Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football.
1. Rich Rodriguez's offense might save his job: Rip on Michigan's defense all you want, but the Wolverines' offense deserves a lot of credit this season. Michigan overcame five turnovers to rack up 67 points, 676 offensive yards and 33 first downs against a good Illinois defense that entered Saturday ranked 12th nationally in points allowed (16.8 ppg) and 15th in yards allowed (301.4 ypg). Despite losing starting quarterback Denard Robinson to a head injury, Michigan kept rolling behind backup Tate Forcier. Wideout Roy Roundtree had a historic day with a team-record 246 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines needed every bit of offense to beat Illinois in triple overtime, but they're now bowl eligible and can breathe a little easier before a very winnable game at Purdue. Seven wins should ensure Rodriguez is back in 2011.
2. Matt McGloin is Penn State's quarterback: True freshman Rob Bolden might be the future, but McGloin is Penn State's best option to win games right now. The sophomore proved it Saturday against Northwestern, taking over for Bolden and leading five consecutive touchdown drives in less than 19 minutes. McGloin always has shown unique confidence, but he now also has evidence on the field to back it up. So what if he's a former walk-on and Bolden is an elite recruit? McGloin has the mojo going, and Penn State should ride it out after winning three consecutive Big Ten games.
3. Despite some speed bumps, the race is still on: Both Wisconsin and Iowa fell behind on the road Saturday before rallying for wins, while Michigan State handled Minnesota behind the running of Edwin Baker. Basically, nothing changed in the Big Ten title race as four teams remain atop the conference with one loss in league play. Wisconsin and especially Iowa need to be more polished in the coming weeks to hold their position, while Michigan State gets a much needed bye week. Watch out for Penn State and Michigan, two teams that became bowl eligible Saturday and can play spoiler down the stretch with games against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
4. Indiana still can't get over the hump: Big Ten games continue haunt Bill Lynch and the Hoosiers, who had every chance to record the biggest win in recent team history Saturday against Iowa. Indiana held Iowa out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter and still had a great chance in the final minute when Ben Chappell's fourth-down pass sailed to star receiver Damarlo Belcher in the end zone. Belcher couldn't hang on and Indiana fell short in another winnable conference game. Indiana needs to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible, and it's tough to see that happening.
5. Backfield depth could be the difference: You saw it throughout the Big Ten on Saturday. Wisconsin's Montee Ball stepped up in place of the injured James White and John Clay. Iowa true freshman Marcus Coker rushed for 129 yards in his first career start in place of the injured Adam Robinson. Senior Evan Royster has hit his stride for Penn State, but he's getting help from true freshman Silas Redd as well. Illinois' Jason Ford stepped up nicely for Mikel Leshoure for stretches at Michigan, while Michigan State has depth at running back but didn't need more than Edwin Baker against Minnesota. And arguably the biggest backfield boost Saturday came with the Wolverines, as Forcier relieved Robinson and led Michigan to victory.