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What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 4

Five lessons from the final week of nonconference play in the Big Ten.

1. There's a lot to prove in Big Ten play: Four weeks of nonconference games still leave many unanswered questions about most of the Big Ten. One team (Wisconsin) has looked consistently dominant, albeit against shaky competition, while two squads (Indiana and Minnesota) are fighting for space in the Big Ten basement. Every other team has been tough to figure out. Michigan and Illinois are 4-0 but flawed, and Nebraska hasn't been as consistently dominant as many expected. Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State all have their pluses -- and their areas to fix. Bottom line: Big Ten play can't get here soon enough, and several proving-ground games arrive in Week 5.

2. Michigan can lean on its defense more this year: It's not a finished product -- Brady Hoke will be the first to admit as much -- but the Wolverines' defense is making important strides. San Diego State came to Ann Arbor averaging 38 points a game, but Michigan held the Aztecs to seven. Defensive end Craig Roh led a strong performance from the front seven, which prevented Ronnie Hillman from really hurting the Wolverines. Michigan forced three turnovers and recorded the big stops when it needed them. While the secondary still has some holes and will struggle against a more polished passer, Michigan can rely more on a unit that repeatedly let it down the past three seasons.

3. Ohio State isn't dead yet: It was easy to count out the Buckeyes after their awful performance against Miami last weekend. But reports of the program's demise may have been premature, judging by Saturday's 37-17 win over Colorado. Quarterback was the main issue for the offense, and while Braxton Miller was far from perfect, the freshman's dual-threat ability breathed new life into a stale attack. Miller is going to get better and more confident as the season goes along, and Ohio State's defense is a constant. The Buckeyes will see much better teams than the Buffaloes, beginning this week against Michigan State. But they will also get four key suspended players back in two weeks. Dismiss Ohio State's Big Ten chances at your own risk.

4. Penn State clicking with Matt McGloin: Rob Bolden might have more talent and support among Penn State fans, but Matthew McGloin is showing that he deserves to be on the field, too. The Nittany Lions' offense just seems to run better with McGloin at the controls. Although Bolden didn't play poorly against Eastern Michigan, McGloin carried the day, completing 14 of 17 passes for 220 and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His chemistry with top wideout Derek Moye (6 catches, 65 yards, 2 touchdowns) is obvious. McGloin's performance doesn't add much clarity to Penn State's quarterback competition, but he gives the Lions a much-needed spark.

5. Long way up for Gophers, Hoosiers: Minnesota and Indiana each got their first wins of the season in Week 3. But this week brought some serious backsliding for both. Minnesota lost at home to North Dakota State -- a good FCS team, to be sure, but still an FCS team. The Gophers still have major problems with their pass defense and are getting inconsistent play from the offensive backfield. The Hoosiers went on the road and fell behind winless North Texas 24-0 before mounting a fourth-quarter rally that fell short. Indiana's offense, which had started to find a rhythm against Virginia and South Carolina State, stalled in Denton while not producing a touchdown until the fourth quarter. First-year coaches Jerry Kill and Kevin Wilson will have to work some magic to get their teams ready to compete in Big Ten play.