Big Ten stock report: Week 8

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Montee Ball's YAC: The Wisconsin running back said he focused on getting yards after contact last week after realizing that he wasn't getting the same big holes to run through. His YAC was anything but whack against Purdue, as Ball was credited by team officials with gaining 194 of his career-best 247 yards after getting hit. Ball has had an illustrious career, but that may have been his most impressive performance.

Nick VanHoose: The Northwestern cornerback had a tough game earlier this season against Indiana but came up with three pass breakups in the end zone to help preserve a 21-13 victory last week. That earned him Big Ten freshman of the week honors. "He's a dynamic athlete," Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "He brings athleticism. He brings explosiveness. He's fearless. He's physical." Fitzgerald says VanHoose reminds him of a young Sherrick McManis, who's now playing for the NFL's Chicago Bears.

Denard Robinson's ball security: We knocked Robinson's passing in a stock down item not too long ago. But since the Notre Dame debacle, Robinson has not turned the ball over in two games. He has also run the ball 35 times and thrown it 27 times in those two wins, indicating that Michigan is now playing more to his strengths.

Mike Meyer: Iowa wouldn't be 4-2 right now without a reliable kicker. Luckily, Meyer has been one of the most reliable in the nation. Only two players in the FBS have made more than his 14 field goals, and he has only one miss on the season, way back in the opener. "He had a great spring and a great August, and every week at practice, he just continues to perform," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I think we all have confidence in Mike right now. He's done such a good job." Meyer should be in the mix for the Lou Groza Award.

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Luke Fickell's popularity: The Ohio State defensive coordinator said Monday that he actually agreed with the pizza delivery guy who told his wife that the Buckeyes' defense needs to play better. Heck, anyone can see that after Ohio State allowed 49 points to Indiana. Urban Meyer is getting more involved in the defensive meetings, and more fans are critical of Fickell as the defense is serving up 400 yards per game. "If you can put more pressure on me than I put on myself, I don’t know how you could,” Fickell told reporters. “So the outside pressures, I don’t know, I don’t feel it. If they’re harder or stronger than what I put on myself, then maybe I should read about it.”

Gophers' future strength-of-schedule numbers: Minnesota announced Tuesday that it is backing out of a planned series with North Carolina and had added home games with Kent State and South Dakota State. The Gophers do not have a single nonconference game scheduled from 2013-2016 against a current BCS AQ team, and the toughest opponents include Colorado State, UNLV and Ohio (though there is one slot still to be filled in '13 and '14). These schedules should allow Minnesota to pile up wins and get close to bowl eligibility, but they sure won't do much to inspire bigger crowds at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers don't need to bash their heads in against teams like USC in the nonconference slate, but they should at least challenge themselves.

Purdue's run defense: In their first two Big Ten games, the Boilermakers have given up an alarming 771 combined rushing yards to Michigan and Wisconsin. Head coach Danny Hope said that the defense was lined up in the right spots against Michigan but just got beat by Robinson. Against Wisconsin, he said, the team made all kinds of mental errors and it "was the worst we've tackled around here in a long time." The Boilers better find some answers before going up against Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde on Saturday.

Michigan State's decision-making: The Spartans opted not to go for it on a pair of fourth-and-1s last week against Iowa, choosing a field goal from the Iowa 7 and punting from the Iowa 48. The Hawkeyes drove for a field goal after the punt, and of course, a potential four more points could have made all the difference in the overtime loss. And then there was the train wreck at the end of the first half, when a pass to the Iowa 32-yard line set up a potential long field goal try. Instead, mass confusion led to players and coaches shuffling on and off the field and no snap getting off before time expired. Hindsight is 20-20, and the fourth-down decisions were perfectly justifiable at the time. But when the offense is struggling like it is for the Spartans, scrutiny on every decision is heightened, and these were not popular with a frustrated fan base.