There were some big games in the Big Ten this past Saturday. Here's a look at what happened.
Hawkeyes: (4-4, 2-2)The offensive woes for Iowa continues on Saturday. Mark Weisman came back for the Hawkeyes but was unable to make it through the first half having gained only 21 yards. Damon Bullock did step in and have a nice day, rushing for 107 yards. However, quarterback James Vandenberg was unable make much hay through the air. Iowa tried to do to the Wildcats what the Huskers did the week before but their rally fell short after turning the ball over on downs with just under two minutes remaining. This has turned into a disappointing season for the Hawkeyes who now have to find a way to get bowl eligible, something that won’t be easy with a trip to a surging Indiana team on Saturday. Things aren’t pretty now, but wait and see what happens if Indiana pulls off that win.
Wildcats: (7-2, 3-2) The Wildcats rebounded nicely from a heartbreaking loss the week before to Nebraska. Colter returned to the quarterback spot, carrying the majority of the burden under center again. Northwestern pounded Iowa for 349 yards rushing and passing efficiently on only 10 attempts. Colter accounted for all four Wildcat touchdowns, running for three and passing for another. The defese was able to keep Iowa at bay and off the scoreboard for the most part until the Hawkeyes mounted a bit of a rally that unlike the week before, fell short. The Wildcats still lead the way in the conference with seven wins among eligible teams. With both of their losses coming in conference play, it’s going to be tough to make it to Indianapolis. They will likely need to win the rest of their games AND have Nebraska lose twice. Having to travel to the two Michigan schools will make that a daunting task.
Hoosiers: (3-5, 1-3) So, Indiana snapped their 11 game Big Ten losing streak and still control their own destiny in terms of winning the Leaders East divison. Huh? It’s true. With three conference losses already, it’s unlikely, but they still face Wisconsin, who has two conferences losses, and Purdue who has yet to win a Big Ten game. If they can win those two and split their games with Iowa and Penn St., it’s not as crazy a it sounds. Wisconsin still has games vs. Ohio State and at Penn State. Husker or Wolverine fans would be just fine with showing up in Indianapolis and seeing the Hoosiers on the other sideline. The IU offense has come alive at just the right time scoring 30 or more points 5 times this season and two of the other times they got to 27 and 29. History would suggest the Hoosiers probably won’t win 3 of their next 4, but crazier things have happened.
Illini: (2-6, 0-4) Illinois just isn’t very good. Not much more to say than that. Their talent suggests they should be better than they are but a new coaching staff struggling to instill their new systems have not taken hold and injuries to some keyplayers have sabbotaged their efforts to turn this into a respectible season in the process. The Illini have only recorded wins over Western Michigan and Charleston Southern and haven’t come within 14 points in any of their other games this year. The Illini have home games vs. Minnesota and Purdue remaining, but Illinois fans can’t have much hope they’ll win even one of those games at this point. Disappointing season all the way around in Champaign.
Boilermakers: (3-5, 0-4) The season has now competely come off the rails for the Boilermakers. That inspiring effort in South Bend is looking more like mirage than it is reality. The quarterback position continues to be one of uncertainty as Caleb TerBush was pulled for Robert Marve in the third quarterback after throwing a pick six. This was a position that Purdue needed to be steady and produce for them if they were going to make anything of this season. With the continual game of musical chairs under center, that makes it difficult for any sort of continuity to build on the offensive side of the ball. Danny Hope’s seat is just a tad warm.
Gophers: (5-3, 1-3) Man, it’s going to be tough for the Gophers to score points now that MarQueis Gray is no longer under center, right? Well, not so fast. I know they weren’t playing Michigan State’s defense, but freshman quarterback Philip Nelson didn’t look like the quarterback making only his second career start. He threw for three touchdowns and 246 yards. The Gophers threw a fairly balanced attack at Purdue by also rushing for 212 yards. The Gophers are a win shy of bowl eligibility with Illinois remaining on their schedule along with Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State. Looking good for the Gophers. If they can come up with an upset in either of the other three games, it could be a banner year for Minnesota. Pretty impressive turnaround under coach Kill.
Michigan State: 16
Wisconsin: 13 (OT)
Spartans: (5-4, 2-3) Make no mistake, this defense is the real deal. And this may have been the game that Andrew Maxwell grew up. The Spartan offense had done little to nothing all day. However, when it mattered, Maxwell led the Spartans on a 12 play, 75 yard drive to score the game tying touchdown with just over a minute left. They found a way to score a touchdown in overtime after the Badgers had to settle for a field goal. The defense was dominant. They held the dynamic Wisconsin running back tandem in check all day holding them to just 19 yards rushing. The Spartans also found a way to knock out Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave. This was an impressive effort from the Spartans who basically have seen all their goals disappear. They have another challenge at home on Saturday when the Huskers come to town. This will likely be the best offense the Spartans have faced all year. How will they embrace the role of season wrecker? They’ll need to find some points from somewhere.
Badgers: (6-3, 3-2) This was a really tough loss for the Badgers to take. They led nearly the whole game but gave up another lead late. This loss was also painful because quarterback Joel Stave’s season is over after taking a viscious hit from MSU’s William Gholston which ended up breaking his collar bone. The Badgers will have to now turn back to Danny O’Brien to lead the the rest of the way as they try to hold on to their lead in the Leaders East division race. The potent Wisconsin running game was also halted , only able to run for 19 yards on the day. NINETEEN! That’s not going to get it done. That said, they’re not going to be facing a defense resembling anything like what they saw with the Spartans.
Ohio State: 35
Penn State: 23
Buckeyes: (9-0, 5-0) This game was billed as potentially the game of the year in the Big Ten, and for a half it was. But Ohio State put an end to that with a 21 point third quarter. Braxton Miller once again showed why he’s the most dynamic player in the conference. Miller accounted for four touchdowns, three on the ground and one through the air, but it was his touchdown in the third quarter that had everyone buzzing, despite it only being for one yard, showing remarkable savvy pulling the ball out of the belly of his running back just as he was about to be swarmed under. He wiggled around that defender and two others leaping his way on into the endzone. Not many players in this league or any other league can make that play, but Miller did and my description of it doesn’t nearly do it justice. He’s what takes Ohio State from good to great and should lead any Heisman conversations stating the season in 2013.
Nittany Lions: (5-3, 3-1) Penn St. stood toe-to-toe with Ohio State for a half, but couldn’t hold the Buckeyes out of the endzone in what was a decisive third quarter. McGloin had another big day, throwing for 327 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but the Nittany Lions couldn’t get anything giong on the ground, ruhing for only 32 yards. It had been a nice little run after a shaky start for Penn St.’s season and it should continue with Purdue, Indiana and Wisconsin plus a trip to Lincoln remaining on the schedule. Eight wins for Penn St. would be quite an accomplishment considering everything that program has been through the past year or so.
Wolverines: (5-3, 3-1) Michigan took their first loss of conference play in Lincoln on Saturday. Michigan has lost, and not looked good, vs. three of college football’s blue bloods: Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska. To add injury to insult, star quarterback, Denard Robinson also had to miss much of the game after exiting with a hand injury in the second quarter. Once the Wolverines had to turn to Russell Bellomy, it was game over as Nebraska played in the Michigan backfield much of the rest of the way. The Wolverine defense was stout again, holding down an explosive Nebraska offense to a season low 23 points, which isn’t much solace for the Wolverines.
Huskers: (6-2, 3-1) Nebraska’s defense was swarming all night as they shut down the Wolverines on a chilly night in Lincoln, and that was even before Robinson went out for the game. Taylor Martinez had a solid, though unspectacular game, but did more than enough on a night that was difficult for both offenses. Michigan did a nice job of slowing down the Huskers for most of the game, but the Huskers were able to wear down the Wolverine defense and started getting yards in chunks in the fourth quarter. Running back Ameer Abdullah fan for 101 yards for the second straight game and eclipsed the century mark for the fourth time this season. The Huskers were able finally to hold on to a couple of interceptions, three to be exact but their inability to avoid penalties is concerning. It could come back to bit them somewhere down the stretch. The Huskers have now completed their revenge tour and look to avoid a similar fate next week as they head to East Lansing vs. a defense that will be as stout as any they’ve faced all year.
Ranking the B1G:
- Ohio State (2): Head and shoulders above the rest of the league right now. Braxton Miller is as exciting of a player to watch as there is in college football right now.
- Nebraska (4): Huskers now in control in the Legends West division, but face a stiff test vs. Sparty on Saturday.
- Penn State (1): Nice little run by the Nittany Lions, they just ran into a buzz saw on Saturday.
- Michigan (3): Wolverines not going anywhere of Robinson isn’t healthy. The defense should keep them in every game, though. Expect Bellomy to be better prepared to go in the game the rest of the way.
- Northwestern (6): Solid rebound from a tough loss last week. Haven’t quite learned how to knock an opponent completely out, yet though.
- Michigan State (8): Not many defenses better in the country. Not many offenses worse. The name a winner based on points scored, not going to shut out every opponent.
- Wisconsin (5): Losing Stave is a tough break for the Badgers, will O’Brien be better this time around?
- Minnesota (10): Offensive explosion wasn’t expected after moving Gray to WR. Turns out it may have been a good decision.
- Indiana (11): That offense can be potent, but need every game to turn into a shoot out if they’re going to win.
- Iowa (7): Really struggling on offense. Tough to see Ferentz in Iowa City much past Thanksgiving weekend.
- Purdue (9): Really disappointing season after a good start to the season.
- Illinois (12): Not much going right for Illinois right now.
Player of the Week: Kain Colter. Colter ran wild on the Hawkeyes on Saturday, accounting for all four Wildcat touchdowns after moving back to the QB spot after spending some time out at wide reciever. It proved to be a good decision this week as things just seem to work when Colter is running the show.