Big Ten: Michael Meyer

Let's take a look back at Week 11 before spinning it forward to Week 12.

Team of the Week: Northwestern. There are two guarantees with Northwestern football in the last decade or so. Every season, the Wildcats drop a game they shouldn't and pull off an upset, usually against Iowa. After stumbling against short-handed Purdue in early October, the Wildcats continued their trend by upsetting then-No. 13 Iowa on Saturday. Northwestern blew an early lead, which is nothing new this season, but this time Pat Fitzgerald's crew rallied in the fourth quarter behind star quarterback Dan Persa and others. Persa led two fourth-quarter scoring drives and Northwestern held on to beat Iowa for the fifth time in the teams' last six meetings. The victory ensures that Northwestern will record three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1958-60.

[+] EnlargeDan Persa
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhNorthwestern quarterback Dan Persa rallied the Wildcats to a win over Iowa before leaving the game with a season-ending injury.
Best game: Iowa at Northwestern. The Wildcats controlled play for the first half but led just 7-3 at halftime as both defenses stepped up. Iowa surged throughout the third quarter as the Hawkeyes controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and twice reached the end zone. But an interception by Northwestern's Brian Peters changed momentum and gave the home side new life. Northwestern ran its up-tempo offense to perfection behind Persa on two scoring drives, and Iowa's veteran defenders seemed to wear down at the end. The final minutes featured plenty of drama as Persa fired the game-winning touchdown pass with 1:22 left but ruptured his Achilles' tendon on the play. Iowa had one final chance but couldn't get the ball in the end zone. Northwestern celebrated a bittersweet win, as Persa underwent season-ending surgery Saturday night. The Minnesota-Illinois game also deserves a mention as the Gophers rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to snap their nine-game losing streak.

Biggest play: Several come to mind, including Persa's 20-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields to give Northwestern the lead for good. Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire gave his team new life in the fourth quarter with a 90-yard kickoff return that set up a touchdown. But my pick took place at The Shoe. Ohio State led Penn State 17-14 early in the fourth quarter when Terrelle Pryor heaved a deep pass to receiver DeVier Posey, who couldn't haul it in but tipped the ball. Fellow wideout Dane Sanzenbacher swooped in to grab the deflection for a 58-yard touchdown. Ohio State went on to a 38-14 romp.

Specialist spotlight: Minnesota's much-maligned special teams units deserve credit after Saturday's win. Stoudermire's kick return was huge, and the Gophers also got a 45-yard field goal from Eric Ellestad and three punts placed inside the Illinois 20-yard line by Dan Orseske. Northwestern and Iowa both were brilliant on kickoffs and punts, as Stefan Demos and Michael Meyer combined for eight touchbacks and Brandon Williams and Ryan Donahue combined to place four punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Both teams finished with zero return yards. Purdue's Carson Wiggs continued his strong season by going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, while Wisconsin's Philip Welch went 2-for-2. Punters Anthony Fera of Penn State and Ben Buchanan of Ohio State both had good performances at Ohio Stadium.

Power surge: Wisconsin turned in a historic offensive performance in crushing Indiana on Saturday. The Badgers' 83 points marked the most against a Big Ten team in team history and the highest total in a game during the modern era. It was the most since the Badgers defeated Marquette 85-0 on Oct. 8, 1915. The 83 points scored tied the Big Ten record for scoring in the modern era, as Ohio State put up 83 against Iowa in 1950.

Game balls (given to players on winning or losing teams who didn't receive helmet stickers)

  • Wisconsin DEs Louis Nzegwu and J.J. Watt: It wasn't all about the Badgers' offense Saturday, as Nzegwu and Watt combined for four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a sack against Indiana.
  • Ohio State CB Devon Torrence: After getting picked on in the first half, Torrence responded with a pick-six in the third quarter to give Ohio State its first lead against Penn State. He had six tackles, one for loss, in the game.
  • Minnesota QB Adam Weber: It hasn't been an easy road for the Gophers senior quarterback, but he had a big role in snapping the team's losing streak Saturday. Weber threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions at Illinois. Also meriting a mention is running back DeLeon Eskridge, who rushed for three touchdowns.
  • Michigan LB Obi Ezeh: It has been a bumpy road for Ezeh the last two seasons, but the senior stepped up along with several other Michigan defenders at Purdue. Ezeh recorded a team-high eight tackles, including two for loss and a sack against the Boilers.
  • Northwestern S Brian Peters: After some struggles in recent weeks, Peters made several big plays against Iowa, none bigger than an interception early in the fourth quarter that set up Northwestern's rally. He led the Wildcats with 10 tackles and recorded a forced fumble and two pass breakups.
  • Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien: The running backs always get top billing at Wisconsin, but Tolzien was nearly flawless against Indiana, completing 15 of 18 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure: The talented junior running back continues to do his part for the now-slumping Illini. After recording five touchdowns last week at Michigan, Leshoure racked up 141 rush yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries against Minnesota.

Now here's a quick look at Week 12.

[+] EnlargeIndiana head coach Bill Lynch
AP Photo/Morry GashPerhaps no coach in the league needs a win like Indiana's Bill Lynch.
Penn State (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) at Landover, Md.: Embattled Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch could really use a win right about now, but the schedule does him no favors. Lynch signed off on moving this home game to FedEx Field, but he and his team have to anticipate a road-game atmosphere as Penn State fans will pack the place. Indiana must win to maintain hope of becoming bowl eligible, while Penn State tries to ensure a winning season.

Purdue (4-6, 2-4) at No. 12 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1): After an open week, the Spartans resume play with a chance to reach 10 wins for the first time since 1999. It marks the final home game for All-American linebacker Greg Jones, who will take aim at a patchwork Purdue offense. Two of the Big Ten's top defenders share the field in Jones and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, whose team must win its final two games to become bowl eligible.

No. 7 Wisconsin (9-1, 5-1) at Michigan (7-3, 3-3): The Badgers are riding a five-game win streak and put up 83 points in their last game, but they have really struggled in the state of Michigan and especially at the Big House. Wisconsin hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1994 and hasn't won in the state since beating Michigan State in 2002 at Spartan Stadium. Michigan has won back-to-back games but needs a much cleaner performance in all three phases to record the upset.

Illinois (5-5, 3-4) vs. Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) at Chicago: Football is back at Wrigley Field for the first time since 1970 and the Illini and Wildcats will play the first college game at the Friendly Confines since 1938. The pageantry takes center stage Saturday, but Illinois still needs a win to become bowl eligible and turn down the heat on coach Ron Zook. Northwestern redshirt freshman Evan Watkins makes his first career start at quarterback.

No. 9 Ohio State (9-1, 5-1) at No. 20 Iowa (7-3, 4-2): The Buckeyes must win out to give themselves a chance at a record-tying sixth consecutive Big Ten title. To do so, they must play better on the road after losing at Wisconsin and struggling at Illinois. Iowa gave Ohio State all it could handle last year in Columbus, and this time the Hawkeyes will have starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi available. It's Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa aims for a signature win to salvage an otherwise disappointing season.

Bye: Minnesota (2-9, 1-6).

Big Ten stock report: Week 11

November, 10, 2010
Four up, four down heading into Week 11.


Penn State's red zone offense: The red zone was an absolute dead zone for Penn State earlier this season, but Evan Royster and the Nittany Lions have turned things around. Penn State scored touchdowns on all four of its red zone chances against Northwestern, none bigger than Brett Brackett's leaping grab in the back of the end zone with three seconds left in the first half. Penn State is 12-for-13 in red zone scoring chances the past three weeks with 11 of those conversions being touchdowns.

Michigan's wide receivers: Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier are getting a lot of help from this group right now. Roy Roundtree recorded a team-record 246 receiving yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions against Illinois, while Junior Hemingway made several of the game's biggest plays and finished with six receptions for 104 yards and two scores. Darryl Stonum also added a touchdown catch in Michigan's historic offensive performance.

Wisconsin's linebackers and defensive backs: The Big Ten knows about star defensive end J.J. Watt, but the Badgers' back seven really distinguished itself in a come-from-behind road win against Purdue. Cornerback Antonio Fenelus earned Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording a pick-six, a 48-yard fumble return and nine tackles against the Boilers. Wisconsin also got big performances from linebackers Mike Taylor and Culmer St. Jean and safety Aaron Henry, among others.

Michigan State RB Edwin Baker: Quiet since the Michigan win, "Rock" ran all over Minnesota for 179 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. Baker didn't have a run that went for longer than 30 yards but broke off several impressive intermediate gains against the Gophers. On a day when quarterback Kirk Cousins struggled, Baker and the offensive line picked up the slack.


Illinois' defense: The Illini forced five turnovers but did little else to stop Michigan's offense at the Big House. A unit that came in ranked 12th nationally in points allowed and 15th in yards allowed got gashed for 67 points, 676 total yards and 33 first downs. Coordinator Vic Koenning demands more from his defense, and I think he'll get it this week against Minnesota.

Northwestern's ability to close out halves: A good portion of the scoring drives Northwestern has allowed this season, both in wins and losses, have occurred right before halftime or late in the fourth quarter. It reveals a team and a coaching staff that doesn't keep the pedal down enough. Northwestern might not have lost a 21-0 lead against Penn State if it didn't allow the Lions to march 91 yards in 47 seconds right before halftime. That's inexcusable.

Minnesota's kicking game: There are problems on both offense and defense, but Minnesota's kicking game hasn't done it any favors this year. After having a punt blocked and recovered for a touchdown against Ohio State, Minnesota averaged just 32 yards per punt at Michigan State and missed its lone field goal attempt. The Gophers are 10th in the Big Ten in field goals and 11th in punting. "We have no consistency punting the ball," interim coach Jeff Horton said. "We don't have any consistency. Obviously, I don't feel comfortable kicking field goals." Ouch.

Iowa's red zone offense: The Hawkeyes made four trips to the red zone against Indiana but had to settle for three short field goals and a short missed field goal try by Michael Meyer. Fans are blaming Ken O'Keefe's play calling and the absence of running back Adam Robinson, but it comes down to execution, too. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi didn't make great throws and Iowa took back-to-back pre-snap penalties on one series to go from third-and-goal from the 7 to third-and-goal from the 17.
It's time to take a look back at Week 10 before peeking ahead to Week 11.

Team of the week: Michigan. The Wolverines are at least the Big Ten's "one-third of a team of the week" after a historic offensive performance against Illinois. Rich Rodriguez's crew racked up 67 points, 676 offensive yards and 33 first downs Saturday, and it needed all of it to outlast Illinois 67-65 in three overtimes. More amazing is the fact that Michigan overcame five turnovers and a minus-4 turnover ratio to snap its three-game losing streak. Penn State also deserves some love after rattling off 35 unanswered points to record the biggest home comeback under coach Joe Paterno and give the 83-year-old his 400th coaching victory.

Best game: Illinois at Michigan. This likely will be the game of the year in the Big Ten when all is said and done. The Big Ten doesn't see many offensive shootouts like this, and some folks say it was the most exciting Big Ten regular-season game since Northwestern and Michigan combined for 105 points in 2000 (a 54-51 Northwestern win in regulation). The 132 combined points were the most ever scored in a game involving Michigan. The teams also combined for 1,237 offensive yards. The game featured two 100-yard rushers, two 100-yard receivers and a 300-yard passer.

[+] EnlargeHenignway
AP Photo/Tony DingJunior Hemingway's touchdown in the second overtime kept Michigan in the game.
Biggest play: Junior Hemingway's juggling catch on a pass nearly picked off by Illinois helped Michigan tie the score in the second overtime. If Illinois intercepts the ball, the game ends and Michigan's season teeters. Hemingway also wrong-footed several Illinois defenders on an electrifying 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The single best catch of the day came from Northwestern's Drake Dunsmore, who made a one-handed grab at full extension and managed to get his foot down in the back of the end zone for a touchdown at Beaver Stadium. Marvin McNutt's 52-yard touchdown reception late in the Indiana game gave Iowa the lead for good, while Brett Brackett's leaping touchdown catch with three seconds left in the first half gave Penn State a huge lift against Northwestern.

Specialist spotlight: Not a ton to choose from this week, but Iowa freshman Michael Meyer connected on four field-goal attempts in the win against Indiana. Meyer hit two 27-yarders and a 23-yarder in the first half before converting a career-long 42-yarder in the fourth quarter to cut Iowa's deficit to one. Illinois punter Anthony Santella continued his stellar season, averaging 47 yards on six attempts at Michigan. Punters Brad Nortman of Wisconsin and Cody Webster of Purdue both had nice games at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Most memorable moment: Easy one here. I'll never forget being on the field at Beaver Stadium when Paterno recorded his 400th career victory. Penn State players carried Paterno on their shoulders to midfield, a gesture he surprisingly enjoyed. The school then held a short ceremony that included a video montage of Paterno through the years and a crystal football presented to JoePa to commemorate No. 400. Paterno briefly addressed the crowd of 104,147, all of whom stayed to witness history. "People ask me why I've stayed here so long," the 83-year-old said. "Look around!" Just an amazing moment.

Game balls (given to players on winning or losing teams who didn't receive helmet stickers)

  • Michigan QB Tate Forcier and WR Junior Hemingway: Remember all the buzz about Forcier transferring? Michigan is very fortunate he stuck around. Forcier once again relieved an injured Denard Robinson and led Michigan to a huge win, completing 12 of 19 passes for 114 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He got a ton of help from Hemingway, his favorite target in 2009, as the receiver caught six passes for 104 yards and two scores.
  • Penn State RBs Evan Royster and Silas Redd: The senior and the freshman spurred Penn State's rushing attack against Northwestern, getting plenty of help from an improving offensive line. Royster and Redd combined for 265 rush yards and a touchdown on 36 carries. They became the first Penn State tandem to both eclipse 130 rush yards in a game since Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell did so against Iowa on Sept. 25, 1971.
  • Wisconsin RB Montee Ball: I can't say enough about how much Ball has meant to Wisconsin the past two games. After coming up big late in the Iowa win, he relieved an injured John Clay against Purdue and rushed for a career-high 127 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones and S Marcus Hyde: Jones did his thing with a team-leading nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss, in the win against Minnesota. Hyde bounced back from a rough day at Iowa to record an interception, which he returned 41 yards, and two pass breakups. Jones now ranks second in team history in career tackles for loss with 44.5.
  • Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase and RBs Mikel Leshoure and Jason Ford: These three certainly did their part to help Illinois' cause at the Big House. Scheelhaase recorded 211 pass yards and three touchdowns to go along with 101 rush yards and a score. Leshoure added 120 rush yards and three touchdowns, and he also recorded two touchdown receptions. His five total touchdowns are tied for fourth most in Big Ten history. Ford had 101 rush yards and a score on only 10 carries.
  • Northwestern QB Dan Persa: His team melted down in the second half, but Persa earned a ton of respect from Penn State with his gutsy performance. A week after a concussion, Persa racked up 109 rush yards and two touchdowns to go along with 201 pass yards and a touchdown against Penn State. "If you give me 22 Dan Persas, I'll show you ... a national champion," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
  • [+] EnlargeMichael Mauti
    AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarThe Big Ten named Michael Mauti the Co-Defensive player of the week for his performance against Northwestern.
    Penn State LB Michael Mauti: After a slow start, the sophomore is starting to hit his stride for the Nittany Lions' defense. Mauti set career highs in both tackles (11) and tackles for loss (3) and recorded a sack in the win against Northwestern. He has recorded career bests in tackles in each of the last two games.
  • Iowa WR Marvin McNutt: McNutt once again showed why he's one of the Big Ten's best deep threats, hauling in a 52-yard touchdown with 2:50 left against Indiana. The junior finished with six catches for 126 yards in Iowa's win.

Deep breath. Now let's take a look ahead at Week 11.

No. 13 Iowa (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) at Northwestern (6-3, 2-3): The Hawkeyes' late-game fortunes turned in Bloomington, as Damarlo Belcher's drop in the end zone kept Iowa alive for the Big Ten title. Only one hurdle remains between Iowa and its Nov. 20 showdown against Ohio State, but this is always a tricky game. Northwestern has won four of the teams' past five meetings, although just one of those has come in Evanston.

Indiana (4-5, 0-5) at No. 7 Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1): After a mini scare at Purdue, Wisconsin returns to Camp Randall Stadium, where it is 41-4 since the start of the 2004 season. The Badgers should have running backs John Clay and James White healthy for an Indiana defense that allows 166.1 rush yards a game. Indiana still needs two wins to get bowl eligible but gave Wisconsin a tough game last year, mounting a late before falling 31-28.

Michigan (6-3, 2-3) at Purdue (4-5, 2-3): Rodriguez and the Wolverines finally are bowl eligible, and a win Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium likely ensures the coach will return for a fourth season in 2011. Robinson is expected to return after injuring his head against Illinois, while Purdue's quarterback situation remains fluid with Sean Robinson, Rob Henry and possibly Justin Siller, who led the Boilers to a win against Michigan in 2008.

Minnesota (1-9, 0-6) at Illinois (5-4, 3-3): The Illini take a second stab at becoming bowl eligible against last-place Minnesota. Watch out for Scheelhaase, Leshoure, Ford and the Illinois rushing attack to have a big day against a Minnesota defense that has slipped to 106th nationally against the run. MarQueis Gray finally got a shot at quarterback for the Gophers on Saturday, and it'll be interesting to see how many snaps he takes against an angry Illinois defense.

Penn State (6-3, 3-2) at No. 9 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1): This year's matchup lacks the hype of the previous two meetings, but Penn State's recent surge has added some intrigue to the rivalry. The Nittany Lions come in on a three-game win streak and are getting better play from an offense led by quarterback Matt McGloin and Royster. Ohio State is rested after an open week and begins its quest for another Big Ten title in its signature month under coach Jim Tressel.

Bye: No. 11 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1)

Big Ten Players of the Week: Nov. 6

November, 8, 2010
The Big Ten has made its selections for the games of Week 10.

Here they are:

CO-OFFENSE: Michigan WR Roy Roundtree and Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure

Roundtree set a school record with 246 receiving yards on nine catches with a pair of touchdowns, helping Michigan defeat Illinois. The sophomore wideout's 246 yards broke the previous team record of 197 receiving yards set by Jack Clancy against Oregon State on Sept. 17, 1966. On the first offensive play of the game, Roundtree hauled in a pass and sprinted 75 yards for the score before adding a 33-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter on his second reception of the game. He added a 75-yard catch to set up Michigan’s third touchdown.

Leshoure produced five touchdowns and 172 all-purpose yards, helping Illinois rack up 65 points in the triple-overtime loss at Michigan. The junior running back had 120 yards on 24 carries with three scores and hauled in two passes for 52 yards and two more touchdowns. His five touchdowns are the second-most in school history, matching Hall of Famer Red Grange's five scores against the Wolverines in 1924, and are tied for the fourth-most in Big Ten annals. All five of Leshoure's touchdowns were scored after the third quarter.

CO-DEFENSE: Wisconsin CB Antonio Fenelus and Penn State LB Michael Mauti

Fenelus matched a career high with nine tackles, recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown in a victory at Purdue. The junior cornerback scooped up a loose ball in the second quarter and returned it 48 yards to set up a field goal. He concluded the scoring in the fourth quarter, picking off an errant pass and sprinting 36 yards for the first touchdown of his career.

Mauti posted a career-high 11 tackles with a career-best three tackles for loss, including a 5-yard sack, helping Penn State rally from a 21-point deficit against Northwestern. After the Wildcats built a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, the sophomore linebacker helped hold NU to only 130 yards on 31 second-half plays, including 32 yards on 10 plays in the third quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Iowa K Michael Meyer

Meyer connected on four field goals, including a career-long 42-yarder, to account for 12 points in Iowa's 18-13 victory at Indiana. The freshman kicker booted field goals of 23, 27 and 27 yards before hitting a 42-yarder early in the fourth quarter to pull the Hawkeyes within 13-12.

FRESHMAN: Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase

Scheelhaase tallied four touchdowns and 312 yards of total offense while guiding the Illini to 65 points at Michigan. The redshirt freshman completed 14 of 25 passes for 211 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions and added 21 carries for 101 yards and another score.

Iowa letting Hoosiers hang around

November, 6, 2010
It's not a shock that Iowa had a letdown after a near-perfect performance last week against Michigan State.

But the Hawkeyes really have to be kicking themselves after 30 minutes of football against Indiana. The loss of starting running back Adam Robinson to a concussion hasn't hurt, as true freshman Marcus Coker racked up 102 rush yards on 16 carries in the first half. But Iowa isn't finishing drives, having to settle for two short field goals and a 22-yard miss by Michael Meyer at the end of the half.

We're all tied at 6-6 in Bloomington.

Credit Indiana's defense for picking up its play the last few weeks. The Hoosiers once again are causing problems for Ricky Stanzi, who has thrown an interception after tossing a career-high five picks against Indiana last year in Iowa City. Stanzi and Indiana's Ben Chappell both have completed 10 of 17 passes with no touchdowns and an interception in the first half.

I'd expect Iowa to come out strong in the third quarter, but the longer the Hawkeyes let IU hang around, the more confident the Hoosiers will become.

Big Ten predictions: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

I learned how to Bucky. Unfortunately, it was too late.

My lack of faith in Wisconsin on its home field at night cost me a perfect week in Week 7. The Badgers overpowered No. 1 Ohio State and handed me my lone loss.

Here's an attempt at a clean sweep this Saturday.

Michigan State 28, Northwestern 20: The Spartans will have to work for this one, but they'll remain perfect. Kirk Cousins hits on several play-action passes, Edwin Baker has a long touchdown run and Keshawn Martin breaks off a big return or two. Northwestern comes out with a pass-heavy offense and quarterback Dan Persa has some success, but the Spartans make enough plays in the second half to win their first game outside Michigan soil.

Illinois 26, Indiana 20: This is my Prediction of the Week. Check the blog this afternoon for a video post explaining my selection in greater detail.

Penn State 21, Minnesota 17: As Minnesota interim coach Jeff Horton said Tuesday, the Gophers have nothing to lose. Their head coach has been fired and changes are on the way, but in a sense, the pressure is off the Maroon and Gold. Penn State, meanwhile, faces a must-win situation and needs to show greater passion and interest in salvaging its season. I could see this one going either way, but Evan Royster finally gets it going against a vulnerable Minnesota defense and Penn State prevails.

Ohio State 35, Purdue 16: A dose of reality arrives this week for Rob Henry and the Boilermakers, although Ohio State's injuries on defense create a window of opportunity for Danny Hope's squad. Ultimately, Terrelle Pryor attacks Purdue's new-look secondary with talented receivers Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey, and the Buckeyes pull away in the third quarter.

Iowa 27, Wisconsin 25: It'll be a great one in Iowa City, especially along the line of scrimmage. Expect a pretty even battle between the Wisconsin offensive line and Iowa's defensive front. The two run games cancel each other out, and ultimately it comes down to the quarterbacks, both of whom lead fourth-quarter scoring drives. Ricky Stanzi gets the ball last and takes Iowa downfield, leading to a Michael Meyer field goal as time expires.

Bye: Michigan

Last week: 4-1

Season record: 49-8 (.860)