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Monday, October 5, 2009
Big Ten thumbs up-thumbs down for Week 5

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Thumbs up, Michigan State's defense -- All three areas of the defense contributed in a potential season-saving win against Michigan. The front seven held the Big Ten's top rushing attack to just 28 yards, while defensive backs Danny Fortener and Chris L. Rucker teamed up for an interception in overtime.

Thumbs down, Mike Schultz -- The first-year Illinois offensive coordinator is off to a very rough start. An offense that led the Big Ten passing and ranked third in scoring last season has put up just 26 points against three FBS defenses. Illinois' vertical passing attack is virtually nonexistent despite a deep group of wide receivers led by Arrelious Benn. The unit's struggles have cost quarterback Juice Williams his job.

Thumbs up, Anderson Russell -- After losing his starting job to Jermale Hines earlier this season, Russell stepped up big for the suspended Kurt Coleman against Indiana. The senior safety tied for the team lead in tackles with six and recorded an interception and a fumble recovery in the victory.

Thumbs down, Minnesota's team discipline -- The Gophers can only blame themselves for Saturday's loss to Wisconsin after being flagged nine times for 75 yards. Minnesota's offense consistently hurt itself with holding and false start penalties in the first half, preventing more scoring opportunities.

Thumbs up, Brad Phillips -- His missed tackle led to a 67-yard Aaron Valentin touchdown in the first quarter, but Phillips rebounded to have his best game of the season. The Northwestern senior safety recorded two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as an opportunistic defense helped the Wildcats rally to a road win.

Thumbs down, Indiana's running backs -- Ohio State poses a challenge for any offense, but this group has been too inconsistent this season. Darius Willis, Trea Burgess, Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray combined for only 40 rush yards on 18 carries.

Thumbs up, Marvin McNutt -- The converted quarterback is looking more and more like Iowa's top big-play threat at wide receiver. McNutt recorded his first two career touchdown catches against Arkansas State, making grabs of 41 and 43 yards. He finished with 121 receiving yards on four receptions.

Thumbs down, Purdue's ball-carriers -- It's no mystery why the Boilers can't win close games. They can't hold onto the football. Purdue committed six turnovers on its home field and squandered a ton of early momentum to fall against Northwestern.

Thumbs up, Daryll Clark -- The Penn State senior quarterback bounced back nicely from a rough night against Iowa, racking up 175 pass yards to go along with 83 rush yards and two touchdowns against Illinois. His 51-yard run on third-and-7 set up Penn State's first touchdown of the second half.

Thumbs down, Wisconsin's inability to finish -- The Badgers are one of the Big Ten's surprise teams this year, but they continue to struggle to close out games. Wisconsin has seen big fourth-quarter leads shrink against Northern Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota. Before long, the trend could cost Bret Bielema's team a win.