With its attention split between the scoreboard and the field, No. 7 Ohio State got three touchdown passes from Joe Germaine, two to David Boston, in a 31-3 win over Minnesota.
The Buckeyes (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) coasted to their fourth straight win while they watched No. 4 Michigan's blowout over No. 2 Penn State unfold. That raised the ante in one of the nation's nastiest grudge matches, which will take place Nov. 22 when Ohio State visits the hated Wolverines.
"I don't want to look ahead, but coming in two weeks, everything's going to be on the line," said safety Gary Berry, whose fumble recovery helped the Buckeyes to an early 10-0 lead.
The Buckeyes, co-champions with Northwestern last year, host Illinois next weekend and will play for at least a share of the title if they beat the Illini as expected.
"The only thing we're concentrating on now is winning out, and everything should fall into place," said receiver Dee Miller, who hurt a knee early in the game but returned to catch five passes for 80 yards.
Germaine, who rotates with starter Stanley Jackson, came off the bench to break open a close game in the second quarter with two TD passes as the Buckeyes took a 24-3 halftime lead.
Germaine finished 17-for-21 for 211 yards, while Boston had eight catches for 94 yards. Na'il Diggs had three of Ohio State's seven sacks.
After getting just one first down in the second half at Michigan in its last game, Minnesota (2-8, 0-6) had just two in the first half Saturday. The loss was the Golden Gophers' 14th straight against Ohio State and their 27th in their last 30 Big Ten games overall.
First-year Minnesota coach Glen Mason was livid after watching his team lose its seventh straight.
"I'm embarrassed the way we played," Mason said. "I honestly believe in my heart that we're capable of playing better than that. We've been on a long uphill battle against some stiff competition. We've been consistently getting better, and we took a major, major step back today."
Minnesota did have two records fall, though.
The Gophers had five sacks, including one by Big Ten leader Lamanzer Williams (14 1/2), to set a season record with 34. The previous mark of 30 was set in 1990.
Tutu Atwell also returned three kickoffs for 92 yards, giving him 735 kickoff return yards on the season. That surpassed the 715 by John Lewis in 1992.
Atwell finished with 237 all-purpose yards _ 90 on five punt returns _ but the Gophers did virtually nothing else against the Buckeyes, who have allowed only one touchdown in their last four games.
"We went backwards this week," Atwell said. "I don't know what the reason is."
Atwell's fumble after a 29-yard catch in the first quarter set up Ohio State's first score, a 9-yard run by Pepe Pearson. Berry, who scored on an interception return and a blocked punt at Michigan State last week, scooped up Luke Leverson's fumble four plays later. That led to Dan Stultz's 38-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Gophers capitalized on Matt Keller's fumble in the second quarter to close to 10-3 on Adam Bailey's 47-yard field goal. But Germaine found Boston for a 6-yard score on the next possession and then John Lumpkin for a 25-yard TD with 32 seconds left in the half to make it 24-3 just as the scoreboard flashed an update from State College, Pa.: Michigan 31, Penn State 0.
Germaine's 4-yard pass to Boston made it 31-3 early in the fourth and gave the Buckeyes time to let their minds wander to their looming trip to Ann Arbor.
"I'm not going say, 'Thanks, Michigan,' But I am glad they won," said defensive tackle Winfield Garnett, who had a sack and two other tackles for losses. "It's good for us. Everything will probably go down to that last game, like it should be."