Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Here's a glance at what happened in the Big Ten this week.
Badgers (7-3, 4-2) It’s full speed ahead for Wisconsin. While everyone was talking aboutIndiana pulling off the upset on their way to Indianapolis, the Badgers were using their bye week to sort out their quarterback mess. They may or may not have done that as they didn’t ask Coffman to do too much, only throwing the ball seven times. With the Hoosiers complete inability to shut down Montee Ball and James White each eclipsed the 100 yard mark on the ground. Ball fell two yards short of 200 and the Badgers were four yards Melvin Gordon from having three rushers over 100 yards. As a team, they ran for 564 (!). No need to pass when they can’t stop the run. Wisconsin will face stiffer tests from here on out as they face OSU, Penn St. and either Nebraska or Michigan in the Big Ten title game, but the significant improvements in the running game bodes well as they’ll play for their third straight Big Ten title.
Hoosiers: (4-6, 2-4) Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, this season has been a step forward for Indiana football. It would have been a terrific story for them to have been able to pull out this game at home and push towards an improbable Big Ten title game berth, but alas, it was not meant to be. The Hoosiers had no answer for Wisconsin’s running game and were never able to get anything going offensively either. Indiana now faces a tough challenge as they finish with two road games at Penn St. and Purdue. It would still be a terrific story if IU can win them both and go bowling for the first time since 2007.
Michigan: 38 (OT)
Wildcats: (7-3, 3-3) Yet another gut-punching loss for the Wildcats. They had this one well withing their grasp, taking the lead with just under four minutes to play, but they gave up a rather miraculous long pass reception to Roy Roundtree that the Northwestern safety got his hands on, to set up the game tying field goal sending the game into overtime. The Wildcats were not able to score in their OT possession and the Wolverines pulled off another late comebacks vs. the Wildcats. In what could have been a special year, the Northwestern faithful are left asking "what could have been"?
Wolverines: (7-3, 5-1) Michigan was playing from behind nearly the entire day and needed a miracle pass from Devin Gardner to Roy Roundtree in the final seconds of the game to set up a game tying field goal to send the game into overtime. From there, the Wolverines were able to punch in a touchdown on a Gardner boot-leg run and held the Wildcats on fourth down to seal the win. The Wolverines got another big game from Gardner in Robinson’s absence. Gardner passed for 286 yards, ran for 47 more and accounted for four touchdowns, two by land, to by air. The win also kept the Wolverines on Nebraska’s heels should the Huskers slip up anywhere along the way. Michigan however, does have a considerably more difficult schedule down the stretch facing Iowa before facing Ohio St. at the horseshoe.
Gophers: (6-4, 2-4) The Gophers are going to a bowl! With Indiana out of the picture, this might be the best story in the conference. This program was in disarray when Jerry Kill took over not long ago and now, they are going to participate in the post-season, and frankly, not many people expected that when Minnesota’s coaches made the decision to move MarQueis Gray to wide reciever, but they’ve found a way to do that. But let’s not kid ourselves, this was a game only a mother could love. One not great team vs. a bad one. Sometimes they lead to competitive games, but this one was just ugly. Regardless, congrats to the Gophers.
Illinois: (2-8, 0-6) Illinois is not going to a bowl. We’ve known this for a while. They’re not good (being kind) in any particular statistical category and their win total reflects that. There’s not much to say about this team that hasn’t been said already. They couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t stop it either. That’s not going to get the job done.
Boilermakers: (4-6, 1-5) Just when you thought Purdue was down for the count, they rise up and stun the Hawkeyes and keep their bowl hopes alive. Purdue was actually in full control late in the third quarter after Gary Bush snagged a Robert Marve pass for a touchdown to take a ten point lead. But they gave it up and Iowa forged its way back into a tie with 3:32 left. Marve led the Boilermakers into position for a game winning 46 yard field goal that kicker Paul Griggs nailed as time expired. The seat is still hot for coach Danny Hope, but with games vs. Illinois and Indiana remaining on the schedule, that bowl trip is within their grasp once again. Considering the five games leading up to this one, that’s a pretty remarkable feat.
Hawkeyes: (4-6, 2-4) Technically, all is not lost yet for Iowa. But it’s pretty close. The Hawkeyes had battled back from ten down. A Micah Hyde fumble return for a touchdown and a Mike Meyer field goal with 3:32 left to tie it brought hope back to Iowa City if only for a moment. The Hawkeyes could not prevent Purdue from driving down for the game winning field goal. The debate rages on whether or not the seat is hot for Kirk Ferentz as the figures of his buyout have become a popular topic of discussion. Whether or not the seat is actually hot, (I happen to believe it is) the pressure for him to get things figured out and soon is certainly real. With games vs. Michigan and Nebraska remaining on their schedule, it’s difficult to see those answers presenting themselves this year.
Penn State: 23
Nittany Lions: (6-4, 4-2) Penn State isn’t going to forget this one anytime soon. PSU followed their script almost to the letter in the first half. They scored on their first drive and were poised to do that again on their second if not for a Zach Zwinak fumble . None-the-less, the Nittany Lions mounted a 20-6 halftime lead, hoping the Huskers late game comeback magic had run out. It didn’t. All the talk from this game has been and will continue to be the controversial call as Penn St.’s Matt Lehman was ruled to have fumbled the ball into the endzone where the Huskers recovered. The officials declined to change the ruling on the field after a review. Penn St. players did not mince their words afterwords, but regardless, the outcome of the game swung in Nebraska’s favor and Penn St. is hung with a demoralizing loss on the road.
Huskers: (8-2, 5-1) As it turns out, the magic hasn’t run out for this team. The Huskers tied the game in a hurry in the third quarter after trailing at halftime 20-6. The Huskers wore down Penn State with a powerful rushing attack, led by Ameer Abdullah and Taylor Martinez. A steady diet of pitch sweeps were too much for Penn St. to handle in the end as the Huskers rushed for 267 yards on the day. The Huskers got a little good fortune as well as a call ruled a fumble as Penn St. was going into the endzone to retake the lead was upheld. The Huskers didn’t turn that directly into points, but it did ultimately swing the game in Nebraska’s favor who continue to firmly control their fate in their pursuit of a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth. The Huskers need to not lose their focus down the stretch as, on paper, they face a much easier path than the Wolverines. Everything is there for the taking for NU, they just need to take it.
Ohio State: Bye
Michigan State: Bye
Ranking the B1G:
- Ohio State (1): A bye week before they finish out their quest for an undefeated season. Would have been interesting to see where this team fits into the national landscape.
- Nebraska (2): Husker magic lives in Lincoln. NU has now come back from deficites of 17, 14, 12 and 10, all in the second half of games this year.
- Michigan (4): Gardner had another big game as Robinson sat again. Quarterback controversy? No. Spectacular insurance policy? Absolutely.
- Wisconsin (6): For all the struggles this team faced early in the season, they’re rolling right now. 564 rushing yards will do that for a team. They’ve punched their ticket to Indy.
- Northwestern (5): Struggling to finish off teams. Have now give up three fourth quarter leads. They’ve only lost three games.
- Penn State (3): Controversy in Lincoln has some Penn Staters feeling slighted, but Coach O’Brien is right, this is a special team with all they’ve been through. Tough pill to swallow on Saturday, though.
- Michigan State (7): Probably not an easy week of practice in East Lansing.
- Minnesota (9): Any bowl for this program is progress. Good for the Gophers.
- Indiana (8): Well, now that bubble is burst, can they find away to get back on the horse and into a bowl game? Gonna be tough going up what will surely be a surly bunch in Happy Valley.
- Purdue (11): Boilermakers found enough to win on Saturday. Can they find enough to win the last two and sneak into a bowl?
- Iowa (10): Not much has gone right for this crew with perhaps their toughest two games of the season before them. Hawks staring at a 4 win season square in the eyes.
- Illinois (12): Perhaps just saw their best chance for one more win disappear. Purdue will have bowl season in their sights on Saturday.
Player of the Week: Devin Gardner. It was only the season that hung in the balance for Michigan and Gardner stepped in with little notice after Robinson went down with injury in the Nebraska game and played very well. It’s not a quarterback controversy, but he has played at a very high level. On Saturday, he was 16/29 for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two td’s including the game winning score in overtime.
- With the shake up in the national title picture, Kansas State playing for a national title won’t sit well with Nebraska fans. Or will it? It’s been suprising to see just how many former Wildcat haters have been on the KSU bandwagon.
- Also, with that shakeup and Oregon also seemingly have the inside track to the title game, that opens up the distinct possibility that Notre Dame could find it’s way to the Rose Bowl. If Nebraska takes care of business, you know that’d be a tasty match-up in Pasadena. Get ready for the spotlight if that happens. If it’s KState/Oregon playing for the title, it might get more attention, or at least similar hype to the title game. Also, would need Oregon to jump the Wildcats for that to happen. The question is, however, what impact will the injuries the Ducks suffered on Saturday impact their quest for a title.
- Wisconsin seems to be getting things figured out at just the right time. If the Huskers find themselves in that game, it won’t be easy and Husker fans shouldn’t assume Michigan will lose to Ohio State, either. Rivalry games have a funny way of going contrary to convention. Nebraska needs to take Bo Pelini’s advice and win out. They certainly have the schedule to do that. Do they have the focus?