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Big Ten Notebook: Buckeyes seem poised for perfect season

The SportsXchange

Ohio State took a major step toward another undefeated regular season with a 40-30 road victory over Northwestern on Saturday night. The Buckeyes remained No. 4 in the Associated Press poll released Sunday and continue to be far and away the class of the conference so far.

At 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, Ohio State is halfway through its schedule. The only obstacle to continued perfection in coach Urban Meyer's second year appears to be the season-ending confrontation with rival Michigan. The next five opponents should not be a threat: Iowa and Penn State at home, at Illinois and Purdue and at home against Indiana.

Meyer is now 18-0 at Ohio State after the Buckeyes extended the nation's longest winning streak to 18 games. They have a bye this week to rest and reload.

Indiana and Michigan State will match up for what should be an interesting game next week in East Lansing after both teams posted impressive wins on Saturday. The Hoosiers were 0-16 against Penn State before handling the Nittany Lions 44-24 in Bloomington. The Spartans, coming off a loss at Notre Dame, won 26-14 at Iowa in their Big Ten opener.

Michigan became the highest-ranked Big Ten team behind Ohio State at No. 18 after its 42-13 victory over Minnesota in Ann Arbor. The Gophers played without coach Jerry Kill, who remained at home after suffering another seizure, and lost their second straight conference game.

Northwestern dropped in the AP poll to No. 19 after a competitive performance against Ohio State. The Wildcats head this week to Wisconsin, which was idle on Saturday.

Nebraska took care of Illinois in a 39-19 win with Tommy Armstrong Jr. starting for injured quarterback Taylor Martinez. The Cornhuskers' much-maligned defense showed improvement and Illinois showed it's not ready yet to compete with the upper-tier teams in the Big Ten.

Iowa suffered a setback with its loss to Michigan State. The momentum the Hawkeyes picked up from a road win over Minnesota the previous week is now gone and could continue to disintegrate with their next three games against Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin.

The results of Week 6 indicate a dogfight is shaping up in the Legends Division among Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern. Ohio State is sitting pretty atop the Leaders Division.

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 6 IN THE BIG TEN

1. The Legends Division is shaping up as an interesting race for the title. Though most teams have played only one Big Ten game, a case could be made for Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Nebraska. Michigan had a good week against Minnesota, Michigan State and Nebraska improved their stock with wins, and Northwestern represented itself well in the loss to Ohio State.

2. Indiana's offensive firepower will make it competitive in the conference. If the Hoosiers can outscore opponents, as they did Saturday in a 44-24 win over Penn State, a third-place finish in the weak Leaders Division is not out of the question.

3. Michigan State's offense has a pulse, which didn't seem possible several weeks ago when coach Mark Dantonio was searching for a leader. Quarterback Connor Cook has stepped up to fill the void, and he seemed to form a connection with receivers Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Bennie Bowler in Saturday's win at Iowa. The Spartans' dominance was reflected in a 15-minute advantage in time of possession.

4. Three running backs stand out in the Big Ten after Week 6. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde has amassed 253 yards rushing in two conference games, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah ran wild against Illinois on Saturday and moved up to second in the Big Ten in rushing with 690 yards. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon leads the conference with 698 rushing yards.

5. Penn State could be feeling the effects of the scholarship reductions that resulted from the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault case. At least that's what Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien offered as a possible explanation for a 44-24 loss to Indiana on Saturday. "I don't think in any stretch of anybody's imagination that this is a normal Penn State team -- 61 kids on scholarship and 40 walk-ons. But you know what? These kids are practicing hard. We need to coach them better."
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