Recognizing the best and the brightest around the Big Ten in Week 7.
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball: He's back. After a big finish last week against Illinois, Ball ran all over Purdue in Saturday's blowout 38-14 win at Ross-Ade Stadium. Ball racked up a career-high 247 rush yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, highlighted by a 67-yard scoring dash early in the third quarter. The Badgers senior set the Big Ten career record for touchdowns and moved into third place on the NCAA's all-time list with 72. This fall definitely can still belong to Ball.
Iowa's defense: We debated giving this to kicker Mike Meyer, who tied a career best with four field goals to continue a brilliant season. But Iowa's collective effort on defense won the game at Michigan State. Standouts included tackling machine Anthony Hitchens (15 tackles), defensive lineman Joe Gaglione (10 tackles, sack), linebacker Christian Kirksey (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass breakup), cornerback Greg Castillo (game-clinching interception) and linebacker James Morris (10 tackles, 1 tackle for loss). Iowa's defense has rebounded well from the Central Michigan debacle and put the team in a tie for first place in the Legends division.
Northwestern RB Venric Mark: Where would Northwestern's offense be without Mark? The junior has come out of nowhere to put himself in the race for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. Mark scored a 26-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage against Minnesota and finished with a career-best 182 rush yards and two scores, 151 yards in the opening half. Mark had 213 all-purpose yards in the Wildcats' 21-13 win. He has four 100-yard rushing performances this season and eight rushing touchdowns.
Michigan LB Jake Ryan: Aside from Penn State's Michael Mauti, no Big Ten defender is playing as well as Ryan right now. The Wolverines sophomore has blossomed during the past month and turned in another terrific performance against Illinois, recording team highs in tackles (11), tackles for loss (3.5) and sacks (1.5). He also had a forced fumble that led to a Michigan touchdown in the 45-0 win. Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (128 rush yards, 159 pass yards, 4 total TDs) also merits a mention after eclipsing the 10,000-yard mark for his career.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller: It's big news when Miller doesn't receive a helmet sticker. The sophomore continues to impress with both his feet and his arm. He had 23 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown and completed 13 of 24 passes for 211 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 52-49 win at Indiana. Although the interception was bad, Miller's passing numbers should have been a lot better as Devin Smith had some key drops. Running back Carlos Hyde merits a mention after his second consecutive 100-yard rushing performance (22 carries, 156 yards, 1 TD).