Northwestern (4-5, 2-4)
When Northwestern traveled to Nebraska this past weekend, they hoped to continue to rely heavily on the rotating of quarterbacks Dan Persa and Kain Colter, mainly in order to exploit the Cornhuskers defense.
However, midway through the second quarter, Persa went down hard on his left shoulder while being taken down by Eric Martin, forcing sophomore signal caller, Kain Colter, to take control.
Colter, who has already seen action earlier in the season, wasted no time putting points on the board.Â Early in the third quarter, Colter scrambled out of the pocket and dove for the pylon around multiple defenders to put Northwestern up by 11.Â He followed that with an 81-yard strike in stride to Jeremy Ebert, while running in for another late in the fourth to seal the deal.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald took notice of the sophomore out of Colorado, and was extremely impressed with what he was able to do.Â He expressed just how the young man is getting it done.
â€œHeâ€™s just having fun,â€ Fitzgerald said.Â â€œHeâ€™s going out and playing like heâ€™s in the backyard.â€
â€œHeâ€™s doing all that in the framework of the offense,â€ Fitzgerald went on to say.
This was a huge win for the Wildcats as they get their second conference victory against a tough B1G opponent away from home.Â Fitzgerald also noted just how much his players have matured since the beginning of the season and that it doesnâ€™t stop here – there are still more games to play, and win.
â€œWeâ€™ve got our backs against the wall,â€ Fitzgerald said.Â â€œItâ€™s win and move on.â€
Northwestern will look to do just that Saturday against Rice.
Michigan (7-2, 3-2) #22 AP/#21 Coaches
If there was a weekend of upsets, last weekend was it, as multiple teams in the B1G were victims of unforeseen losses.Â Michigan is right up there in that category after losing a close one in Iowa City to Kirk Ferentzâ€™s Hawkeyes.
Brady Hoke noted that it comes down to details and fulfilling what they as a team set out to do each Saturday.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to play with better execution,â€ Hoke said.
This was evident on Michiganâ€™s final drive. Standout quarterback Denard Robinson marched his team 79 yards to the Iowa three, but after four unsuccessful opportunities to potentially tie the game, it was all for nothing.
Give credit to Iowaâ€™s defense, as they played extremely tight coverage and got the stops they needed when they needed it.
Michigan will face a tougher defense on Saturday when they travel to Champaign this weekend.Â Currently, Illinois is holding their opponents to under three yards per carry, and have 31 sacks on the year.
â€œTheyâ€™re active and their physical and I think theyâ€™re very athletic,â€ coach Hoke said of the Illini defense.
With that said, Hoke also noted that his defense has grown a tremendous amount since the beginning of the year.Â It also helps that Hoke has brought on Michigan alumni, Curt Mallory to his staff.Â Mallory serves as the secondaryâ€™s coach, and has a lot of people excited, and energized.
â€œHe does a great job.Â I think heâ€™s a great teacher of technique and the fundamentals,â€ Hoke noted.Â â€œHe has great energy.â€
â€œI know the kids have great respect for him,â€ Hoke concluded.
Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) #19 AP/#17 Coaches
Coming off of a surprise loss at home to Northwestern, coach Bo Pelini wasnâ€™t exactly ecstatic to talk about the tough defeat, but the facts are inevitable.Â Northwestern did an outstanding job containing workhorse I-back Rex Burkhead, holding him to just 69 yards on 22 attempts, a 3.1 average, his lowest of the season.
In order to get back on track and rebound away from home at Penn State, the Cornhuskers need to be able to run the ball effectively and get Burkhead back on track.
Despite being undefeated in the B1G, some critics have pointed out that Penn State is a lot weaker than what their record indicates.Â Bo Pelini isnâ€™t one of them, at least for now.
â€œTheyâ€™re very sound in what they do and they have good talent on both sides of the football,â€ Pelini said.
With all the hoopla â€“ yes, hoopla â€“ going on at PSU surrounding Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno, it will be interesting to see how the game plays out.Â And when I say game, I mean whatâ€™s going on in the stands, on the sidelines, media coverage, etc.
However, it does not have coach Pelini concerned or excited.
â€œI canâ€™t speculate on things I donâ€™t know.Â Itâ€™s not a distraction for our football team. We havenâ€™t talked about it, we wonâ€™t talk about it.â€
So thereâ€™s that.
If the quote doesnâ€™t convince you, his ever so gracious monotone voice will do the trick, trust me.
Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) Â #13 AP/Coaches
Last week, Michigan State was just a few plays away from joining Nebraska and Michigan in the â€œupsetâ€ category.
Thankfully for them, the resurgent Gophers didnâ€™t have it in them to finish the game.Â That, in addition to senior MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins having a fantastic game, led to a Spartan W.
Cousins threw for just under 300 yards, completed 23-34 passes, and threw for two scores.Â A lot of this success can be attributed to the play of the offensive line, as they were able to keep him upright, something that has been inconsistent at times for this team.Â Cousins has been sacked 14 times so far this season.Â Not an eye-popping stat by any means, but definitely needs to be accounted for.
â€œIf we can protect our quarterback, obviously our quarterback is going to play much better,â€ head coach Mark Dantonio said. â€œWhen we are able to protect him, good things happen.â€
Cousins will look to stay hot when the team travels to Iowa City, Saturday.Â The Hawkeyes are red hot coming off their big upset win over Michigan, and will be ready for whatever Cousins and his crew have to offer.
Iowa (6-3, 3-2) Receiving Votes
With Iowa winning at Nebraska this past weekends, it puts Kirk Ferentzâ€™s team right back in the mix of things with a conference record of 3-2.Â Iowa, who is a perfect 6-0 at home this season, is looking to add one more W to that column this week when they welcome Michigan State.
However, Ferentz notes that taking on such a task is by no means easy.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a tough challenge for us,â€ Ferentz said.
That challenge begins and ends with the Spartan defense, who are relentless, just ask Ferentz.
â€œWhere do you want me to start?â€
â€œProbably the most talented and active secondary that weâ€™ve seen,â€ noted FerentzÂ â€œItâ€™s a totally different package what they do defensively but the bottom line is that theyâ€™re players really, all eleven guys play really well,â€ he went on to say.
Quarterback James Vandenberg, receiver Marvin McNutt, and running back Marcus Coker will look to continue their strong offensive flow as the season comes to a close.Â This is something that the Hawkeyes were unable to do at the end of last season, as they finished the final four games with a 1-3 record.
When asked if there are any lessons to be learned this time around, Ferentz kept it simple.
Minnesota (2-7, 1-4)
Jerry!Â Jerry!Â Jerry!
Thatâ€™s something I imagine the fans and students of Minnesota will eventually be chanting after his tenure there is done.Â A bit premature?Â Absolutely, but every week his squad puts out a tremendous effort, no matter the opponent, and thatâ€™s something I can respect.
â€œWeâ€™re just working hard,â€ Kill said.
And it shows.Â Who would have thought that with such an intimidating Michigan State defense, the Gophers would come as close as they did.Â They were a few plays away from upsetting another B1G opponent for the second week in a row.
When asked about how he is handling the re-building process, Kill noted that he just lets nature take itâ€™s course.
â€œI think if you have continuity on your coaching staff and youâ€™ve been together a long time, and your kids understand itâ€™s not micromanaged by just the head coach, you donâ€™t have to worry about it.Â You just move on.â€
Move on, they will.Â It starts with Wisconsin this weekend, not the easiest place to move on to, but itâ€™s just another game.
In response to a reporter saying that Wisconsin is good, Kill fired back quickly with â€œTheyâ€™re more than pretty good!â€
â€œDefensively, theyâ€™re very sound, they keep the ball in front of them.Â They donâ€™t make mental mistakes,â€ he continued.
â€œThereâ€™s no weaknesses on their football team.â€
Despite my grown respect for coach Kill, Minnesota is just too outmatched this week (sorry, Jerryâ€¦again).
Kill doesnâ€™t exactly have his hand picked guys just yet, but that doesnâ€™t mean Minnesota canâ€™t get better each week.
â€œItâ€™s going to take time,â€ noted KillÂ â€œYou take the kids you have and you try to teach them what it takes to be successful.â€
â€œWe are getting better, and thatâ€™s a good thing.â€
Here, here, Jerry!