Big Ten thumbs up-thumbs down for Week 6

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Kudos and criticism from last week's Big Ten games.

Note: most of the thumbs up go to players or units I haven't already recognized (helmet stickers, players of the week, etc.)

Thumbs up, Jared Odrick and Navorro Bowman -- Sure, it came against Eastern Illinois, but Odrick finally turned in a dominant performance. The Lions defensive tackle recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, including two sacks, and broke up a pass in Penn State's 52-3 win. Bowman has been brilliant since his return from a groin injury and had two tackles for loss and a 91-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

Thumbs down, Indiana's defensive line -- Facing a Virginia team that ranked 119th nationally in sacks allowed, Indiana failed to capitalize on a favorable matchup. The Hoosiers recorded only two sacks and allowed 47 points and 536 total yards in an embarrassing loss.

Thumbs up, Kevin Whaley -- Minnesota fans had been clamoring to see more of the redshirt freshman running back, and they got their wish against Purdue. Whaley sparked the run game with 79 rush yards and a touchdown on only eight carries (9.9 ypc).

Thumbs down, Michigan's linebackers and safeties -- A tight end should never get as open as Iowa's Tony Moeaki did on Saturday night, much less twice. Michigan failed to mark Moeaki and paid the price as he hauled in easy touchdown passes of 34 and 42 yards.

Thumbs up, Ross Homan -- One of several standout defenders for Ohio State against Wisconsin, Homan recorded a career-high 15 tackles, including two sacks, and had a forced fumble and a pass breakup. He surpassed his previous career high in tackles by five as Ohio State bent but didn't break.

Thumbs down, Illinois' coaching staff -- To fall behind 14-0 on your home field in a must-win game indicates a breakdown in preparation. To not score a first-half touchdown in four games against BCS opponents is the biggest indictment of this staff. Sure, the players deserve some blame as well, but talent is being wasted every time this team steps on the field.

Thumbs up, Jeremiha Hunter -- Hunter entered the season with less hype than fellow linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, but he has been the group's top playmaker. He recorded 12 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery against Michigan. Remember that Hunter recorded the all-important second field goal block in the opener against Northern Iowa.

Thumbs down, Northwestern's offensive line -- The Wildcats desperately wanted to spark their rushing attack against one of the nation's worst teams but failed. Despite 41 rushing attempts and numerous personnel groupings, the Wildcats couldn't break through against Miami (Ohio). A veteran-laden group should be performing much better.

Thumbs up, Sherrick McManis -- McManis is the biggest difference maker on Northwestern's defense, which has boosted its play the last two weeks. McManis recorded an interception, a forced fumble and two pass breakups against Miami (Ohio). I'm convinced if he had been healthy against Syracuse, NU would have won the game.

Thumbs down, Purdue's special teams -- For the second straight week, the third phase really let down the Boilers, who had a field-goal attempt blocked and returned to the end zone. Given that Purdue actually has a special teams coordinator in J.B. Gibboney, the Boilers should be performing much better in this area.

And one more ...

Thumbs up, Pat Narduzzi -- The Michigan State defensive coordinator has turned things around nicely the last two weeks. Michigan State recorded six sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown against Illinois. Aside from the final five minutes of regulation against Michigan, the defense has been superb since the Wisconsin game.