It was a strange and eventful week in the Big Ten, and the division races now are becoming more clear. The post-Paterno era began at Penn State, Purdue sealed the Buckeyes' (and Luke Fickell's?) fate and guaranteed that the Bucket game will be for more than pride, and the Illini continued their long slide. On the non-conference side, it is some slim consolation that all of our non-con opponents continue to play well. In any event:
Nebraska 17, Penn State 14: Playing without Joe Paterno for the first time in a generations, Penn State fought hard but ultimately, and thankfully, fell to Nebraska. The Nittany Lions still technically control their own destiny in the Leaders Division race, but in all likelihood the season-ending trip to Wisconsin will settle things. At least something came from the tragedy, says Corn Nation:
We wondered it last week, and after the game, Bo Pelini came out and said he didn't think this game should have been played. But the game went on, and other than the broadcast, it doesn't appear there were any incidents. We'll still debate whether it was the right thing to do, but it's become clear that Penn State wants to do the right thing going forward. In just a few days this week, Penn State students and fans have contributed over $318,000 to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) in a campaign organized in part by Black Shoe Diaries. Watch for hash tag #ProudPSUforRAINN on Twitter.
Black Shoe Diaries has been doing excellent work throughout this scandal. Having blogged through the Kelvin Sampson affair, I can sympathize with the strange reality that the worst circumstances can lead to one's best work. Perhaps a loss was for the best, says BSD:
Maybe Penn State needed to lose. A 9-1 record could have restored the faith of a fan base that has seen their world flipped upside down. A sense of normalcy in a time so unfamiliar. Beating Nebraska while facing such long odds would have rejuvenated a struggling community and put Penn State one step closer to a Big Ten title. But it would have been a quick fix.
Purdue 26, Ohio State 23: Purdue upset Ohio State for the fourth time in the Buckeyes' last six trips to Ross-Ade. This was an important game for Purdue, because by winning their fifth game, the Boilermakers will at least be playing for a bowl bid when they visit Bloomington in two weeks, and if they beat Iowa, they will be playing for bowl position. This was one of the most entertaining games I have seen this season. Between the fourth down desperation TD by Braxton Miller, to the blocked extra point, to the brainless interception, to the dramatic overtime, it was quite a roller coaster, and made doubly strange for someone rooting against both teams. Don't try to make sense of it, says Hammer and Rails:
When Marve scored I pretty much collapsed in the stands. Our ownership of OSU in West Lafayette continued, and now we're a Bucket away from a bowl. I call it ownership because we have inexplicably won four of six against the Buckeyes in Ross-Ade, and it really should be five of six. Over the past 11 years they have not struggled anywhere else as bad as they struggle at Purdue. Considering we just beat a team that beat the team that beat us 62-17, it does not make a damn bit of sense, but who cares. The scoreboard's 26-23 final margin is really all that matters.
As for the Buckeyes, this probably ends their championship hopes: says Along The Olentangy:
Having lost at West Lafayette in 2009, it would be only natural for Ohio State not to overlook Purdue heading into this contest. Numerous penalties, a repeatedly stalling offense, and missed turnover opportunities led to Purdue defeating Ohio State, 26-23. This game will have severe ramifications for Ohio State's quest to win the Leaders Division, and Luke Fickell's chances of a long-term coaching contract with the Buckeyes.
Michigan 31, Illinois 14: The Illini, who improved to 6-0 when they won in Bloomington, still haven't won a game since. For Michigan fans, it's an overdue return to respectability, says Maize n Brew:
On Saturday, the 2011 Michigan football team did what its three previous incarnations could not. Win an eighth game. And unlike this team's previous incarnations, they won it on the road, with defense. A defense that for the three previous years couldn't stifle a sneeze, much less the offenses that lined up across from them.
The game unfolded in what has now become a typically maddening fashion. The defense, after some early let downs solidified and became extremely effective, forcing multiple turnovers from Denard Robinson, who is often generous in that regard. At halftime the score was 14-0 Michigan, and clearly within reach, but there had already been so many missed opportunities, as the Illinois offense not once ventured into UM territory that half. UM handed Illinois two fumbles, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal, and from that the Illini got a nothing.
Michigan State 37, Iowa 21: This was a classic trap game. Everyone knows that the Spartans must have been tempted to look past the Iowa game toward the highlight of their schedule, the Old Brass Spittoon matchup with IU, yet somehow Sparty stayed on task, whipping Iowa in a game that wasn't as close as the final score. The Only Colors seems to be getting used to success:
That didn't quite feel like a Dance of Joy performance, did it? MSU roared out in the first half, taking advantages of Iowa miscues to the tune of a 31-7 halftime score. You know what happened next however, and...man, that sure seemed like the closest 16-point win in program history. Anyway, as the song goes, done, done, onto the next one.
Black Heart Gold Pants can't make much of this one.
It's hard to take a whole lot away from a game where Iowa craps the bed on a grander scale than at any other point in the season. Sure, it was going to be a tall task to beat Michigan State, and I don't want to give the impression that the Spartans didn't earn the victory; clearly, they did. It's just... what's there to take from a game where Iowa's -3 in turnovers and all three had a major effect on the scoreboard? That the Hawkeyes shouldn't turn the ball over three times? Of course they shouldn't. That the Hawkeye defense needs to do a better job at keeping the opposing team out of the end zone with a short field? Clearly, yes, but good luck making demands like that, you know? The point is, the turnover margin was both Michigan State's best and Iowa's worst of the year, and every now and then, those games are going to happen.
Wisconsin 42, Minnesota 13: The Badgers are back on track and control their own destiny after winning the Axe for the eighth consecutive season, says Bucky's 5th Quarter:
The Badgers won 42-13, and will keep the trophy for the eighth straight year. But with the win, the Badgers gained something even more important than the Axe. After Purdue upset Ohio State 26-23 and Penn State fell to Nebraska at home, the Badgers control their own destiny in the Big Ten once again.
The Daily Gopher was unvailable for comment. It's basketball season.
Northwestern 28, Rice 6: The Wildcats stepped out of conference play and easily handled Rice. Sippin' On Purple:
Northwestern won so easily that even Alex Daniel made an appearance, although he promptly fumbled to set up Rice's only touchdown, so that was too bad. Overall, the game was extraordinarily boring because there was never any doubt Northwestern would win, but that sure beats losing to a bad team. One more win for bowl eligibility. Go Cats.
As I mentioned above, IU's non-conference foes continue to roll. Believe it or not, Virginia, the team IU nearly beat in Bloomington, controls its own destiny for a trip to the ACC title game. With games remaining against FSU and VT, it's unlikely, but let's hope Kevin Wilson can do in year 2 what Mike London has done at UVa. (Ball State had a bye this week).
Virginia ends 3-year losing skid vs. Duke, 31-21 - College Football - Rivals.com
Michael Rocco threw two touchdown passes and Chase Minnifield returned an interception for a touchdown Saturday as Virginia ended a three-game losing streak against Duke with a 31-21 victory. The Cavaliers (7-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved one victory closer to a possible showdown with No. 10 Virginia Tech with the ACC's Coastal Division title on the line. - College Football news
North Texas defeats Troy 38-33 - College Football - Rivals.com
Derek Thompson threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns and North Texas defeated Troy 38-33 on Saturday. Down three points early in the fourth quarter, Thompson threw a 46-yard touchdown to Chris Bynes. The Mean Green then recovered a Corey Robinson fumble at the 6-yard line, and James Hamilton's 6-yard touchdown run put them up 38-27. - College Football news
SC State holds of North Carolina A&T 30-22 - College Football - Rivals.com
Richard Cue threw two touchdown passes en route to South Carolina State's 30-22 win over North Carolina A&T on Saturday. North Carolina A&T (4-6, 3-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) jumped out to an early 14-3 lead behind two touchdown passes from Lewis Kindle. However, a 37-yard touchdown strike from Cue to Tyler McDonald sparked a 27-point scoring burst for the Bulldogs. - College Football news