NCF Nation: K.C. Lopata

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

By no measure was it a good Saturday for the Big Ten. But it was for these guys.

Wisconsin WR David Gilreath and RB P.J. Hill -- Gilreath is listed as a wide receiver, but he did most of his damage as a ball-carrier against Indiana. The sophomore had a 90-yard touchdown run -- the team's second longest-run in the modern era -- and finished with eight carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Hill, the real running back, had 126 rushing yards and three touchdowns on only 19 carries.

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor -- Pryor provided the perfect response to the Penn State loss, which he took especially hard. The freshman showcased his special skills against Northwestern, throwing three touchdown passes, keeping plays alive with his feet and converting several third-and-long situations. Pryor completed 9 of 14 passes for 197 yards.

Michigan defense -- After a surprising drop-off, this group regained its edge against Minnesota, holding the Golden Gophers to 46 total yards and one first down in the opening half. Minnesota finished with a measly 188 total yards and eight first downs at home. Defensive end Tim Jamison had a sack and a forced fumble, and safety Brandon Harrison had two tackles for a loss.

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn -- Clayborn registered two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble that was nearly recovered in the end zone as Iowa stunned No. 3 Penn State. The sophomore is one of the Big Ten's top young defensive linemen and was among the pass-rushers who bothered Daryll Clark all game long.

Michigan K K.C. Lopata -- Lopata went 5-for-5 on field goals against Minnesota, twice connecting from beyond 40 yards. The five field goals tied a school record and marked a career high for Lopata, who hadn't attempted a field goal since Oct. 18.

Michigan State defense -- One of the league's unsung units punished Purdue quarterback Justin Siller, dropping the redshirt freshman for five sacks. Seven players were involved in tackles for losses and freshman cornerback Johnny Adams had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

All the fantastic finishes must have been used up last week. A surprise at the Metrodome.


The big questions for the Buckeyes surrounded Terrelle Pryor and an offense that didn't have a clear identity through the first nine games. Pryor had an emphatic response today at Ryan Field, and the Buckeyes matched their season high with 45 points. Although he was facing inferior athletes, Pryor showed why he's so special, keeping plays alive and hitting shots down the field. He threw three touchdowns and no interceptions, and running back Chris Wells had a big day, keyed by a 55-yard scoring run in the second quarter. It's amazing to think this game was tied at 7-7 after a quarter.

Northwestern should be glad it doesn't have to face Ohio State for the next two years. Ever since upsetting the Buckeyes in 2004, the Wildcats look utterly overmatched in this series. The defense was uncharacteristically bad on third-and-long situations, allowing Pryor to keep drives alive. If Northwestern had done a better job getting off the field, this could have been closer. Northwestern went too conservative on offense with Mike Kafka and will need to open things up the next two weeks, whether or not C.J. Bacher returns at starting quarterback.


A bowl game is out of the picture for the Wolverines, but they took a nice step today on the road. People forget that Michigan's defense carried this team through its first four games before falling off significantly. Today, the Wolverines regained their edge on the defensive side and shut down a Minnesota offense that looked lost after star wide receiver Eric Decker reinjured his ankle. Quarterback Nick Sheridan avoided a major mistake, the run game got going and kicker K.C. Lopata had a big day (five field goals). Michigan has never lost a game at the Metrodome, which won't be Minnesota's home the next time the teams meet in Minneapolis.

Despite all the good Tim Brewster has done this season, Minnesota is still an emotionally fragile team. The Gophers couldn't avoid a hangover from last week's last-minute loss to Northwestern and put up only 116 total yards today. Brewster is right. This won't be a rivalry until Minnesota proves it can win more often. If Decker is out for any length of time, things could turn ugly.


This was a Michigan State win in every sense of the world. The Spartans rarely get style points, but they continue to get the job done, especially on the defensive side. Purdue quarterback Justin Siller couldn't get much going, averaging just 2.8 yards per completion and throwing an interception that Johnny Adams returned for a touchdown. The anxiety level about Brian Hoyer likely will increase after two interceptions, but Michigan State is 9-2 and likely headed to a New Year's Day bowl game.

For the second time in coach Joe Tiller's 12-year tenure, Purdue won't be heading to a bowl game. Tiller's offense spun its wheels, as it has for much of the season. Siller couldn't beat the Spartans with his feet or find holes in the secondary.


The Big Ten's least consistent team continued its troubling win-one, lose-one pattern, falling to Western Michigan in Detroit. The circumstances around this game created some uneasiness, and Illinois once again didn't play to its potential. Quarterback Juice Williams had a dreadful day, and the offense did nothing in the first half. An Illinois team that opened the season in the top 20 nationally will need to do some work to reach a minor bowl game.


The Wisconsin rushing attack that many of us thought would show up much earlier this fall finally did some major damage. Wide receiver David Gilreath got in the mix, rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Junior P.J. Hill had a big day and Wisconsin overpowered a Hoosiers defense that continues to underachieve.

Indiana kept things close for a half, but once again, big plays proved to be the problem. Gilreath's 90-yard touchdown run opened things up and Wisconsin exploded for 31 second-half points. The Hoosiers had five different players attempt a pass. That looks like a team with very little identity on offense. The loss eliminates Indiana from bowl contention.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan is winning the game, but don't read into it too much. The Wolverines generated just 35 yards in the quarter and would be trailing if not for several Utah mistakes.

Despite having an All-American kicker/punter in Louie Sakoda, Utah's special teams have been downright awful. After Michigan went three-and-out on the game's first possession, Utes return man Jereme Brooks fumbled a punt, setting up a Wolverines touchdown. Then Sakoda had a game-tying extra-point try blocked by Michigan's Terrance Taylor. A personal foul penalty on a Michigan kickoff return set up great field position and the other Wolverines' score, a 50-yard field goal by K.C. Lopata.

Wolverines starting quarterback Nick Sheridan has taken advantage of Utah's miscues, but he had an interception called back on a penalty and had another one slip through the fingers of a Utes defensive back. The good news for Michigan is both freshman running backs, Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw, look explosive. Steven Threet has yet to enter the game.

As expected, Michigan's playcalling has been fairly conservative, mostly short, safe passes. Sheridan hasn't looked good on the deep passes but seems comfortable with short routes.

Utah quarterback Brian Johnson looks like a senior, consistently finding holes in the Wolverines secondary. He hit Brooks for a 55-yard gain to set up a touchdown.