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Thumbs up-thumbs down: Week 11

11/16/2009

Thumbs up, Purdue WR Keith Smith -- Smith had a career-high 15 receptions for 152 yards and a score against Michigan State, showing again why he's one of the league's best wideouts. The junior has six 100-yard receiving performances this season.

Thumbs down, Illinois' third-quarter offense -- I'm still scratching my head over why Ron Zook pulled Jacob Charest in favor of Eddie McGee after trailing by just four points at halftime. Illinois generated no passing yards in the fourth quarter against Northwestern and fell into a 21-3 hole.

Thumbs up, Iowa QB James Vandenberg -- No one expected much from Vandenberg after his shaky debut against Northwestern on Nov. 7, but the redshirt freshman exceeded all expectations with his performance at Ohio State. Vandenberg had two touchdown passes and showed exceptional poise in a hostile environment.

Thumbs down, Iowa's defensive line -- This group essentially won the game at Penn State, and Iowa needed a similar showing in Columbus. Ohio State rarely tested the Hawkeyes secondary, but running backs Brandon Saine and Dan Herron and quarterback Terrelle Pryor piled up 229 rush yards. Aside from Adrian Clayborn's play, it wasn't a good game for the line.

Thumbs up, Northwestern WR Zeke Markshausen -- One catch. That's all Markshausen had entering the season. The senior now ranks second in the Big Ten with 76 receptions after making six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Illinois.

Thumbs down, Indiana's second-half performance -- The game doesn't end at halftime, and Indiana once again let a lead slip away on the road. Penn State scored 24 unanswered points after Indiana couldn't truly capitalize on four first-half turnovers. The Hoosiers have been outscored 145-92 in the second half this season.

Thumbs up, Wisconsin WR Nick Toon -- Like father, like soon. Al Toon's kid is turning into a superstar at Wisconsin, becoming the team's No. 1 wide receiver. Toon had five receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday's win against Michigan.

Thumbs down, Minnesota's offensive line -- Inconsistency has plagued this group all season, and the Gophers did next to nothing on offense against South Dakota State. Minnesota allowed four sacks and the offense gained only 231 yards in a too-close-for-comfort win against the Jackrabbits. The Gophers failed to score an offensive touchdown.

Thumbs up, Ohio State K Devin Barclay -- You just knew when Aaron Pettrey went down with an injury that the Buckeyes would face a huge field-goal attempt. Barclay, the former Major League Soccer player, came through in the clutch with a 39-yard field goal in overtime to essentially put Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.

Thumbs down, conservative coaching at The Shoe -- Mistakes usually kill you in this sport, but Jim Tressel and Kirk Ferentz both played it too safe in the closing minutes of regulation on Saturday. Both teams had time to mount game-winning drives, but both coaches didn't call a single downfield pass play. Disappointing to see, especially from Ferentz.

Thumbs up, Michigan DE Brandon Graham -- It's too bad he plays for a lousy defense because Graham could very well be the best player in the Big Ten this year. He continued his stellar season with four tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble that teammate Ryan Van Bergen returned to the end zone.

Thumbs up, Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin -- Martin is developing into the Big Ten's top kick return man after breaking off an 85-yarder against Purdue to set up the game-winning field goal. He also led the Spartans with 70 rush yards on only three carries.

Thumbs up, Minnesota CB Michael Carter -- The Gophers defense won the game Saturday, and Carter played a major role. He forced a fumble that led to Minnesota's only touchdown and recorded two pass breakups against South Dakota State.