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November 26, 2013

Big Ten Rewind: Week 13

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Zero surprises came from week 13, other than mother nature's cold middle finger to players and fans in attendance. The favorites took care of business and we now have our Big Ten title game in writing. So before we gear up for turkey and Rivalry Week, let's review some key highlights from last weekend in this edition of Big Ten Rewind.

Can the Spartans beat the Buckeyes?

I'm not convinced yet but people up in East Lansing are starting to believe. And in defense of their normal delusional fans, they have every right to drink the kool-aid as they have dominated nearly every opponent since their loss to Notre Dame.

We're all aware of their defense and how they limit teams to a mere 236 yards a game. That group is mostly responsible for their 10-1 record. But ever since Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford became full-time starters, the Spartan offense has improved greatly and has become one of the best in the conference.

And if you had the chance to watch this team during the first few weeks, you know then how remarkable this turnaround's been.

Cook brings to the table an underrated arm, decent mobility and excellent decision making. You can tell his teammates believe in him as the sophomore is already becoming a leader at an early age, similar to former Spartan Kirk Cousins. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is one of the best among Big Ten quarterbacks.

Langford has bounced around from position-to-position and has finally found a home at running back. Since becoming a starter, the junior has averaged 127.5 yards on the ground and his 11 touchdowns in that span is more than any other Big Ten 'back. His 150 yard, two touchdown performance against Northwestern was one of his best games on the year.

His emergence at running back has also taken some of the pressure off Cook and has provided the young quarterback a viable option in the backfield.

Regarding the original question, each week the Buckeyes are becoming a more complete team but so are the Spartans. If Mark Dantonio plans to make history and upset his former employer, he'll need steady play from his offense (primarily Cook and Langford), find a way to slow down Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde and maybe locate a few weaknesses on that near flawless starting lineup.

Each team will need to get through their final test before the title game so looking ahead could really effect morale before December 7.

White>Gordon

Since week three against Arizona State, Melvin Gordon has been the face of the Badgers' offense. I named him my midseason Big Ten offensive player of the year and some experts have said the sophomore deserves Heisman consideration. His numbers are outstanding (1,375 rushing yards, 8.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns) and he'll certainly earn all-conference honors.

Now despite all the deserved attention Gordon receives, over the past six games, his teammate James White has outplayed and out-produced him. The Florida native is averaging more rushing yards a game (135-to-113), more carries and has four more touchdowns than Gordon since October 12. In their last game against rival Minnesota, head coach Gary Andersen rewarded White with 14 more carries than his backfield buddy.

According to Andersen, his 'backs are unselfish when it comes to carries.

"They're not in there saying, 'It's my turn. I've got to get 25 carries or whatever.' As it comes, it comes. They deal with it. They don't count their reps. They make their reps count," said Andersen.

I'm not trying to claim that White is a better back. Neither is Andersen by giving White the majority of the carries of late. Both are pretty darn talented and they'll certainly need both playing at the top of their game this weekend against Penn State.

This is more of a team riding their hot hand in their quest for 10 wins and a BCS bowl bid. Expect White to be the primary back with Gordon rotating in going forward.

Quote of the week

"I haven't watched their whole season, but from what I've seen, Gardner has a pretty good arm, makes good throws, guys are making plays. We know we're going to have our hands full against them," said Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett.

Your right Mr. Barnett. It's clear you haven't watch them all season.

Week 13 Power Rankings

1.) Ohio State - It's bittersweet when "The Game" is decided before kickoff. The Buckeyes should keep the foot on the accelerator all day Saturday to keep BCS title hopes alive.
2.) Michigan State - Very deserving of the Legends title and a legit threat at winning the Big Ten title. Connor Cook is becoming one of the more discipline quarterbacks in the conference.
3.) Wisconsin - The argument can be made that the Badgers deserve to be in front of the Spartans. Is anyone playing better than James White?
4.) Minnesota - No shame in losing to Wisconsin. They are simply a better team. Will face another tough test in Michigan State this weekend.
5.) Iowa - Eliminate all their mistakes last Saturday and they blowout the Wolverines. Their black Friday bout with Nebraska will be fun to watch.
6.) Nebraska - Picked up another tough road win in Happy Valley. Ameer Abdullah deserves a nomination for offensive player of the year.
7.) Michigan - When you produce 158 yards of total offense, you're not going to win too many games. A sea of scarlet and gray will be taking over the Big House in four days.
8.) Penn State - They were bound to lose a game in overtime. No shame in finishing 6-6 but if they can pull off another upset against the Badgers, that could really jump-start things for next season.
9.) Northwestern - Bowl hopes are gone. Now the goal is to finish on a positive note. I'd like to say the Illini should end the streak but who knows at this point?
10.) Indiana - Make that six straight losing seasons for the Hoosiers. Not much on the line against Purdue other than an old bucket.
11.) Illinois - Hallelujah the streak is over! You have to feel good for the seniors who've suffered through that lengthy drought. Will this be Tim Beckman's only Big Ten win?
12.) Purdue - Nine straight losses and no end in sight. It's going to be a long road back to mediocrity.



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