Big Ten stock report: Week 7

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Purdue's coaching staff: Danny Hope and his assistants deserve a ton of credit for their work during the bye week. Purdue's defense looked a lot better against Northwestern and put pressure on Dan Persa with multiple rushers. Offensive coordinator Gary Nord did a great job crafting a game plan that fit redshirt freshman quarterback Rob Henry in his first career start.

Michigan State's secondary: This unit has taken some heat in the past, but the Spartans are showing much better playmaking ability this fall. Michigan State had six interceptions all of last season; the Spartans already have nine this fall after picking off Denard Robinson three times in Saturday's victory. Cornerback Chris L. Rucker recorded his first interception of the season, and corner Johnny Adams and safety Trenton Robinson both have two picks. Michigan State ranks 23rd nationally in pass efficiency defense (110.8 rating) after finishing 101st last season.

Illinois' specialists: The kicking game had been a weak spot for Illinois in past seasons, but punter Anthony Santella and kicker Derek Dimke are off to strong starts this fall. Santella ranks second nationally in punting average (47.9 ypp), and Dimke went 4-for-4 on field goal attempts in the Penn State win to earn Big Ten co-Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Dimke is 10-for-11 on field goal attempts this season and a perfect 12-for-12 on PATs.

Ohio State DE Nathan Williams: Williams has provided a nice jolt for the Ohio State pass rush the last few weeks. After being slowed by a knee injury sustained in preseason camp, Williams has recorded 22 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his last three games. Wisconsin had better pay attention to No. 43 on Saturday night.

Wisconsin's team discipline: The Badgers haven't committed a turnover since the third quarter of a Week 2 win against San Jose State, a span of more than four games. Wisconsin is tied for second nationally in fewest turnovers with just four all season. Bret Bielema's crew also is avoiding the dreaded yellow hankie. Wisconsin is tied for the national lead in fewest penalties with just 20 through the first six games. The Badgers rank fourth nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (30.8).

Illinois' red zone offense: While keeping Penn State out of the end zone for most of Saturday's win, Illinois continued to capitalize on its opportunities near the goal line. The Illini are 16-for-16 on red zone chances this season with nine touchdowns and seven field goals. They are one of only three FBS teams (East Carolina, Memphis) perfect in the red zone.


Minnesota's starts to halves: The Golden Gophers have held their own in the second quarter (47-47) and the fourth quarter (59-56) this season, but they really struggle to begin both halves. Tim Brewster's crew has been outscored 49-27 in the first quarter and 42-24 in the third quarter this season. Wisconsin outscored the Gophers 14-0 in both quarters on Saturday.

Northwestern's special teams: The kicking game costs Northwestern dearly in at least one loss per season, and it happened again Saturday against Purdue. Northwestern had two fumbled punts (losing one), a blocked field goal attempt and a badly missed field goal in the final minutes. Senior kicker Stefan Demos has struggled this year, going just 8-for-13 on field goal attempts and 15-for-18 on PATs. Coach Pat Fitzgerald doesn't see the need for a special-teams coordinator, but the third phase remains an area that must be upgraded.

Penn State's team leadership: This applies to Joe Paterno, his assistants and team captains Brett Brackett and Ollie Ogbu. After having a players-only meeting last Monday, Penn State played its worst game in recent memory and then had some finger-pointing in the postgame interviews, including this comment from running back Evan Royster: "I wish I could get in there and play every position and play with the desire some people don't have." Royster might want to worry about playing his own position better, and Penn State needs to take a long look in the mirror during a much-needed bye week.

Denard Robinson: Robinson did some good things against Michigan State, but you just can't throw interceptions, and the Michigan quarterback had three of them after throwing just one in his first five games. The sophomore showed some indecision on several passes, including one that Trenton Robinson picked off in the end zone. His desire to make big plays is tremendous, but Shoelace also must learn that it's OK to throw the ball away at times.

Indiana's pass rush: Coach Bill Lynch admitted Tuesday that the Hoosiers used more of a "controlled rush" against Ohio State to keep Terrelle Pryor from breaking contain, which makes sense. Except that Pryor wasn't 100 percent after his quad injury and picked apart a poor Hoosiers secondary with plenty of time to throw. Indiana has only seven sacks through the first five games and really misses Jammie Kirlew up front.