JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Michigan State and Purdue are the new big shots in the Big Ten.
On a weekend when the Big Ten Conference took center stage, the 18th-ranked Spartans and 15th-ranked Boilermakers - who lost a combined 10 league games in 2002 - finished Saturday as the only unbeaten teams in conference play.
The third Saturday of October also saw all four unbeaten teams in action stay that way and Booby Bowden of Florida State tie Joe Paterno for the most wins among Division I-A coaches.
But the highlight of the day was a tripleheader featuring six of the seven ranked teams in the Big Ten.
Deandra Cobb had a 100-yard kickoff return in the final minute of the first half as Michigan State continued its surprising run with a 44-38 victory over No. 19 Minnesota.
Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) posted its fifth straight victory and is off to its best start since its famous 1966 season, when the Spartans went 9-0-1 and shared a national championship with Notre Dame.
Michigan State does have a major blemish on its ledger - a stunning 20-19 home loss to Louisiana Tech on September 13 in which it surrendered two touchdowns in the final 69 seconds.
Michigan State's Jeff Smoker completed 30-of-46 passes for 252 yards and no touchdowns. But the Spartans showed they could also run the ball as Jaren Hayes rushed for two touchdowns in the first 6 1/2 minutes and Jason Teague ripped off a 60-yard TD run that gave Michigan State a 44-24 lead.
After going 4-8 last season, Michigan State began this year with low expectations. But the Spartans have turned things around under first-year coach John L. Smith.
"I would say that we are contenders," Smith said. "We have a chance. We've played awfully good. This is the start of the climb. That is because everybody is contributing, offensively, defensively and on special teams."
Purdue (6-1, 3-0) had a tougher test and emerged with a 26-23 win over No. 12 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1).
Wisconsin had tied the game at 23-23 with 2:55 left when Jim Leonhard returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown.
But Kyle Orton, who threw for 411 yards, quickly moved the Boilermakers downfield and lofted a long pass down the right sideline. Williams glanced back and made a dazzling catch with Wisconsin cornerback Chuckie Cowans in hot pursuit.
"We were fortunate that we ended up with enough points at the end of the day to get out of here with a W," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "We consider ourselves very fortunate."
Orton completed 38-of-55 passes, including his first 15, and was not intercepted.
The Boilermakers' next game is at No. 17 Michigan (6-2), which routed Illinois, 56-14.
Purdue moved the ball far more effectively than eighth-ranked Ohio State, which escaped with a 19-10 win over No. 9 Iowa by scoring a pair of special teams touchdowns.
Michael Jenkins returned a punt 52 yards for a score and Donte Whitner recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for the Buckeyes (6-1).
The Buckeyes managed just 185 total yards and ran for just 56 yards on 42 attempts. Craig Krenzel was the leading rusher with 20 yards on 14 carries.
The Hawkeyes (5-2) managed their only TD on a run out of field goal formation by kicker Nate Kaeding.
"We always say that the punt is the most important play in football and it worked twice for us today," Krenzel said. "Anytime you get quick points like that it helps out."
Top-ranked Oklahoma (7-0) and No. 2 Miami (7-0) had no letdowns after big wins last week.
After routing Texas, Oklahoma coasted to a 34-13 win over Missouri behind two touchdown passes by Jason White and a 69-yard punt return for a score by Antonio Perkins.
No. 13 TCU (7-0) needed a 10-yard touchdown run by Lonta Hobbs early in the fourth quarter to escape with a 27-24 win over Alabama-Birmingham while No. 16 Northern Illinois (7-0) had no trouble in a 37-10 win over Western Michigan.
No. 3 Virginia Tech (6-0), the nation's only other unbeaten team, was off this week.
A few hours east of the Virginia Tech campus sits the University of Virginia, where Bowden pulled even with Paterno as the No. 7 Seminoles edged the Cavaliers, 19-14.
Bowden recorded his 338th career victory, tying Paterno for the most among Division I-A coaches. Penn State was off this weekend.
Xavier Beitia kicked field goals of 34, 38, 47 and 39 yards for the Seminoles (6-1), who scored their only touchdown on Chris Rix's 79-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Ellis just 3:19 into the contest.
The most entertaining game of the day was in the Big 12, where No. 24 Oklahoma State built a 27-point lead in the fourth quarter and survived a 51-49 shootout with No. 23 Texas Tech.
B.J. Symons of Texas Tech (5-2) threw for 552 yards and five touchdowns before his 67th and final pass was intercepted by Jon Holland.
No. 4 Southern California (6-1), which vaulted five spots in the latest poll, rolled past Notre Dame, 45-14, as Matt Leinart threw for 351 yards and four scores.
In other games, No. 5 Georgia (6-1) defeated Vanderbilt, 27-8; No. 6 Washington State (6-1) topped Stanford, 24-14; No. 10 Louisiana State (5-2) defeated South Carolina, 33-7; and No. 11 Arkansas (4-2) was surprised by Florida, 33-28.
It was the second straight road win over a ranked opponent for Florida, which beat LSU last week.
Also, No. 20 Texas (5-2) routed Iowa State, 40-19; No. 21 Oregon State (5-2) lost to Washington, 38-17; and No. 25 Auburn (5-2) topped Mississippi State, 45-3.
No. 22 Tennessee (4-2) also was off this week.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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