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Big Ten November superlatives

The most important month of the season is complete, and unless the Big Ten schedules a surprise game tonight, the curtain has closed for November.

Let's take a quick look back.

Team of the month -- Ohio State

The Buckeyes entered the month as a near afterthought in the Big Ten title race. They finished it as Big Ten champs for the fifth consecutive season. Ohio State notched two victories against top 15 opponents (Iowa and Penn State) and beat arch-rival Michigan for the sixth consecutive time. The no-names defense certainly made a name for itself with a near shutout at Beaver Stadium and big plays in all three victories. Northwestern deserves an honorable mention for two wins against ranked teams (Iowa and Wisconsin).

Offensive MVP -- Purdue QB Joey Elliott

Elliott made the most of his final month at Purdue, leading the Boilers to two victories and nearly a third against Michigan State. He racked up 945 pass yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions in three games. Elliott also added a rushing touchdown in Purdue's first victory at Michigan since 1966. Honorable mentions go to Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka and Wisconsin running back John Clay.

Defensive MVP -- Penn State LB Navorro Bowman

Bowman showed why he's one of the nation's best linebackers in November, twice earning Big Ten defensive player of the week honors. He recorded 31 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and had an interception return for a touchdown that pushed Penn State past Indiana on Nov. 14. Honorable mentions go to Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and Bowman's teammate, Sean Lee.

Surprise team -- Northwestern

The Wildcats entered November with their starting quarterback banged up and their bowl hopes very much in doubt. But they surged down the stretch, rallying to beat Iowa and finishing things off with wins against both Illinois and Wisconsin. Defensive end Corey Wootton finally showed up in a big way, and Kafka showed why he's one of the league's most valuable players.

Biggest disappointment -- Michigan

For the second straight month, the Wolverines fell flat, and it cost them a bowl trip. Michigan blew a 14-point halftime lead against Purdue, fell apart on defense at Wisconsin and saw freshman quarterback Tate Forcier commit five turnovers against Ohio State. The team simply didn't develop after a perfect September. Indiana also fits into this category after a winless November.

Hard-luck player -- Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi

Stanzi's wild junior season took an unfortunate turn on Nov. 7, as he suffered a severe ankle sprain against Northwestern while being sacked in the end zone. The play proved to be a turning point in the game, as Northwestern rallied to hand Iowa its only loss. The Hawkeyes lost again without Stanzi the next week against Ohio State. Fortunately, Stanzi is expected back for Iowa's bowl game.

Best game -- Iowa at Ohio State

A lot of us didn't feel it was a great game in the immediate aftermath because of conservative decisions by both head coaches. But in looking back, the pseudo Big Ten championship game provided plenty of memorable moments. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg played valiantly in his first career start, and Ohio State running backs Brandon Saine and Dan Herron rose to the occasion. Honorable mentions go to the Northwestern-Wisconsin game on Nov. 21 and the Purdue-Michigan game on Nov. 7.