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October 3, 2012Game of the Week: No. 21 Nebraska at No. 12 Ohio State
For the second-consecutive week, the Huskers compete in a nationally-televised prime-time clash. This time, however, the confines will not be as friendly. For the first time since 1956, Nebraska and Ohio State will battle at The Horseshoe in this week's premier Big Ten contest. To put that into perspective, the last time NU made the trek to Columbus, a gallon of gas cost 22 cents.
Both teams are looking to exert their dominance within the conference following nail-biting victories a week ago, and the matchup pairs two of the nation's most dynamic dual threat quarterbacks in OSU sophomore star Braxton Miller and Nebraska junior Taylor Martinez.
Still, with all of the talent each team possesses at offensive skill positions, this game will come down to the defensive side of the ball. The vaunted Black Shirt defense has been beyond disappointing this season, and yielded 27 points to an anemic Wisconsin offense last week. Meanwhile, Ohio State looks to build on a performance in which it held a prolific Michigan State ground attack to only 45 yards.
Can the Buckeye defense stymie the Nebraska offense, which leads the conference in scoring (44.8 points per game), total offense (521.4 yards per game) and rushing (305.8 yards per game)? Can a struggling Husker defense contain Miller, who leads the Big Ten in total touchdowns (14) and ranks second in total offense (302.0 yards per game)?
Saturday's Big Ten Pick 'Em article will offer a prediction for not only this contest, but the rest of the week's Big Ten slate.
News and Notes:
Sophomore Cameron Coffman and freshman Nate Sudfeld have both been effective at times in his stead, but head coach Kevin Wilson has not yet revealed who will take the majority of the snaps this weekend against Michigan State.
"Our players like both guys," Wilson said. "They are both similar in what they do. The offense doesn't change.
"I like both of them, but I think they both need to be a lot better. I don't think either one of them played poorly. I don't think either one of them played that much better than the other one."
Although ineligible for post-season play due to NCAA sanctions, PSU, which has outscored its opposition 49-0 in the first quarter in 2012, appears to be a very motivated team that could make some noise as the conference slate progresses.
"I believe we've made progress, but there's such a long way to go," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "There's so many things to improve upon and some things to build upon. But, I do believe that progress has been made."
The Illinois native has stockpiled 515 yards (171.7 yards per game) and is tied atop the Big Ten rankings with seven rushing touchdowns.
"He's very a unique guy, a very humble guy, and he's a very hard nosed guy," said Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker. "That's what makes him special, because he doesn't say too much, he just runs the ball.
"This is going back 30 years ago, he's like a Keith Byars type of guy. He was a big guy to try to tackle. Obviously he's not as big as Keith Byars. I'm dating myself; I'm sorry about that. But he was hard to bring down."
NU gained a school-record 704 yards of offense in a wild 44-29 victory over Indiana last week, and the Wildcats consequently cracked the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since the end of the 2008 season - entering week six ranked No. 24 in the country.
Stat of the Week:
Wisconsin's unthinkable offensive struggles this season have been exacerbating by an abysmal effort on critical third-down plays.
The Badgers rank 112 out of 120 FBS teams in the category, converting only 20-of-68 third down attempts this season (29.4 percent).
Conference Players of the Week:
Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week: Nebraska junior quarterback Taylor Martinez was awarded his second conference award of the season, and third of his career, after accounting for 288 total yards (181 passing, 107 rushing) and three touchdowns to orchestrate a 17-point second-half comeback in Nebraska's 30-27 win over Wisconsin.
Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week: Northwestern junior quarterback Kain Colter totaled 297 yards of offense, including 164 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries (11.7 yards per carry), in a 44-29 triumph over Indiana.
Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week: Penn State fifth-year senior Michael Mauti captured his second weekly conference award of the season after making six tackles and intercepting a pass on the goal line, which he returned a school-record 99 yards before being corralled at the Illinois one-yard line, to help Penn State trample the Illini 35-7.
Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week: Nebraska senior placekicker Brett Maher hit 3-of-4 field goal tries (75.0 percent), including a game-winning 41-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Huskers' 30-27 victory over Wisconsin.
Big Ten Freshman of the Week: Illinois linebacker Mason Monheim notched a career-best 11 tackles and forced a fumble in Illinois' 35-7 loss to Penn State.
Big Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 25:
No. 12 Ohio State
No. 21 Nebraska
No. 24 Northwestern
Others receiving votes: Michigan State (43), Michigan (38)
Schedule for Oct. 6:
Michigan State at Indiana, Noon, Big Ten Network
Northwestern at Penn State, Noon, ESPN
Illinois at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
Michigan at Purdue, 4:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
Nebraska at Ohio State, 8:00 p.m., ABC
BYE: Iowa, Minnesota.