The past weekend in the Big Ten featured two losses for ranked teams from the Leaders Division, and a rough showing for IU's next opponent, Northwestern. Here's what SB Nation writers have had to say about it.
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31: In what may be the game of the year in the Big Ten, Michigan State won the game on a Hail Mary that the replay officials (correctly) called a touchdown, overruling the call on the field. This probably removes the Big Ten from the national title race, and may well set up a Badger-Spartan rematch in Indianapolis. The Only Colors was too ecstatic to evaluate:
Stream of consciousness: I am so, so happy for Keith Nichol right now. Thank you for Kirk Cousins. Thank everyone our conservative play calling didn't cost MSU. Our special teams were awesome. I'm not forgetting about Kyler Ellsworth, you sir were clutch. I am SO SO HAPPY. I thought Mark Dantonio almost cried. Remember that one play where Jerel Worthy stuffed a Wisconsin RB, helping lead to a safety. AWESOME. NO PENALTIES FOR THE HATERS.
Despite the controversy at the end, there has been little complaining from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
Fans will debate the timing of Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema's second time out, or whether there was enough video evidence to award Michigan State the game-winning touchdown, but the Badgers had plenty of chances to stop Michigan State during the game, and for the most part couldn't get it done. With the loss, the Badgers' struggles in East Lansing continued for the second straight year, and their national title aspirations are likely laid to rest. The Badgers still control their own fate in the Big Ten, and still have a clear path to playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Penn State 34, Northwestern 24: The Nittany Lions went on the road and pretty easily handled IU's next opponent. The increasingly desperate Wildcats are now 2-5. Same as always, says Black Shoe Diaries:
He was effectively annoying for two quarters, before the track meet turned into a punt-a-thon. It's not hard to see how Penn State, usually playing a bit of a passive defense, gives up early scores to Northwestern on a regular basis. And as always against Northwestern, Tom Bradley makes the necessary adjustments and the running lanes / passing windows shrink until there's nothing left but Jordan Hill eating your lunch in the backfield.
It's bad, especially on defense, says Sippin' On Purple:
The defense was once again a disaster, allowing Silas Redd to run for a career high in yards on just 18 carries and giving up yet another long touchdown pass to a wide open receiver on play action. Dan Persa had a great looking statline: 26 of 34 for 294 yards and a touchdown, but he threw a costly interception early in the second half that completely changed the momentum of the game. And once again, the offensive line did a terrible job in pass protection, allowing seven sacks, and most of those came when PSU was rushing four guys.
Purdue 21, Illinois 14: The Boilermakers may have saved their season with a homecoming upset of formerly ranked Illinois. There is a clear path to the postseason, says Hammer and Rails:
It was far from a work of art, but it was a win over a ranked team. That's something we couldn't do until 2009. Now we have beaten a ranked team in each of the past three seasons (This statement is based on me thinking Northwestern was in the top 25 of one of the two polls when we beat them last year. If I am wrong, forget it). More importantly, it makes the bowl equation very simple now: Secure a split in the last two home games, beat Indiana, and go bowling. Anything else is a bonus.
Meanwhile, it is fair to say that the days of a strong Zook defense from Hail to the Orange is over:
Illinois is 6-2, bowl eligible and more than likely will be getting a bowl of some sort this season. But what is the point. This is the season that was tailor-made for a big push. Eight home games, a down Ohio State, and Michigan and Wisconsin both at home. To go with it there is an All-American caliber receiver and a talented quarterback. If Illinois was ever going to make a serious push for a Big Ten title again it would have been this year. But that is all but impossible now. If the Illini cannot come out competitive against teams they are more talented than, what is the point of any of this? The Saturday loss might finally be the beginning of the end for Ron Zook, as there might be three more losses looming on the schedule. There is no Ron Guenther now to give a midseason vote of confidence, and there is no contract extension keeping Illinois from buying out Zook's contract. If things go the way I think they might, then there will be a new coach headed to Champaign, and we might need to restart this process all over again.
Nebraska 41, Minnesota 14: The Cornhuskers took on the worst team in their division and made quick work of a struggling Minnesota team. Corn Nation isn't drawing many conclusions:
While Nebraska dominated Minnesota in the first half, I think that was more "Minnesota's that bad" than "Nebraska's that good." Truth be told, the Huskers played well at times. For one thing, we saw fewer defensive breakdowns than we had in any other game this season. Bo Pelini thought he saw the defense turn the corner during the bye week, and progress seemed to be made in that respect. But how much can we gauge in a victory against Minnesota?
Iowa 45, Indiana 24: You already know what I thought about last week's game. As for BHGP, well, the truth hurts:
For as much as we've groused about Iowa's shortcomings this year, look where the Hawkeyes are now: 5-2 (2-1), and whipping fellow Big Ten member Indiana. Iowa's going back to a bowl for the 9th time in 10 years by the end of this season (barring outright catastrophe, anyway), and Indiana's going to have attended just one bowl in that same stretch. So, look: even for Big Ten teams, it can be so much worse than what Iowa's got, and it's nice to see the Hawkeyes reaffirm the fact that even in what you or I might call a "down" year, they're remaining on a much higher level than the Hoosiers.
As for IU's non-conference opponents, Ball State is just one win from bowl eligibility thanks to a nice comeback. All of the others lost.