdown run in the opener against Virginia Tech, there hadn't been all that much reason to mention the junior in the race for the stiff-arming statue. Fresh off a 274-yard, 3-touchdown outing in the hard-fought victory over Indiana, it's once again safe to drop his name into the discussion.

Big man on campus (defense): Considering Joe Schobert's ridiculously productive outing came in a loss, the Wisconsin linebacker isn't likely to be walking around campus beating his chest. But the incredible effort he turned in deserves recognition regardless of the outcome, and the loss certainly wasn't his fault anyway with all the ways he helped bottle up Iowa's offense only for the Badgers to fail to score even a single touchdown in support of him and the defense. Schobert finished with 3 sacks, forced a pair of fumbles and recovered one, assisted on a tackle for loss and was credited with five quarterback hurries as he continues building a case as a potential Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten.

Big man on campus (special teams): There may not have been all that much for Penn State to feel good about after its narrow escape against Army, but it could have been worse without Joey Julius around to bang through a couple field goals that wound up providing the margin of victory. The plus-sized kicker hit from 37 and 27 yards and converted both of his extra points, relatively modest totals to earn the award most weeks but good enough to stand out Saturday -- particularly considering what those field goals wound up meaning for the Nittany Lions.

Biggest face plant: If Nebraska was having trouble selling the hiring of Mike Riley as inspiring in the first place, imagine trying to pitch him to the public now. The Huskers have certainly been unlucky so far under their new coach, and evaluating any coach after just five games is probably unfair. But the consistency Bo Pelini provided must be looking a lot more appealing now after another victory slipped away late, especially since Riley's squad will have to win out to get to the 9-win mark his predecessor made routine for Nebraska. The reality is the Huskers never should have been in position to let the conference opener get away from them against an Illinois team that isn't known for putting up much of a fight on defense but somehow held Riley's team to 13 points.

Top play: There were certainly highlights that displayed more athleticism and and other plays which might wind up being more memorable for teams chasing championships, but Wes Lunt's game-winning throw to Geronimo Allison with 10 seconds left to upset Nebraska won't soon be forgotten by the Illini. Rolling to his right and looking for Allison to win a one-on-one matchup just inside the end zone, Lunt put the ball on the money in the clutch and his team now in position to make a push for a bowl bid under interim coach Bill Cubit.

Numbers to know: Elliott's 274 rushing yards tied the second-highest single-game total in Ohio State history, a mark he shares with Keith Byars behind only Eddie George and his prolific 314-yard outing. Both Byars (1984) and George (1995) would go on to be Heisman finalists, with George winning the trophy. ... The last time a Michigan defense held four straight opponents to 7 points or less was 30 years ago -- when Jim Harbaugh was the team's quarterback. The last team to post consecutive shutout victories by at least 28 points against FBS opponents? Alabama's national-title team in 2012. ... After needing a late stop to hold off Purdue in a 3-point win, Michigan State fell to 0-5 this season against the point spread. The Spartans were favored by 23 according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. ... Iowa snapped a nine-game losing streak against ranked opponents by knocking off Wisconsin on the road.