On paper, last weekend's slate of Big Ten games looked like a snoozefest, but four of the five games were competitive well into the fourth quarter, and there was one major upset.
Michigan State 31, Minnesota 24: A week after shocking Iowa, the improving Gophers played well on the road against MSU, IU's next opponent. The Only Colors is glad that MSU dodged the bullet.
Well, it's a win. Uglier than any of us imagined (and full credit to Jerry Kill, the Gophers aren't going to be a punchline for too much longer assuming that his health problems do not force him to step down), but the conference standings only record the fact that it was a W. I don't have much good to say about this one. We got outgained by 14 yards against a team that lost to North Dakota State. We barely cracked 100 rushing yards against a defense that was allowing almost 300 a game.
The Daily Gopher sees some promise:
The Gophers didn't win Saturday in East Lansing, but boy it felt a lot better than Minnesota's previous three Big Ten losses. The U hung tough with an excellent (and still B1G championship contender) Sparty squad and were THIS close to pulling the upset. I'm not going to get too excited about a loss (remember the last time we felt that way about a loss? USC? Remember how things went after that? Just sayin'), but there was a lot of good that came out of that game. The defense has played inspired and improved ball for two weeks, he O-line has looked much better (especially pass blocking), and we finally have a running back averaging more than 4 yards a carry for the season (hello Duane Bennett)!
Michigan 24, Iowa 16: An Iowa team that looked like it might lose out rebounded nicely with a home win over Michigan. Maize n Brew is still speechless. As for Black Heart Gold Pants, of course they have to bring up Damarlo Belcher (sending mental images of James Hardy their way).
It's not entirely fair to compare Junior Hemingway's attempted one-hand grab with Demarlo Belcher's extremely unfortunate drop against Iowa in 2010; Belcher's catch was orders of magnitude easier, it would have won the game outright, and it came on 4th down, not 2nd like Hemingway's. Those are all the differences. That all said, Michigan had a potential game-tying TD (pending the conversion, of course) in its proverbial hands and the receiver just plain couldn't pull the ball in correctly, and that's the type of margin that exists in close games like this. If all you want to do is take positives from the previous 59 minutes and 58 seconds just because Hemingway can't make a falling one-handed grab, that's your prerogative, but it's a dumb way to learn anything about football.
Northwestern 28, Nebraska 25: The biggest shock of the week was NU's win at NU. Huh? The Wildcats held on in the end, an a desperate looking season suddenly looks like a bowl season for Northwestern, with Rice and Minnesota still on the schedule. Sippin' On Purple is happy, no surprise:
Northwestern beat the No. 10 team in the country. We beat them solidly, we had dumb turnovers and still won. We only need two wins to make a bowl. This game reiterates everything we've said about a team that has lost multiple games against teams we could have/should have beaten. This is awesome. In other news, Nebraska is 0-1 against us in in-conference play. Nobody on their site predicted them losing. We just beat them. We didn't just beat them, we kicked the crap out of them. This isn't a game one team "should have" won. This is a game Northwestern dominated all day and at the end of the day, we had more points.
Corn Nation isn't willing to give up on the program:
I dismiss the idea that Bo Pelini's teams always lose a game they shouldn't. That being said, many Nebraska losses now come in that category, because most people think Nebraska's on the cusp of being a contender again. But until Pelini and Nebraska can play more consistently, Nebraska will remain on the outside of that cusp. No, Nebraska's not back. Not when the Huskers keep losing games like this. It's not terminal either, unless fans lose patience. Remember all of the jokes about Tom Osborne and bowls? He figured that out in the end, and I have no reason not to believe Bo Pelini won't either.
Wisconsin 62, Purdue 17: I said only four of the five games were competitive. Purdue's trip to Camp Randall was the exception. Wisconsin is happy to put the two-game losing streak in the past, says Bucky's 5th Quarter:
"Two weeks that seemed like an eternity have come to and end," Bielema said following the game. "I thought our kids really responded well. They practiced extremely hard, and I knew they wouldn't flinch." The Badgers' National Championship ambitions might have died with their last two losses, but Wilson said the team was determined to regain their swagger.
Hammer and Rails is sour on the team and the staff:
It is sad it has come to this. This is our third embarrassment of the season where we flat out gave up on a game. Notre Dame and Michigan were the other two. This team is better than this, but the same mistakes keep happening over and over again. We continue to make dumb penalties such as false starts on offense. Our defense has no idea how to tackle. When we get good efforts like Raheem Mostert playing his ass off on kick returns we make stupid mistakes to kill that momentum. Mostert at least gave us a chance early, but without a defense it did not matter.
Ohio State 34, Indiana 20: You already know what I think about the game, but here is Along The Olentangy, suggesting my optimism isn't rank homerism:
Indiana, who lost 16-10 earlier this season to Penn State, showed Ohio State and its fans that the days of marking the Hoosiers as an easy victory may be coming to a close. Next season, when Ohio State visits Indiana on October 12, 2012, I do not believe the Buckeyes will need any reminders of how dangerous Indiana can be.
Two of IU's non-conference opponents (North Texas and South Carolina State) were off, but the two that played became bowl eligible. Congrats, Virginia and Ball State, and thanks for making our 1-3 non-conference record look slightly less pathetic.
Virginia beats Maryland 31-13 for 6th win - College Football - Rivals.com
Perry Jones ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns, Michael Rocco threw for two scores, and Virginia beat Maryland 31-13 Saturday to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. The Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed 13-7 before scoring the game's final 24 points. By winning four of its last five games, Virginia has reached the mandatory six-victory plateau necessary to... - College Football news
Ball State beats Eastern Michigan 33-31 on late FG - College Football - Rivals.com
Steven Schott's 44-yard field goal with 9 seconds left lifted Ball State to a 33-31 win Saturday over Eastern Michigan. Kody Fulkerson had put Eastern Michigan in front on a 20-yard kick with 1:18 remaining. But an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty gave Ball State a break, and Keith Wenning completed four short passes to get the Cardinals (6-4, 4-2 Mid-American) into range. - College Football news