The season is rapidly coming to a close. How did things play out on the field in the Big Ten this week? Here's what you need to know.
Michigan State: 20
Wildcats (8-3, 4-3): Don’t look now, but Northwestern needs to beat only Illinois at home for a nine win season. The Wildcats have given up three fourth quarter leads this year. They have three losses on the season. They almost turned the trick again on Saturday. Northwestern had trouble running the ball all day, only picking up 57 yards on the ground. The Northwestern cause was aided by a defensive touchdown when David Nwabuisi returned an interception the distance. NU never gave up the whole lead, but Michigan was able to pull even. Northwestern found just enough offense though to drive into field goal position where Jeff Budzein nailed a 27 yard field goal which turnde out to be the game winner.
Spartans (5-6, 2-5): This wasn’t the plan in Spartyville. The Spartans need to pull out a win vs. Minnesota to simply qualify for a bowl game. Who saw that coming at the start of the year? Not many. The Spartans failed to win a home conference game and found out first hand just how much you need to have at least a little offense to compete at the highest levels of college football. All five of the Spartans conference losses have been by four points or less, so it’s not like the Spartans haven’t had their chances.
Hawkeyes (4-7, 2-5): The score of this game was 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. Then Michigan exploded past the hapless Hawkeye. Iowa showed little fight as Michigan did more or less whatever they wanted. With nothing on the line on Saturday, what is left for Iowa to play for on Friday? Will they pack it in? Will they give it everything they’ve got trying to spoil the Huskers championship plans? We’ll find out on Friday morning.
Wolverines (8-3, 6-1): Michigan fans sent their senior class off in style. Devin Gardner had another big game, passing for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for three more. That’s a monster game. Iowa presented very little in the way of a challenge as the Wolverines kept pace with Nebraska should the Huskers stumble Friday afternoon, but everything now gears up towards their showdown in Columbus. Saturday also marked the return of Denard Robinson who got the call, but not at quarterback. Brady Hoke lined up Robinson at running back, giving him 13 carries. He fell two yards shy of the century mark. Robinson had to play in large part because Michigan lost their starting running back, Fitzgerald Toussaint to a gruesome leg injury which saw him taken off on a cart.
Penn State: 45
Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5): Perhaps Indiana was suffering from a letdown after last weeks disappointing outing vs. Wisconsin. Indiana offered little challenge to a Penn State team that was looking to let off a little steam after a frustrating outcome the week before. The Hoosiers got virtually no production on the ground, rushing for only 24 yards. They did all their damage i the air, largely because they were playing from behind the whole day, but they did find 454 yards through the air. This game also eliminates the Hoosiers from their miracle bowl run they were threatening to go on. Indiana will take all the forward momentum they can get but this game describes just how much further they still have to go.
Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2) Penn State took out some of their frustrations on Saturday vs. Indiana. Zack Zwinak and Matt McGloin led the way. Zwinak rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown and McGloin torched the Hoosiers secondary for 395 yards and four touchdowns. Penn State has one last chance to make a statement next week when Wisconsin comes to town with a chance to finish the season with eight wins. That’s not a level that many thought they would reach at the beginning of the season. From a football perspective, this Penn State team has been a terrific story. It’s likely a while before they won’t have an opportunity to win eight games in a season in quite some time.
Ohio State: 21
Wisconsin: 14 (OT)
Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0): Ohio State survived a trip to Madison and a Wisconsin team that wanted nothing more to knock off Ohio State who is one rivalry game away from an undefeated season. Offensively, no one really had a big game for the Buckeyes. OSU rode a special teams touchdown and a single touchdown drive and withstood a Wisconsin charge at the end of regulation to find their way into overtime. Once they were there, Carlos Hyde was able to pound into the endzone. The Buckeye defense was able to keep the Badgers from matching the score to come away with the win. There is conversation starting to swirl that the AP could vote OSU their national champion if they beat Michigan on Saturday. But they have to win that game, first.
Badgers (7-4, 4-3): Can’t say Wisconsin didn’t have their chances. The Badgers outgained the Buckeyes by nearly 130 yards, but had trouble converting those yards into points and it cost them the game. Montee Ball fumbled the would-be game tying touchdown with 2:46 remaining just as he got to the goal line. Wisconsin was able to get the ball back and get the equalizer with eight seconds left. One neat moment, though, Ball was able to find the endzone in the second quarter for the 78th time in his career. That score set the major college football record for most touchdowns in a career. It’s probably of little consolation as the Badgers were not able to find a way to win the game, in large part due to Ball’s miscue. All that said, the Rose Bowl is still very much on the table for Wisconsin who still have to travel to Happy Valley before their matchup with either Nebraska or Michigan in Indianapolis.
Gophers (6-5, 2-5): Very little went right for Minnesota on Saturday. In fairness, they were thrust into a bit of a hornets nest as they faced a very motivated Huskers team who has struggled in this spot and were looking to exorcise some of those ghosts. Oh, yeah, and that Osborne guy was retiring. It was an emotional day in Lincoln and Minnesota drew the short straw to play in that environment. The Gophers found little success in any facet of the game. They couldn’t move the ball and only scored after Nebraska pulled much of their first team. They really didn’t slow down the Huskers either, especially through the air. They actually did slow down the NU running game a bit. They also struggled a bit on special teams. Just a rough day all around. Then, when they get home, their leading reciever quit the team and sent a stream of vitriol towards the program, specifically head coach Jerry Kill. Things aren’t exactly rosy in Minneapolis. But, hey, they are going bowling.
Huskers (9-2, 6-1): It was an emotional day in Lincoln as the Husker faithful said good-bye to one of their favorite players in recent memory in Rex Burkhead (sure would have been nice to see him get a carry...) and sent the legenary coach and athletic director Tom Osborne off into his retirement. Nebraska rode that wave of emotion to jump to a 24-0 halftime lead. That lead would grow to 38-0 after the third quarter. Quarterback Taylor Martinez had a big day through the air, throwing for 308 yards and in the process became the all time leading passer in school history. The Huskers head to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes for their traditional day after Thanksgiving game. A win would clinch their first ever berth in the Big Ten title game.
Boilermakers (5-6, 2-5): After starting conference play with five consecutive losses and appeared to be spiriling out of control, the Boilermakers suddenly sit a win away from sneaking into a bowl game. Purdue had a lot of success on the ground. Both Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden bested 90 yards on the ground. Look for Purdue to play their best game of the year on Saturday as they are smelling a bowl game once again.
Illini (2-9, 0-7): Same story, different Saturday for Illinois. This is just a continuation of a really disappointing year for Illinois. They had a decent day offensively, but couldn’t shut down Purdue’s running game and once again found themselves on the short side of the ledger.
Ranking the B1G:
- Ohio State (1): Fortunate to survive overtime in Mad Town. Beware the rivalry game.
- Nebraska (2): Husker fans finally got their breather. Now they just need to take care of business on Friday vs. Iowa.
- Michigan (3): Robinson, who? Gardner has been a revelation for the Wolverines. Now, on to Columbus and you know Michigan would love nothing more than to knock off the Buckeyes.
- Northwestern (5): Looking like they’ll be a nine win team with a decent matchup in the bowl game. Solid season all around for the Wildcats
- Wisconsin (4): Montee Ball set the career touchdown record, but his fumble may have cost them the chance to knock off the Buckeyes. Can they navigate Happy Valley before heading to Indy?
- Penn State (6): Lots of frustrations were taken out this week. A win on Saturday would blow all preseason expectations out of the water.
- Michigan State (7): Don’t look now, but bowl eligibility is on the line for Michigan State.
- Minnesota (8): Tough situation to be thrown into on Saturday, tough situation they found for themselves when they got home. Just a tough weekend for the Gophers.
- Purdue (10): After losing all control of the middle of the season, the Boilermakers are using a soft end of the schedule to not have this season be a total loss.
- Indiana (9): Hoosiers won’t be bowling this year. They’ll look back on a couple of missed opportunities to have made that happen, but it’s been a good year for the Hoosiers. Bowling should be their goal for 2013.
- Iowa (11): Another rough week for the Hawkeyes. Huskers licking their chops on Friday, how will Iowa handle that?
- Illinois (12): *Insert it’s basketball season joke here*
Player of the Week: Devin Gardner. On a week when a couple of players set individual career achievements, it’s a repeat appearance for the Wolverines quarterback. He’s making any memories of Denard Robinson disappear in a hurry. On Saturday, Gardner had a hand in all six of Michigan’s touchdowns. Not a bad day.
- CHAOS! Notre Dame is #1? Bama is back in the picture? Kansas State got blown out? What a weekend! Just when you think you have everything figured out, a 1-5 in conference play Baylor team manhandles #1 and Stanford marched into Eugene, Oregon and no one has any idea what will happen next.
- Is the Big Ten watching the Pac-12 this week? Stanford and UCLA could very well play out a scenario that could very well happen in the Big Ten someday. There is a scenario or two that could find UCLA facing the Stanford again in the title game. The Big Ten should really work hard to avoid this from happening, and they could if they wanted to and now they have their opportunity. Will Jim Delaney and co. shuffle the deck that much? Doesn’t look like it.