- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The stock report got shelved last week because of the Penn State story. So I guess you could say this post's stock is down. But it's a definite riser this week.
Road warriors: In a season where hardly any of the league contenders could win a game on the road, Week 12 saw a reversal of fortunes. Nebraska won at Penn State, Michigan State took down Iowa in Kinnick and Wisconsin won at Minnesota (OK, Ohio State didn't contribute, but every journalist knows three equals a trend). It was especially encouraging for the Spartans, who finally got their offense going away from East Lansing. Something to keep in mind this week as teams like Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska go into hostile territory.
Le'Veon Bell: One week after posting a career-best 165 all-purpose yards against Minnesota, Bell rumbled for 112 yards and a touchdown at Iowa last week. His day included a highlight-worthy hurdle over a Hawkeyes defender. The sophomore leads the team in rushing and has seized the mantle as its No. 1 back.
Robert Marve: Yes, he threw a bad interception at the end of regulation. But Marve also powered Purdue to the winning score in overtime and was responsible for 16 of the team's 26 points in an upset of Ohio State. Head coach Danny Hope says Caleb TerBush remains his starter, but Marve finally had a nice moment in the sun after a long and winding road.
Bo Pelini's words: The Nebraska coach isn't always the most talkative or outgoing guy when it comes to his media obligations. But Pelini was thoughtful and on point after the Penn State game, when he said he didn't think the game should be played because the situation in State College was bigger than football. That's a side of Pelini we'd like to see more often.
B1G bowling: The Big Ten is aptly named this year, as 10 teams have five wins with two weeks in the season. It's very likely that all 10 will reach bowl eligibility, which could give the league more bowl teams than any other 12-team major conference. The ACC and SEC each have nine teams that currently have five or more wins, while the Pac-12 has eight. (The Big 12, with only 10 teams, is impressive in its own right with nine teams that have won at least five games. All eight teams in the impossible-to-decipher Big East have at least five wins, but none have more than seven). The Big Ten may need to find one or two at-large spots for all its teams to go bowling, but the league's large fan bases and traveling reputation should help make that happen.
Ohio State's defense: The Buckeyes haven't exactly been shredded of late, but they did give up a lot of big plays against both Indiana and Purdue the last two weeks. Both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers found success by spreading out Ohio State and using some quarterback runs and zone reads. The Buckeyes have looked slow of foot at times and have shown poor tackling in other occasions. Think Michigan may have noticed that?
Denard Robinson's running: Where has the dynamic running of "Shoelace" gone? Robinson hasn't run for more than 63 yards in his past four games and is averaging just 47.5 rushing yards and only 3.3 yards per carry in that span. He's on pace to finish with a little more than 1,180 yard rushing after leading the Big Ten with 1,702 last season. The good news for Michigan is that running back Fitz Toussaint has emerged and the team is winning without Robinson carrying the load. "I think it's kept him healthy for a lot of the year -- healthier than he's been," coach Brady Hoke said. "It's different every week, how people want to defend because of Denard, so he's part of the formula for Fitz."
Rob Bolden's playing time: Penn State insisted on juggling quarterbacks for most of the season, but interim coach Tom Bradley looks to have put an end to that practice. For the first time this week, Matt McGloin is listed as the starter on the official depth chart instead of sharing an "Or" with Bolden. And McGloin played the entire game against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions appeared to be appeasing Bolden with playing time in hopes he wouldn't transfer. But the program has much bigger problems to worry about now.
Ron Zook's lack of words: Here's my take on Zook walking out of his news conference Tuesday when asked about his job status: The Illinois coach doesn't have to answer the question, and there's very little he can say about it anyway. But if he just gave a generic answer like, "That's not up to me; it's up to the administration and I'm going to continue to coach my team the best I can," then it becomes a non-story. By making a diva-like walk-out, Zook turned it into a media event, complete with compelling video. Of course, none of it matters unless he can get the Illini turned around from their four-game losing streak.
B1G in the big time: Having a potential 10 bowl teams is great and all, and the league also has five teams in the BCS standings -- only the SEC has more. But if the season ended today, no one from the conference would even be eligible for an at-large BCS bid because none are ranked in the top 14 (Michigan State is the highest at No. 15, followed immediately by Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan in an odd conga line). In fact, two non-AQ teams -- Boise State and Houston -- are way ahead of every Big Ten team in the standings. The computer rankings simply hate the Big Ten teams. The conference will have to prove itself against top competition in the bowls, because right now, it looks like it has no elite teams.
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