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Around the Big Ten, week 12 (and an update on IU's non-conference opponents).

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The penultimate week of the Big Ten regular season narrowed the field.  Michigan State clinched the Legends Division with a win over IU and a Nebraska loss to Michigan.  The Penn State-Wisconsin game in Madison will serve as a de facto playoff game for the championship of the Leaders Division.  I don't like Wisconsin, but I will be pulling for the Badgers this weekend.  I have always liked Penn State and don't blame the current players for anything that happened, but I hate the idea of the inaugural Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl being overshadowed by the Sandusky issues.  Fortunately, I don't think Penn State stands a chance. 

Penn State 20, Ohio State 14:  The Nittany Lions won their first game of the post-Paterno era in Columbus. It's not worth trying to figure out how the team made it this far, says Black Shoe Diaries:

Moving forward Penn State has another chance to prove more people wrong. A date with Wisconsin next weekend is for all the marbles. A division title, a shot at the Big Ten title, and a chance to finish what has been possibly the most improbable seasons in Penn State history. It seems at this point that Penn State is destined to complete a title race that shouldn't have ever happened. It doesn't make any sense, but we've stopped trying to figure it out.

 Along The Olentangy was understandably disappointed:

In a year filled with disappointment, Ohio State's performance against Penn State today ranks among the biggest letdowns. With zero hope for a Big Ten title game berth after Wisconsin's earlier victory over Illinois, and coming off a terrible performance last weekend against Purdue, it remained to be seen whether the Buckeyes would come out motivated, flat, or some mishmash in-between. The first two drives answered that question.

Michigan 45, Nebraska 17:  Michigan improved to 9-2 with a stomping of visiting Nebraska, and seems likely to end Ohio State's long winning streak in the series next week.  Maize n Brew hadn't recapped when I last looked.

 Corn Nation says that the Huskers had their chances:

The Blackshirts had several opportunities early on to take control of this game, as the Huskers must have had a hand on at least three Denard Robinson passes in the first quarter...and Nebraska really should have intercepted a couple of them. If Ciante Evans picks off Robinson on that first drive of the game, who knows where this game winds up. Robinson gained confidence from that point on and played one of his better games of this season.

Wisconsin 28, Illinois 17:  The Fighting Zookers still haven't won since moving to 6-0 with a win over IU eons ago, despite a 10 point lead at home at halftime. Bucky's 5th Quarter gives the credit to Heisman candidate Montee Ball:

After the Badgers suffered through a sluggish first half and went to the locker room at the half down 17-7, Ball put his headphones on and went into his own zone. He must have been listening to some good music. The result was a huge second half for Ball that included 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) as the Badgers scored 21 unanswered points to beat Illinois 28-17 Saturday.

 Hail to the Orange can't make sense of 2011:

It's not as if a home loss to Wisconsin, a one time BCS title contender is the straw that broke the camel's back for Illinois fans, but merely the culmination of what might be the most baffling season in my recent football memory. No, losing to Wisconsin isn't the reason that fans, and media types like me would like to see a change in direction for football, it is the culmination of many many things.

Northwestern 28, Minnesota 13:  The Wildcats, after a really rough start to the season, are bowl eligible, which pleases Sippin' On Purple:

It wasn't pretty, but in a season that saw a five-game Northwestern losing streak, the Wildcats are now 6-5 after winning four straight and are able to be selected by a bowl. Which is what we want. That's spectacular, glad I could see it happen in my last game as a student. Northwestern came out extremely strong, scoring three times with ease in the first quarter to take a double-digit lead. the game was never really close after that, but the offense stagnated and made it seem close, especially after an extremely errant Dan Persa pick. But the fears were unwarranted,


Iowa 31, Purdue 21:  Purdue failed to get its sixth win, meaning the Boilermakers are playing for their postseason lives on Saturday. Black Heart Gold Pants:

It seems weird to praise the defense after a performance in which Iowa fans were (again!) watching a fourth quarter collapse, but on the whole they played one of their best games of the season. They held Purdue to 282 yards, the lowest total yardage any team has recorded against the Iowa defense this season. They forced five punts and three turnovers (the game-clinching touchback was caused at least in part by Micah Hyde ripping at the ball) and had nine tackles for loss, which I'm almost positive is a season-best for Iowa. Hell, for perhaps the first time all year the Iowa defensive actually looked disruptive and dangerous: Mike Daniels (8 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) and Broderick Binns (7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack) had their way out there for much of the game.

It is Bucket Or Bust Now, says Hammer and Rails:

One thing we have learned is that we cannot take anything for granted this year. To me, the Indiana game is now the biggest game of Danny Hope's career. Win it, and you reach a likely bowl game and a level of success that was almost unanimously agreed upon as the ceiling for this year. Lose it, and you have two absolutely brutal losses (Indiana and Rice) to two of the worst teams in the nation in 2011, preventing you from a postseason game for the fourth consecutive year. Most people agreed that a bowl game would be enough to give Hope another year, and I agree with them because of the improved recruits he is bringing in. I still disagree with many of his coaching choices, but I am willing to give him another year if we reach a bowl game because it is still improvement. If Danny Hope wants to keep his job in 2012 we absolutely must beat Indiana. Lose, and he needs to be gone

Michigan State 55, Indiana 3:  You know what I thought about this one.  Here's The Only Colors:

Beating Indiana - not normally worthy of a Dance of Joy. Michigan winning - also not normally good news. But combined, that means that our spot in Indianapolis is secure regardless of what happens next weekend. We will face the winner of the Penn State-Wisconsin game, to be played next week, for a shot at the Rose Bowl. Nothing really bad to take away from this game; it's always nice to win comfortably against a bad team. By the same token, the only really good news you can get out of it is the lack of bad news.

As for the non-conference slate, Virginia is playing very well.  The Cavaliers are 8-3 after beating Florida State in Tallahassee, and if they can win at home against Virginia Tech, UVa will reach its first ACC title game.  Ball State is bowl eligible.  North not, but the team they lost to, Western Kentucky, is.  Ugh.  South Carolina State finished its season a game short of the FCS playoffs.

2 late FGs give N. Illinois 41-38 win vs. Ball St. - College Football -
Mathew Sims hit two field goals in the final 2:46 and Northern Illinois piled up 710 yards of offense to defeat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday night. Sims nailed a 23-yarder that tied the score. After the Huskies (8-3, 6-1 Mid-American) forced a punt, they got it back at their own 20-yard line with 1:44 remaining. - College Football news

Virginia upsets No. 23 Florida State 14-13 - College Football -
It looked as if the game was over. A couple of times, at least. Virginia players and coaches celebrated ... a few times. In the final 38 seconds, a costly facemask penalty gave Florida State a crucial first down and a replay ruling gave the Seminoles a few extra seconds to attempt a potential game-winning kick. - College Football news

Western Kentucky tops North Texas 31-21 - College Football -
Kawaun Jakes threw for 231 yards and three touchdowns to lead Western Kentucky over North Texas 31-21 on Saturday night. Jakes' longest touchdown pass was for 63 yards to Tyler Higbee late in first half, giving the Hilltoppers (6-5, 6-1 Sun Belt) a 17-14 lead. They never trailed again. Bobby Rainey led the game in running with 214 yards and a touchdown for Western Kentucky. - College Football news

South Carolina State outlasts Savannah State 20-10 - College Football -
Richard Cue had 258 all-purpose yards and Asheton Jordon added 151 on the ground to lead South Carolina State to a 20-10 victory over Savannah State on Saturday, in the season finale for both teams. S.C. State (7-4, 6-2 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) opened the game with 17 unanswered points to take a 17-3 lead into halftime. - College Football news