Every Sunday, after a whirlwind autumn Saturday of college football, we'll be taking you around the Big Ten to keep tabs on the rest of the conference. As it fights as one for respectability in the non-conference, or as its power dynamics shift on a week-to-week basis in October and November, we'll follow the narrative to give you a better idea of where Northwestern fits into the 14-team puzzle.
Here are the top three storylines from Week 8:
1. Stave hurt in Badgers win
After losing starting quarterback Joel Stave to a head injury in the first quarter, Wisconsin needed Bart Houston to step up against an Illinois team that has been surprisingly pesky this year. Houston answered the call well enough, throwing for 232 yards and two touchdowns as well as two interceptions. The Badgers' normally-formidable running back corps didn't look great, but wide receiver Alex Erickson had four rushes for 81 yards as well as 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, helping rally the Badgers to victory. Wes Lunt threw for 278 yards in the loss.
2. Barrett starts, proves his worth
Ohio State breezed past Rutgers in J.T. Barrett's first start. And based on Barrett's performance, it looks like it's his job to keep. He threw for three touchdowns and added two more on the ground, and if he continues to play this well, the rest of the nation could be in trouble. Ohio State's defense was equally impressive, giving up only a garbage time touchdown in a 49-7 win. The Buckeyes held Rutgers star receiver Leonte Carroo to his fewest catches in a game this year.
3. Cook goes wild as Michigan State pulls away
Midway through the fourth, Indiana was down just five points to Michigan State. About five minutes of game time later, they had been doubled up, and the Spartans had moved to 8-0 with a 52-26 win. Connor Cook threw for 398 yards — three short of the school record — and four touchdowns as Sparty had no letdown following an emotional, improbable victory last week against Michigan.
- Interim Maryland head coach Mike Locksley couldn't rally his troops to victory against Penn State as Christian Hackenberg threw three touchdowns to keep the Terps winless in the Big Ten. Hackenberg found Chris Godwin, Daesean Hamilton and Geno Lewis for scores, and the Penn State defense picked off Perry Hills three times. Hills had 128 yards and a score on the ground, though, to keep the Terrapins in it, but his third pick of the day, down 31-30 late in the fourth, sealed it. Hackenberg became Penn State's all-time leader in completions and passing yards.
But in the end, it's Maryland and Penn State. It clearly wasn't that exciting...
(Byes: Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue)