It's been a busy week, but here's what happened in the Big Ten during the same weekend in which IU dropped to 1-8 on the season. The only positive I can bring from this year's IU season is that IU has been something of a "cooler" for its opponents. Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin are a combined 0-6 since their wins over Indiana. Only Penn State has escaped our negative energy. Without further ado:
Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29: In what might have been the most thrilling finish in the Big Ten this season, OSU's freshman quarterback Braxton Miller was the hero for Ohio State, and the Buckeyes, who looked disastrous earlier in the season must now be thinking about the Big Ten title game. Along The Olentangy has a nice recap:
Following a Russell Wilson go-ahead touchdown pass with less than two minutes left, Ohio State needed to drive within field goal range for a shot at overtime. Jordan Hall returned the kickoff 42 yards and placed the ball near midfield. One first down later and Ohio State danced along kicker Drew Basil's range. With only twenty seconds left, Braxton Miller rolled out to his right searching for an outlet receiver and another first down. Instead, at the corner of his vision, he saw freshman wide receiver Devin Smith streaking across the field. Miller lofted a pass. It dropped into Smith's arms as a Badger defender tackled him in the endzone. Touchdown. Ballgame.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has gone from BCS title game dreams to a Capital One Bowl reality. Not that I wouldn't trade places with them, of course. Bucky's 5th Quarter breaks down the heartbreak and the division race:
While the new division alignment helps the Badgers remain in the Big Ten title picture, losing to Ohio State makes that road much narrower, and takes some control out of their hands. While they still play Purdue, Illinois, and Penn State from their division, they no longer have sole control of their fate in the conference. It would take a lot of luck and the Badgers' winning out to see them play in the inaugural Big Ten championship game after Saturday's loss.
Penn State 10, Illinois 7: In snowy central Pennsylvania, the suddenly struggling Illini couldn't quite hold on and lost their third straight. Black Shoe Diaries doesn't know what to make of the Nittany Lions' 7-1 record:
The "Penn State refuses to give up!" angle has been sufficiently and rightfully exhausted here and elsewhere, no need to rehash. One truly crazy thing about whatever that was in Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon, is that there's really no improper reaction to it. Joy, relief, anger, frustration, denial, resentment, trust, appreciation -- they're all in play and all perfectly valid. In fact, my instant audible reaction to the attempted game-tying field goal was, "Yes! Off the f**king post!". This was immediately followed my the thought of, "damn it, now I have to emotionally invest myself in this Russian Roulette team again in two weeks."
Meanwhile, Hail to the Orange doesn't understand the Illini's late game strategy:
What is most depressing might be how well the Illinois defense performed in this loss. As the Illini offense has regressed from a hot rod to a Ford Edsel. Illinois was five minutes away from simply running out the clock on Penn State, but for some reason insisted on passing constantly. I am usually all for aggressiveness, but in a game that has already featured tough tail winds, and turnovers, why not run on every possession? The team suffered once again from self inflicted wounds. It lost the turnover battle, it had more penalties than its opponent, and got nothing from punt returns, or suddenly the kicking game. This team is a mess right now, and with the coming week off there seem to be more problematic areas than strengths.
Nebraska 24, Michigan State 3: A hangover game wasn't a huge surprise, but the Spartans weren't remotely competitive in Lincoln. The Only Colors hasn't been able to stomach a recap yet. Corn Nation isn't counting on anything yet:
Mind you, the teeth of the schedule still awaits. Back to back road trips to Penn State and Michigan, playing in front of 220,000 fans, followed by the new "Black Friday" game against Iowa. Penn State has the defense to defeat anybody. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is the type of quarterback that deals the Nebraska defense fits. And Iowa is the team that, while usually losing two or three games they absolutely shouldn't each season also ends up winning a game they have no business winning. So while Nebraska is in the driver's seat, Nebraska must continue to win each week going forward.
Michigan 36, Purdue 14: The Boilermakers couldn't follow up their upset of Illinois with a road win, surrendering 36 straight points to Michigan after leading 7-0. Maize n Brew hasn't recapped yet, but Hammer and Rails really thought the Purdue defense had a shot:
To call today disappointing is an understatement. When I was looking at stats and writing previews this week there were a lot of positives. Michigan State had given us a blueprint of what we needed to do in order to beat Michigan. We needed to build a lead, get after Denard Robinson, and run the ball against linebackers that, according to the Wolverine Blog, were suspect. After one possession we looked like the upset I predicted was possible. This is where I have to give a ton of credit to Michigan. They answered our drive, held after a pair of ugly turnovers, then they were able to turn the game on two plays. Once they had the momentum in their favor after those two plays, it was over. The rest was merely an exercise in running the clock down and waiting for the game to be over. We quit after those two key plays went in their favor. It is as simple as that.
Minnesota 22, Iowa 21: The Golden Gophers were impolite enough to leave IU alone in the ranks of the winless, stunning Iowa with a big fourth quarter comeback. The Daily Gopher isn't quite sure how it happened.
For the second consecutive season the Minnesota Golden Gophers have taken down the Iowa Hawkeyes keeping Floyd of Rosedale home. Looking at the stat sheet this was a game that we had absolutely no business winning. Iowa had Marcus Coker rush for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Their star receiver had 100+ yards and a touchdown. Through three quarters Iowa held an 11 point lead and dominated the Gophers gaining 20 first downs to our 5 and running 59 total plays to our 29. But the fourth quarter was dominated by the Gophers. Contributions from likely and highly unlikely sources helped to seal this W and keep Floyd of Rosedale in Minnesota's borders for another year. As today's game recap, let's look at the sources of significant contribution that led to this win over Iowa (again).
Black Heart Gold Pants, on the other hand, says it's all over the the Hawkeyes:
Think of all the money you'll save by staying home for the holidays. Iowa sits at a thoroughly meh-tastic 5-3 with two-thirds of the season in the books -- and that was the easy portion of the schedule. Iowa faces three ranked opponents in November and right now looks unlikely to be favored in a single game. To get to six wins and give us an opportunity to even entertain the possibility of spending Christmas in beautiful Detroit, Iowa will need to pull a win out of their asses.
Northwestern 59, Indiana 38: You know what I thought about this one, and Sippin' On Purple agrees about our defense:
Northwestern won its first Big Ten game by running rampant over the truly horrendous Indiana defense for 59 points. (It could have been more.) Drake Dunsmore caught four touchdowns, Jacob Schmidt had 100 yards rushing, and Kain Colter had 100 yards receiving, and, well, none of those are typos. It's good to know that despite the 0-5 slide, Northwestern is capable of winning a game, and handily at that. NU gave up the first touchdown, but it wasn't really in doubt after NU ran off 24 straight. NU's defense looked shaky - they gave up 38 points to Indiana and allowed 319 - 319! - yards rushing, but, it didn't really matter as the offense was unreal.
In the non-conference, Virginia has moved to within a game of bowl eligibility, and Ball State remains there. South Carolina State continues to play well against FCS opposition, and North Texas....well, no sugarcoating that one.