Five lessons from the week that was around the Big Ten.
1. The Big Ten's lead pack is set: Ohio State delivered the impressive performance it needed against Indiana, and Michigan State notched its second consecutive win against an ranked opponent to further help its cause as a Big Ten title contender. Along with Iowa, this is your lead group heading into the meat of the conference season. Wisconsin is still lurking after a strong offensive performance against Minnesota, while both Michigan and Northwestern got exposed Saturday. Right now, there's a clearly defined top tier with the Buckeyes, Spartans and Hawkeyes.
2. Pay attention to Illinois: Ron Zook always has had the talent in Champaign. He also finally might have the expertise on his coaching staff to maximize all of that talent. Illinois capitalized on a vulnerable Penn State team and torched the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium for its first ever win in State College. Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase dissected a banged-up Lions defense, and Vic Koenning's defense didn't let Penn State get any momentum going on offense. When a talented team like Illinois believes in itself and its coaching staff, it becomes a very dangerous team.
3. Denard Robinson can be contained: No one had stopped No. 16 through the first five games, but Michigan State's defense showed how you can beat Robinson. The Spartans prevented the big run plays and forced Robinson to lead long, sustained drives and make big throws. Robinson showed his inexperience on several misreads and threw three interceptions in Saturday's loss after tossing just one in his first 96 pass attempts. He still had flashes of magic, but they were overshadowed by his miscues.
4. Joe Paterno might not get No. 400 this season: The bye week comes at a good time for Penn State, which looked like an absolute mess against Illinois. Penn State has some major issues on defense after losing five players (three starters) to injuries against Illinois and another (end Jack Crawford) to a foot injury in practice. But the bigger concerns have to be on the offensive side, which can't convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns and has no identity through the first half of the season. Paterno needs three more wins to reach 400 for his career. The question always used to be when he's reach the magic number. Now the question is if.
5. Purdue is a resilient program under Danny Hope: What impressed me most about Hope's first year as Purdue's coach was the resiliency the program showed in Big Ten play after so many near misses in the first six games of 2009. The Boilers haven't lost it. Purdue might be the nation's unluckiest team as far as major injuries, but the Boilers are plucky, too, as they showed in a 20-17 win at Northwestern. Redshirt freshman quarterback Rob Henry made enough plays in his first career start, and the Boilers' coaching staff had an excellent game plan against an undefeated Northwestern team.