Penn State 48 Wisconsin 7
If there was any doubt the Nittany Lions are a national title contender, there were removed last night in Madison. And if there was any doubt that the Badger season is spinning dangerously out of control those were removed simulataneously. Darryl Clark turned in an exquisite performance, operating mostly out of the shotgun, throwing for 244 yards on 16/25. Wisconsin never got their running game established, as Penn State's defense delivered their second straight road shut-down performance. And to top it off, UW shot themselves in the foot, committing four turnovers and eight penalties, compared to PSU's 0 & 1. Joe Paterno's team will likely be up to #3 in the polls next week, behind only Alabama & Texas.
Minnesota 27 Illinois 20
The Gopher defense stood up and delivered a big-time effort against an offense that had been blowing out the scoreboard lights, as they churned out a 14-6 lead after three quarters and then survived a wild fourth quarter to hold on for the upset win. The key was stopping the Illinois ground game and capitalizing on mistakes. Juice Williams was still explosive, going off for 462 yards in the air, 181 of them to Aurelious Benn. But Minnesota won the turnover battle 3-1, and on the ground they shut down Daniel Dufresne. In the meantime, the Gophs got 124 yards of their own from DeLeon Eskridge, while Eric Decker turned in another very solid outing at receiver, catching nine balls. Jim Souhan of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says the defense answered all the questions. Well, maybe not all of them. Illinois did roll up 550 yards of offense. But Rick Brewster brought home a huge win and facilitated even more chaos in the middle of the conference, so much so that it's no longer crazy to mention his program in the same breath as a New Year's Day bowl.
Toledo 13 Michigan 10
It's also no longer crazy to mention Michigan in the same breath as the Big Ten bottom-feeders. Is it worse that they lost this game or just the fact that it doesn't make anyone recoil in shock? The offense was again inept, and while the defense wasn't horrible, they did allow receiver Nick Moore to haul in an astonishing 20 catches. The Wolverines finished it off by missing a short field goal that would have tied it with four seconds left. Drew Sharp of The Detroit Free Press declares this loss to be worse then Appalachian State.
Michigan State 37 Northwestern 20
Just as was the case last week, the Spartans weren't great, but they kept winning. Northwestern was able to move the ball, racking up 459 yards of offense and getting a big game from Tyrrell Sutton, who rushed for 139 yards. But MSU avoided mistakes, with a 3-0 margin on turnovers and got a 124-yard game from Javon Ringer. Mark Dantonio moved his team to 6-1, right where he needed to be when the meat of the schedule starts up. Michael Rosenberg of The Detroit Free Press writes that this is not a team that will collapse. I would agree that this team is mentally tough enough not to wilt. But there's a difference between collapsing and simply having weaknesses exposed. Right now, MSU needs to improve the defense.
Ohio State 16 Purdue 3
It was a ho-hum day in Columbus as Ohio State won a proto-type Tressel-ball type game, getting an early lead and then just slugging it out the rest of the way. The offense continues to use Terrel Prior very conservatively and Chris Wells was held to less then 100 yards. Ray Stein of The Columbus Dispatch prints the letters of some disgruntled fans.
Iowa 45 Indiana 9
This one was competitive for a half, with the Hawks leading 17-9 at intermission. But Iowa's offensive line took over and both Shon Greene and Jewel Hampton went over the 100-yard mark. The win, and most importantly the fact it was easy, gives Kirk Ferentz a little breathing room and momentum as he prepares for reeling Wisconsin next week.
North Carolina 29 Notre Dame 24
Jimmy Clausen was again the real deal in Chapel Hill, lighting it up for 383 yards against the ACC's best. But the Irish put the ball on the ground and committed five turnovers, and Clausen himself made a killer mistake when an interception was run back for a touchdown. It was a strong outing for Charlie Weis' team, as it showed it could compete with a legitimate conference title contender, but a tough one to let slip away. With the schedule being tougher the rest of the way, ND is going to have to scrap for each win.