The Big Ten in review and preview
Comeback wins were the theme for the whole conference.
Michigan 12, Michigan State 10
Michigan picked up their first win over Sparty since 2007 thanks to 4 Brendan Gibbons field goals, including a game-winner with seconds left. Michigan's defense dominated the struggling Spartan offense, which gained only 304 total yards, 26 of which came off a fake punt. Andrew Maxwell and Denard Robinson were similarly ineffective as passers, with neither player breaking 200 yards and each throwing an interception, though Robinson added 96 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Michigan is now in sole possession of the division lead at 3-0, while Michigan State has an uphill battle simply to become bowl eligible.
Ohio State 29, Purdue 22
Braxton Miller left this game with an injury late in the third quarter with his team trailing 20-14. When Purdue added a safety to extend their lead to 8, it looked like the Buckeyes were on their way to their first loss of the season. Instead, Kenny Guiton led a touchdown drive and converted the two point attempt to send the game to overtime, and Carlos Hyde's touchdown run provided the winning margin. Ohio State managed to pull out the win in spite of being outgained, turning the ball over 4 times, and allowing both a kickoff return touchdown and a safety.
Navy 31, Indiana 30
Indiana lost their final non-conference game when Keenan Reynolds threw a go-ahead touchdown with 2 minutes remaining. Indiana had a decent day on offense except for a pair of interceptions thrown by Cameron Coffman, one of which Navy returned for a touchdown. Indiana dropped to 2-5, putting them in a tough spot in the hunt for bowl eligibility.
Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 13
Wisconsin became the second bowl eligible team in the Big Ten thanks to a vintage performance on the ground: Montee Ball picked up 166 yards and 2 touchdowns on his 25 carries, and James White showed him up with 175 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 15. With Marqueis Gray out again due to injury, Minnesota turned to freshman Phillip Nelson at quarterback. Nelson didn't light the world on fire, but getting the youngster some game reps might pay dividends in the long run.
Penn State 38, Iowa 14
Like most of Northwestern's opponents this year, Iowa took the week before the NU game off. Unfortunately for them, they were scheduled to play Penn State. Penn State rolled off the first 38 points of this game before Iowa got on the board with a kickoff return touchdown and a garbage time passing touchdown. As bad as the blowout was, it could have been worse had Penn State not fumbled at the goal line and had a field goal blocked. With Mark Weisman hobbled, Iowa's run game was completely ineffective, while James Vandenberg was booed by the home crowd during a 17-36, 189 yard, 2 interception performance. Penn State's offense, meanwhile, went over 500 yards, and Matt McGloin's 26 rushing yards was more than Iowa's team could manage.
Syracuse 40, UConn 10
Syracuse only led 20-10 at halftime, but they asserted control of this game with 27 unanswered points starting in the second quarter. UConn finished with -6 yards rushing and turned the ball over twice, while Syracuse gained 502 yards, 251 passing and 251 rushing, scoring 2 touchdowns on the ground and 2 through the air. This was Syracuse's second to last home game, with only a November 10 date with Louisville remaining to be played in the Carrier Dome.
Vanderbilt 17, Auburn 13
Vanderbilt shouldn't feel too secure about beating 1-6 Auburn at home by only 4, but at this point they will take the win without too much complaint. Vanderbilt almost doubled Auburn's yardage output, but three lost fumbles prevented the Commodores from putting the game away.
Boston College 17, Georgia Tech 37
BC hasn't learned how to defend the option any better since their loss to Army earlier this year, and GT took advantage to the tune of 563 total yards. Unlike Army, the Georgia Tech defense was able to slow down BC's offense, holding the Eagles to 1-9 on third down and recording 2 takeaways. BC's only win so far came over Maine in week 2, and they now need to win out to become bowl eligible. BCInterruption's Brian Favat points out that Idaho fired their coach after a 1-7 start, not that Brian is suggesting anything.
One game is important for the West division race, while several have bowl eligibility implications.
#22 Michigan @ Nebraska
This is Michigan's chance to seize control of the division. If the Wolverines win, they will have a two game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker on Nebraska. The other possible challengers are Northwestern and Iowa; Michigan is a better team than either. If Northwestern wins on Saturday, both will have 2 losses; if Iowa wins, they will only be a game back and Northwestern will be fully out of the race. Whatever the situation, both NU and Iowa have to visit Ann Arbor. Michigan has to like those odds. If Nebraska wins, they will be in control, able to win a trip to Indy by winning out against Michigan State, Penn State, Minnesota, and Iowa. I don't think that Northwestern has an obvious preference in this game; Nebraska has an extra loss, but they also already hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against NU. For a breakdown of the NU-relevant division scenarios, see nuftw's fanpost.
Michigan State @ #25 Wisconsin
Michigan state needs two wins to become bowl eligible, with @Wisconsin, vs. Nebraska, vs. Northwestern, and @Minnesota remaining. That schedule only has one easy win, so a win in Madison would be a major boon to the Spartans. Wisconsin's three wins might be enough to punch their ticket to Indy, but they should be looking to win the division outright.
Purdue @ Minnesota
These two teams are out of the division races, but they are both still fighting for bowl eligibility. The winner of this game will be likely to achieve that goal: Purdue would have 4 wins with @Illinois and vs. Indiana remaining, while Minnesota would have 5 with @Illinois remaining. Neither team would be eliminated from consideration with a loss, but the loser will need to find an upset to make it to 6 wins. Purdue's slim chances of passing Wisconsin in the Sanctions Division also require a win in this game.
Indiana @ Illinois
Neither of these teams is likely to go to a bowl, but after Saturday one will have a conference win. Indiana should be favored, as their offense is the only decent unit in the game.
Ohio State @ Penn State
This would be a fascinating showdown of teams yet to lose in conference play if they were eligible for postseason play. Technically, one of these teams can win their division, so the lack of postseason implications doesn't completely drain the game of significance.
Syracuse @ South Florida
South Florida is 2-5 (0-3), so Syracuse can definitely win this. South Florida's most impressive results are closer-than-expected losses to Florida State and Louisville; either they are better than their record shows or they were lucky to catch those opponents on down weeks. Vegas seems to think the former, as South Florida are favored by a touchdown.
UMass @ Vanderbilt
A week after hosting now 1-6 Auburn, Vanderbilt welcomes 0-7 UMass. The Commodores will be 4-4 after this week, with a soft schedule offering several opportunities to get bowl-eligible.
Boston College @ Maryland
Maryland's claim to fame this year was holding West Virginia to 31 in week 4; this looks less impressive after back-to-back blowout losses from the Mountaineers. The Terps shouldn't have any trouble handing BC their seventh loss.
What to watch
Michigan-Nebraska is the most exciting matchup, pitting the top two teams in the Big Ten West against each other in prime time. Ohio State-Penn State doesn't have anything on the line except the win, but it should be a good game. The rest of the Big Ten slate sucks, though Michigan State could slow the Wisconsin offense enough to make that one interesting. In the afternoon, I recommend the Texas Tech-Kansas State matchup.