Penn State is Big Ten’s best, but a long road awaits the Nittany Lions

If national rankings are a good indicator, the top of the Big Ten pecking order belongs to No. 6 Penn State. But if the Nittany Lions are to remain there, it wonâÄôt be easy. Yes, State is one of only two undefeated teams in the conference, sharing that spot with Northwestern. Sure, the Nittany Lions passed their first Big Ten test against Illinois with flying colors, cruising to a 38-24 win. True, theyâÄôre tops in the conference in total offense and rank behind only Ohio State in total defense. But Penn State will travel to Wisconsin on Oct. 11 to take on an 18th-ranked Badgers team that hasnâÄôt lost at Camp Randall Stadium since Nov. 12, 2005. Two weeks later, on Oct. 25, the Nittany Lions visit Ohio Stadium to battle No. 14 Ohio State, where the Buckeyes boast a 36-3 record in the past six seasons. So in addition to the teams chosen to finish first and second in the preseason Big Ten poll, two of the toughest stadiums in college football for visiting opponents stand in the way of Penn StateâÄôs first conference title since sharing it with Ohio State in 2005. The last time the Nittany Lions won the championship outright was 1994. Players of the Week After an unprecedented three straight weeks as Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Michigan State running back Javon Ringer is finally off the podium. This weekâÄôs offensive accolades went to Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher for his role in the WildcatsâÄô comeback win over Iowa on Saturday. Northwestern found itself trailing 17-3 late in the first half, but Bacher found wide receiver Rasheed Ward from a yard out with 17 seconds remaining in the second to narrow the deficit to 17-10 before the break. Bacher added two more touchdowns through the air to propel the Wildcats past the Hawkeyes 22-17. He finished the day 28-of-45 for 284 yards. On the other side of the ball, Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham was honored as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. His six tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles helped rally the Wolverines to the biggest comeback in Michigan Stadium history. Down 19-0 to then-No. 9 Wisconsin at the half, Michigan scored 27 unanswered and went on to top the Badgers 27-25. But perhaps the most impressive individual performance of the week came from Penn State kick returner and wide receiver Derrick Williams, earning him the Special Teams Player of the Week. Williams scored three straight Nittany Lions touchdowns. More impressive was the versatility he showed in scoring them. His first was a 21-yard reception; his second, a five yard rush; finally, a 94-yard kickoff return. Williams is the first Penn State player in the Joe Paterno era to record a receiving, rushing and kick return touchdown in a single game. He racked up a career-high 241 all-purpose yards in doing so.