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Big Ten Rundown: Week 13

The regular season is complete and the title game is Saturday. What happened on the final week of the regular season? Who's going bowling? Who's staying home? We've got it all for you in this week's rundown.

Kirk Irwin

B1G Kernels:

Nebraska: 13
Iowa: 7

Huskers (10-2, 7-1): NU survived a breezy Iowa City. And that’s all they needed to do. With the passing game basically rendered irrelevant on Friday, the Huskers got just enough offense to defeat the Hawkeyes. Quarterback Taylor Martinez wasn’t sharp passing the ball and Iowa did a pretty decent job of shutting down the running game after the game’s opening drive. The defense, however came up big and did not allow the Hawkeyes to score after they marched down the field and scored on their first possession of the game. With that game behind them, the Huskers can now turn their full attention to claiming that elusive conference title which they’ll play for Saturday evening. A win would mark the first conference title for the Huskers since 1999. Since the Huskers won the Big Eight in 1963, NU has not gone more than four years without a conference crown.

Hawkeyes (4-8, 2-6): Mercifully, the season has come to an end for Iowa. Not many saw such a miserable 2012 campaign coming. Under different circumstances, perhaps Ferentz would be on the hot seat, but with such a hefty contract buy out, that’s not looking likely. What is more likely are changes made throughout the rest of the staff. The Hawks will also have to upgrade their talent across the board or they’ll continue to fall further and further behind a division where they currently sit as at least the fifth best team with a fairly strong argument that Minnesota is at their level or perhaps even surpassed them. It’s going to be a long off-season for Iowa.

Illinois: 14
Northwestern: 50

Illini (2-10, 0-8): Another team looking for a merciful end to this season. Virtually nothing went right for Illinois in Tim Beckman’s first season, in fact, it was difficult to find a game in which they weren’t blown right off the field vs. a BCS team. They lost six games by 28 points or more. There are issues that need to be addressed in every area of the team. Hopefully Nathan Scheelhaase will be healthy for his senior campaign as the Illini have few other play makers on offense.

Wildcats (9-3, 5-3): All things considered, it was a very good year for Northwestern and it was a few plays away from being a special year. The Wildcats led or were tied in the fourth quarter of all their losses this season. The offense had yet another banner day as Kain Colter and Venric Mark again led the charge. The two combined for more than 200 yards on the ground and accounted for 5 touchdowns. The combo will be the backbone for a team that will enter 2013 with high expectations.

Michigan: 21
Ohio State: 26

Wolverines (8-4, 6-2): The game lived up to it’s billing, but in the end, Michigan ran into similar problems it faced early in the season when it went up against big name programs, namely, turnovers. The Wolverines gave up the ball four times, squelching any opportunities they might have had to pull off the upset. Denard Robinson had a fairly big game on the ground, collecting 122 yards on only ten carries, but as a team the Wolverines rushed for 108 yards. That’s not an equation that will lend itself to success very often. Michigan was not shy at the beginning of the season about setting their sights on a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth or better. Four losses to teams with a combined three losses spoiled that effort.

Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0): Ohio State put the finishing touches on an undefeated season that will likely go for naught, at least in the record books. It’s still possible the AP voters could award their national title crown to the Buckeyes if Notre Dame does not win in Miami on January 7. The Buckeyes held off their hated rival by shutting down an explosive Michigan offense, holding them to 108 rushing yards, and under 300 for the game. The offense had to settle for a few more field goals than Urban Meyer probably would have liked but the offense fell four yards short of 400 and were able to keep any ideas Michigan had of pulling out a victory at bay. While OSU won’t be bowling in 2012, the foundation that was laid in year one of the Meyer era is a solid one and will be considered the overwhelming favorite for not only the Big Ten, but among those considered favorites for the National Title as well.

Indiana: 35
Purdue: 56

Hoosiers (4-8, 2-6): Well, it was a nice little season for Indiana, who flirted with a run at a division title and a bowl berth for a couple of weeks. The Hoosiers exceeded most outside expectations. Losing quarterback Tre Roberson was a difficult blow for this team and they still found a way to have a potent offense. The other side of the ball will determine whether or not IU can take the next step and make their way to a bowl game next season. They should have the talent offensively to make that happen.

Boilermakers (6-6, 3-5): A rather stirring 3-0 finish to the season and bowl eligibility was not enough to save the job of Danny Hope who was let go after the game. Purdue had hoped to challenge Wisconsin for the division title, but a mid season five game losing streak ended any hope of that. Their close call vs. Notre Dame now looks like aberration.

Michigan State: 26
Minnesota: 10

Spartans (6-6, 3-5): Head coach Mark Dantonio guaranteed a victory over Minnesota. His Spartans delivered. Michigan State was facing the possibility of a bowl-less season after stating their intentions to deliver a Rose Bowl to East Lansing that had eluded them the past couple of seasons, but Le’Veon Bell was a force vs. Minnesota, rushing for a career high 266 yards and the game sealing touchdown. Sparty was besieged by offensive issues this season and will need to shore that up if they want to move back into the division race where Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern all are ahead of MSU.

Minnesota (6-6, 2-6): Minnesota entered conference play 4-0, but struggled once conference play hit. Despite the difficulty to find wins, they were able to do enough to find two and find their way to a bowl game for the first time under Jerry Kill. That’s a solid step forward for the Gophers who have been through a few rough years. One area that has to be of significant concern for Minnesota is the health of coach Kill who suffered another seizure at halftime of Saturday’s game. How long will they be able to have that as a concern?

Wisconsin: 21
Penn State: 24 (OT)

Badgers (7-5, 4-4): Wisconsin lost yet another close game. This is their fourth loss by three points or fewer and their fifth was by a touchdown. They’ve been in close games all season and should expect to find themselves in another on Saturday. Running back Montee Ball set the NCAA career touchdown mark in the loss. The box score would indicate that both teams were fairly even on this day, so it was only appropriate the game went to overtime. The difference being that Penn State made their field goal and Wisconsin missed their attempt. The Badgers now prepare for a rematch with Nebraska in the Big Ten title game as Wisconsin looks to capture their third straight crown.

Nittany Lions (8-4, 6-2): It was quite the year in Happy Valley and this was quite the way to cap it off. With their star linebacker lost for the rest of the season in Michael Mauti, Penn St. was able to find a way to upend Wisconsin. With all the drama, controversy and heart ache that program and community has been through over the past calendar year, for them to find a way to win eight games is one of the more significant stories of the season. It’s likely that it will be quite some time before Penn St. sees this level of success.

Ranking the B1G:

  1. Ohio State (1): 12-0 and will likely have nothing to show for it.
  2. Nebraska (2): It’s been 13 years since Nebraska last won a conference title. That doesn’t sit well in Lincoln. It’s Pasadena or bust in Lincoln
  3. Michigan (3): Four losses to teams with a combined three losses, but still not going to be good enough for Coach Hoke.
  4. Northwestern (4): Solid season in Evanston will present sky high expectations coming into 2013.
  5. Penn State (6): It was an emotional season in Happy Valley, but the road gets very long from here.
  6. Wisconsin (5): Another close loss for the Badgers, but still another shot at a title.
  7. Michigan State (7): Gotta find some offense if they want to right the ship next year.
  8. Purdue (9): Pretty impressive effort to get back to a bowl game, but the mid season slide still cost Hope his job. Who better does Purdue think they’ll get to take his place?
  9. Minnesota (8): The Gophers finished last in the division with only two conference wins, but their 4-0 start still has them bowling. Continued concussions for Coach Kill are troubling.
  10. Indiana (10): There was some excitment in Bloomington again, but still not quite enough to get over the hump.
  11. Iowa (11): Valiant effort vs. the Huskers, but not enough to satisfy the masses, look for changes in Iowa City, though probably not at head coach.
  12. Illinois (12): Beat down after beat down in Beckman’s first season will make for long off season.

Player of the Week: Le’Veon Bell was the first player of the week in this little rundown, and he’ll he the last one during the regular season. He only had one touchdown vs. Minnesota but he rumbled for 266 yards, which is his career high. Bell led the Big Ten in rushing this season with over 1600 yards on the season. Bell is only a junior, it will be interesting to watch whether or not he sets his sights on collecting a paycheck for his services.

Final Thoughts:
- Half of the BCS title game is set. Not many predicted Notre Dame would be there, but they are. Who will be their opponent? Tune into CBS Saturday afternoon at three to find out.
- Remember the jokes after Nebraska lost to UCLA that they’d see them again in the Rose Bowl? Well, if UCLA and Nebraska both win this weekend, Nebraska will face rematches in consecutive games. It’s not necessarilly ideal, but once you get to a championship game situation and then BCS game, you take whoever happens to show up. It would be bizarre to see a repeat opponent twice.
- The Big Ten was in danger of only having five teams eligible for bowl games coming into Saturday. Michigan State and Purdue were able to win and save a little face for the Big Ten who will now send seven teams to bowl games.