The Big Ten already knows that Ohio State is the most dominant team in the conference. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes want to prove they belong among the nation's elite. And Saturday night, they made a strong statement to the poll voters with a 63-14 victory over Penn State.
With the Big Ten considered one of the weaker BCS conferences this year, Ohio State needs to win with style and win big. That they did.
Led by Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, Ohio State thoroughly dominated from the start. So much so that many of the starters took a seat for a large chunk of the second half.
Coach Urban Meyer downplayed Ohio State's intention to make a statement, but he knows his team needs to convert the unbelievers who kept Ohio State at No. 4 in the latest Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls released Sunday. The Buckeyes also remained No. 4 in the more important BCS Standings well behind No. 3 Florida State.
"I think it helps," Meyer said. "That was certainly not our mindset. Our mindset is to find a way to win this game against a very talented team."
Michigan State doesn't have the most talented team in the Big Ten, but the Spartans routed Illinois 42-3 to move to 7-1 and are No. 22 in the BCS Standings.
One spot ahead at No. 21 is Michigan, which was off Saturday and will have two weeks to prepare for a key matchup at Michigan State this week. The winner has the inside track to the Legends Division title and a berth in the Big Ten championship game in December in Indianapolis.
And how about those Gophers? A week after winning at Northwestern, Minnesota surprised then-No. 25 Nebraska with a 34-23 victory in Minneapolis that boosted its record to 6-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. They won for the second straight week without coach Jerry Kill, who watched from the press box as he continues a leave of absence for treatment of his epilepsy.
While Minnesota is succeeding, Nebraska and Northwestern are receding.
The Cornhuskers' loss was its first to Minnesota since 1960 and it knocked them out of the Top 25.
Northwestern's season is spiraling down the drain after a fourth straight setback -- falling 17-10 in overtime at Iowa. So much for the Wildcats' once-promising hopes of contending for a Big Ten title. They've gone from 4-0 in non-conference play to 0-4 in the Big Ten.
Also among the winless in Big Ten games is Illinois after taking a homecoming pounding from Michigan State. The Fighting Illini haven't won a conference game in two years, but there's still hope this season with struggling Purdue on the November schedule.
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 8 IN THE BIG TEN
1. Ohio State put it all together for the first time this season. The offense rolled and the defense stuffed Penn State in a 63-14 bulldozing. The Buckeyes might not be as good offensively as Oregon or as strong defensively as Alabama, but they're in the conversation. Whether they can move up in the polls, if they keep winning, for a shot at the BCS championship is still questionable.
2. Michigan State is sitting in the driver's seat atop the Legends Division. The Spartans demolished Illinois on Saturday with impressive performances on both sides of the ball. If they can take care of rival Michigan at home this week, they're one step closer to the Big Ten championship game.
3. Minnesota is bowl eligible and the Big Ten's feel-good story after knocking off Nebraska in Minneapolis on Saturday. For the second straight week, the Gophers pulled an upset under acting coach Tracy Claeys. The players continue to draw inspiration from the presence of coach Jerry Kill, who is on leave to deal with his epilepsy.
4. Northwestern continues to go south. After their fourth straight Big Ten loss, the Wildcats will struggle for bowl eligibility in a season that looks so promising before conference play began.
5. Nebraska's loss at Minnesota is a head-scratcher. Just when it appeared the enigmatic Cornhuskers were back on track, the defense reverted to early season form and quarterback Taylor Martinez's return from an injury had minimal impact on the offense. Coach Bo Pelini certainly will face more questions about the direction of the program and, specifically, the porosity of the defense.