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Big Ten Top Performers: Week 5

Find out the top performers in the Big Ten this week.

Iowa v Michigan State Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Recap of the week that was: Michigan and Purdue had the week off. Rest In Peace former Purdue head coach Joe Tiller. Illinois was ineffective on offense on Friday night against Nebraska. Wisconsin toppled Northwestern at Camp Randall. Underdog Maryland went to Minneapolis and beat the Golden Gophers behind their fourth string quarterback. Penn State clobbered Indiana. Michigan State fought off Iowa in a narrow victory in East Lansing. Ohio State followed up 2016’s 58-0 win over Rutgers with a 56-0 win over Rutgers last night.

Big Ten Top Performers

Nebraska QB Tanner Lee and his offensive line

Nebraska was facing a lot of pressure leading up to this game. No player in the Big Ten was feeling the heat more than quarterback Tanner Lee. Against the Illinois Fighting Illini in Champaign, Lee completed 17 of 24 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers and no interceptions.

He was comfortable all game long after throwing nine interceptions in his previous four games. Nebraska can breathe a sign of relief — for now. Up next is a massive home game on Saturday against Wisconsin. The winner of that game has a huge leg up on a Big Ten West title. It also presents a job-saving opportunity for embattled Huskers coach Mike Riley.

Wisconsin run defense

Not exactly a particular player, but Wisconsin punched Northwestern in the mouth in the second half and did not let up. Northwestern was up 10-7 at halftime before Wisconsin shut the Wildcats down, starting with its defense. The Badgers held one of the best running backs in Big Ten history in Justin Jackson to just 25 yards on 9 attempts.

Props, too, goes out to Badgers safety Natrell Jamerson. Jamerson’s pick-six early in the fourth quarter turned out to be a critical score. Northwestern mounted a bit of a comeback late in the game. Without the pick-six, this game could have gone to overtime.

Maryland QB Max Bortenschlager

The Maryland Terrapins were down to their fourth string quarterback, Max Bortenschlager. The former two-star recruit from Indianapolis held no Power 5 offers aside from Maryland. After waiting his turn and some unfortunate injury issues to those ahead of him on the depth chart, Bortenschlager impressed in a true road test at Minnesota.

In what was arguably the best game of the day, Bortenschlager made all of the plays when his team needed them the most. The Terps were big-time underdogs to Minnesota. Maryland continues to be a program on the rise, and this win was an emphatic statement for coach D.J. Durkin and his players.

Penn State RB/KR Saquon Barkley and WR DaeSean Hamilton

We might as well permanently put Saquon Barkley on this list every week. Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown:

It’s a risky move for coach James Franklin to play his best player on special teams. That gamble paid off from the opening seconds of Penn State’s beatdown over Indiana. The current Heisman Trophy favorite had a touchdown pass in this game, adding insult to Hoosier injury.

Barkley and his quarterback Trace McSorley get a ton of credit, as they should. Let’s not forget that those two are surrounded by plenty of weapons on the outside. Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton caught nine passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns, and he was unstoppable against the Hoosiers.

Right now Penn State is the top team in the conference. They head to Evanston to play Northwestern next week.

Michigan State WR Felton Davis III

The junior from Virginia had the best game of his career at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes. We live in a time when even the most die-hard, know-it-all football fans do not know what is and what is not a catch.

Feast your eyes on this jump ball catch. A thing of beauty:

That was an NFL-level catch. Davis snatches the ball over two defenders, out-jumping both of them. Both Iowa’s and Michigan State’s defenses played pretty well in this game. Davis’ performance led the way for the winning Spartans. He finished with nine catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Ohio State RB Mike Weber

Last season the Ohio State Buckeyes trounced Rutgers 58-0 in Columbus. Then-redshirt freshman Mike Weber ran for 144 yards and one touchdown in that game. This year Weber ran for just 44 yards on 10 carries against the Scarlet Knights, but he scored three touchdowns in the first half. Ohio State beat Rutgers 56-0 this time around.

This was an important game for Weber. Prior to this game Weber was looking like he was fading out of favor with injuries and with the standout performances of true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. After last night there is no doubt; Weber is absolutely part of Ohio State’s plans this season as long as he’s healthy.

Ohio State plays smashmouth football. They wear opponents down with their run-game and physically dominate at the point of attack, occasionally mixing in some screen passes or short routes to their other-worldly speedsters. The Buckeyes host Maryland next weekend.