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No time for breathers heading into Week 8 in the Big Ten

The test administered by a rested, prepared opponent inside one of the most hostile venues in the country was passed.

Ohio State's reward? A chance to face another conference foe coming off a bye with a White Out scheduled inside perhaps the Big Ten's most raucous stadium.

There are no breathers in the middle of the league schedule, and that doesn't just go for the Buckeyes when Week 8 kicks off for them at Penn State. The other half of Saturday's thriller at Camp Randall must regroup and refocus in a hurry as well, with Wisconsin now facing what amounts to a single-elimination tournament for the rest of the season as it tries to scratch back into the West Division race.

The Badgers got no favors from the schedule-maker by drawing both Michigan and Ohio State, and losses to those East powerhouses have put them in a hole on their half of the conference. But they won't need all that much help if they can handle their own business down the stretch, starting with a challenging road trip as Paul Chryst takes his team to Iowa.

That same sadistic schedule-maker also made life challenging for the Buckeyes on the heels of the battle at Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions had their feet up on the couch watching their next opponent work overtime in a classic Big Ten slugfest, and now Urban Meyer will have to get his team ready for another team that had the benefit of extra scouting, bonus time to add wrinkles to the playbook, and the chance to get healthy.

Don't expect any complaints from the Buckeyes or Badgers, though. It's that time of year in the Big Ten -- they can catch their breath in the offseason.

Fun's over: Whether he was announcing homecoming queens or working the chains on the sideline, Jim Harbaugh certainly seemed to enjoy his bye-week, high-school barnstorming tour. But now it's time to get back to campus and back to work for the Michigan coach, and while Illinois might not present that great of a challenge, his team is under the microscope every week and he'll be tasked with keeping it focused.

As the buzz continues to build for a potentially epic edition of The Game next month, and the College Football Playoff conversation grows louder, Harbaugh will need to start managing those potential distractions that really weren't around last year. In the shorter term, even with Michigan State struggling, a rivalry game is on deck and the Wolverines will also surely want some revenge from last season's fluky finish. After unwinding for a bit, expect Harbaugh to return to his laser focus quickly.

Bowl patrol: The Buckeyes obviously have their sights up a little higher, but their win over the Badgers did technically earn them bowl eligibility. Along similar lines, the current leaders in the West have punched a postseason ticket as well with Nebraska now 6-0 at the midway point of its schedule.

So, who's next? Iowa is one win away from that magical milestone, and a victory this week would also serve notice that it's still a threat to win the West -- while effectively knocking Wisconsin out of the race. Nobody else in the league can get win No. 6 on Saturday, but a few teams could take huge steps toward an extra game by taking care of business this weekend: Minnesota, Northwestern and Indiana.

The Gophers will be significant favorites at home against Rutgers, which would leave Tracy Claeys in search of only one more victory with Illinois and Purdue both still left on the schedule. And with both the Wildcats and Hoosiers currently sporting .500 records, the victor on Saturday in that matchup at Ryan Field will feel much better about its chances.

No pressure: Maybe getting that coveted shot to lead a program would be better if it wasn't coming in the middle of the season after a performance that got the full-time coach fired. Or if it wasn't on the road. Or against the undefeated leaders in the division.

But, hey, what does Gerad Parker have to lose as he takes over Purdue on an interim basis this week against Nebraska? The Boilermakers have surely already seen the bottom of the barrel during Darrell Hazell's disastrous tenure, so if Parker doesn't work wonders, no harm done.

So why not pull out all the stops? The least Parker could do is help spice up a game with the Huskers that shapes up as a massive mismatch on paper.