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What we learned from Week 2 in the Big Ten

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Tony Ding / Associated Press
Michigan QB Devin Gardner shook off a costly miscue to lead the Wolverines to a win on Saturday.

Here's what we learned from Saturday's Big Ten action:

1. Devin delivers

Michigan junior quarterback Devin Gardner had the best game of his career at an opportune time, leading the Wolverines to a 41-30 victory over Notre Dame.

Gardner wore No. 98 for the first time as an homage to former Michigan great Tom Harmon, and responded by throwing for 294 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Gardner also rushed for a career-high 82 yards and another score.

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Gardner's four TD passes tied a single-game school record, and he also tied a school record by accounting for five total TDs in a game.

He actually threw five TD passes -- but one was to Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt in the end zone on an ill-advised attempt to avoid a sack. But miscue aside, Gardner rose to the occasion.

Gardner was signed by former Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez and would've been a good fit for RichRod's spread offense. But unlike predecessor Denard Robinson, Gardner has the skill set to also fit nicely into current Michigan coordinator Al Borges' offense. Borges favors pro-style attacks, and Gardner has a strong arm and good size (6-feet-4, 210 pounds). His mobility is a weapon, too, as the Irish found out Saturday.

His favorite target was senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, who is stamping himself as a potential third-day NFL Draft prospect. Gallon lacks size (5-8, 184) and seemed to be ill-suited to a pro-style passing attack. But Gallon always has been jet quick and is becoming a well-rounded receiver. Gallon had eight catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, setting career-highs in yards and touchdowns. Indeed, he had only eight career receiving touchdowns coming into the game.

Gardner, Gallon and the rest of the Wolverines' offense get to go against much weaker teams in the next three games (Akron, Connecticut and Minnesota). That takes us into almost mid-October, and Gardner figures to continue to do the No. 98 proud.

2. Don't overlook Michigan's defense

It might sound strange considering Notre Dame had 410 total yards, scored 30 points and was 8-of-15 on third-down conversions, but Michigan's defense did a nice job against the Irish. Notre Dame was held to 96 yards rushing; the Wolverines held the Irish to 94 yards rushing last season, but that was with a veteran unit. Michigan's front seven has been rebuilt, and the Wolverines' ability to hold up against the run was a concern. Interestingly, Notre Dame attempted only 19 rushes, averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Notre Dame threw it 53 times. There's no question Michigan's offensive output helped Michigan's defense in that Notre Dame seemed to feel obligated to throw to stay in it. Still, holding Notre Dame to less than 100 yards on the ground was impressive, and Michigan's rush defense shouldn't get another real test until a game against Penn State on Oct. 12.

3. Miller out, Guiton stars

Ohio State lost starting QB Braxton Miller early in the first quarter to a knee injury, but the Buckeyes' offense still rolled behind backup Kenny Guiton in a 42-7 rout of San Diego State. The Buckeyes racked up 445 yards, with Guiton leading the team with 83 rushing yards (and a touchdown). He also threw for 152 yards and a TD. Meyer told reporters Miller could have returned to the game. "The things that make him dangerous are his wheels," Meyer said in his post-game news conference. "We all decided it was best not to (put him back in). I think there's a chance he'll be ready next week." The Buckeyes shouldn't really need Miller in the next two weeks (non-conference games against California and Florida A&M), but going against Wisconsin on Sept. 28 without Miller would be scary. If Guiton does indeed continue to play, watch the passing attack. While he threw for 152 yards, he completed 19 passes, for an average of only 5.4 yards per completion. Do the coaches trust him to throw downfield?

4. Defense is Michigan State's best offense

You know you have some offensive issues when a defensive end is your leading scorer after two games.

That's the case at Michigan State, where star-on-the-rise sophomore Shilique Calhoun scored twice on Saturday in a 21-6 victory over USF; that gives Calhoun three touchdowns this season.

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The Spartans managed only 265 yards on Saturday against a Bulls team that surrendered 53 points and 424 yards last week against McNeese State, an FCS program. Michigan State's passing attack was bad last season and it is even worse this season; the Spartans have thrown for 210 yards, including just 94 on Saturday.

Michigan State used two quarterbacks last week and went with three this week; none of them has been particularly effective. On Saturday, sophomore Connor Cook started (he tied for the team lead with nine carries against USF), and former starter Andrew Maxwell came on in relief. Redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connell saw his first game action. Going forward, O'Connell might be the best choice.

"It's very possible," co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said in a postgame news conference. "Obviously we'll evaluate the film and see where we go from here. I mean it's been our status quo since spring, trying to find who the guy is going to be (at quarterback). I don't know: Did you guys (media) see anybody jump out and light us on fire? It's something that we'll have to evaluate with the film. Bottom line is that's a possibility."

Michigan State has a "gimme" game next week against FCS member Youngstown State -- a solid FCS program but not one that is going to challenge Michigan State's tough defense -- but the Spartans travel to Notre Dame on Sept. 21. They better have some semblance of an offense for that one; they can't keep relying on Calhoun.

5. What has happened to Nathan Scheelhaase?

Is this really senior Nathan Scheelhaase quarterbacking Illinois? He threw for a career-high 416 yards and two TDs last week, but that was against FCS foe Southern Illinois. Saturday, Scheelhaase torched Cincinnati to the tune of 312 yards and four TDs as the Illini rolled 45-17 over what is supposed to be the second-best team in the AAC. It was only the third 300-yard game of his career. Credit new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, who has installed a more sophisticated passing attack and has helped Scheelhaase (who threw only four TDs passes last season) become a competent passer despite not having a star-studded receiving corps. Scheelhaase always had had good size (he's 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds) and athleticism, but his passing has held him back. The Illini also rushed for 210 yards, and if they can remain this balanced offensively for the rest of the season, they are going to do some damage in an offense-challenged league. Truthfully, the Illini likely won't remain this sharp offensively; they have Washington next week, the start of a tough stretch that probably sees them lose five times in six weeks. Still, they already have matched last season's win total and at least the offense has the potential to challenge opponents, something that didn't happen last season.

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6. Running wild

It wasn't really a surprise, but for the second week in a row, Wisconsin had three tailbacks reach the 100-yard mark. Senior starter James White (109 yards, one TD), backup Melvin Gordon (140 yards, one TD) and true freshman third-teamer Corey Clement (149 yards, two TDs) helped the Badgers put up 606 total yards and 48 points in a shutout of FCS program Tennessee Tech. Wisconsin rushed for 387 yards a week after running for 393 in a 45-0 shutout of Massachusetts. That's a whole lot of rushing yards and two shutouts in two games. It should get tougher next week for the Badgers when they travel to play Arizona State. In other words, don't expect another shutout and don't expect three guys to reach 100 yards against the Sun Devils, who feature highly regarded pro prospect Will Sutton in the middle of their defensive line.

7. Hey, I like this guy

Penn State junior wide receiver Allen Robinson has played six quarters of football with Nittany Lions true freshman QB Christian Hackenberg. In those six quarters, Robinson has 14 receptions for 262 yards and two TDs; he had seven catches for 129 yards and a TD in Penn State's 45-7 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Penn State was only 1-of-10 on third downs but still rolled up 574 total yards. Things should get tougher next week when UCF visits State College. The Knights possess one of the most athletic defenses Penn State will see all season, but they don't have a true standout corner. Robinson likes that.

8. Hoosiers overrun

It's only Week Two, but Indiana's bowl hopes still took a hit because the Hoosiers' defense -- as usual -- couldn't stop the opponent. IU's offense had 481 yards and scored 35 points, but IU's defense surrendered 515 yards and 41 points in a loss to Navy. The Midshipmen attempted only four passes, completing two, but ran for 444 yards. Indiana has eight home games this season and opens the season with five in a row at Memorial Stadium. But the defense again has shown it is rancid. IU's remaining two non-conference games are Bowling Green, which has hammered Tulsa and Kent State, and Missouri, which also is 2-0. IU will be able to move the ball on both, especially through the air, but there's no reason to think a defense that couldn't slow Indiana State last week in a win or Navy is all of a sudden going to turn it around. For IU to have any shot at a bowl, the defense must improve -- and IU has to win the next two. One positive from Saturday is that sophomore QB Nate Sudfeld -- who has a big arm, great size (6-5, 230) and some mobility -- threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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