The Big Ten in review and preview
The West division race was clarified, and the Sanctions Division was the gift that keeps on giving.
Nebraska 23, Michigan 9
The outcome of this game was big news, but Denard Robinson's injury came in a close second. Robinson went out in the second quarter with Michigan in the red zone, having already passed for 55 yards on 11 attempts and rushed for 46 on 10 attempts. He finished the game as Michigan's leading rusher and passer, as his backup completed only 3 of 16 passes and threw 3 interceptions while Fitzgerald Touissant was as ineffective as ever, mustering only 38 yards on 15 carries; Michigan failed to score a touchdown for the second week in a row. Robinson should be back this week, but Michigan fans will be understandably concerned every time he gets hit. The victorious Cornhuskers are now in control of their own destiny, needing to win out to guarantee a trip to Indy. One loss would open things up for Michigan, while Northwestern needs two losses to get back in the division race.
Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13
Wisconsin had their chance to show that they could beat a decent Big Ten team, and they fell flat on their face. In spite of an injury to Joel Stave, Wisconsin extended their lead to 10-3 with a fourth quarter field goal. Michigan State then proceeded to string together a 12 play, 75 yard touchdown drive to send the game to overtime. After Wisconsin could only manage a field goal, another touchdown pass from Andrew Maxwell handed Michigan State the win. Credit is due to the Michigan State defense for keeping the game close for so long, holding Wisconsin to only 190 yards, but their offense continues to keep every game close: all of Michigan State's conference games have been decided by 4 points or fewer, including two that went to overtime. On Wisconsin's side, the loss of Stave will make a 4th conference win a difficult proposition; they still should be favored to represent their division in Indianapolis.
Ohio State 35, Penn State 23
Braxton Miller came back from his injury in a big way, rushing for 2 touchdowns and hitting Jake Stoneburner for a 72 yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to erase any remaining doubt. This was OSU's biggest obstacle to an unbeaten season; now only Michigan on the last day of the season looks like a serious challenge.
Indiana 31, Illinois 17
Indiana struggled on offense (292 yards, 1-13 on third down), but they were able to string together enough drives to notch their first Big Ten win since 2010. Amazingly enough, Indiana controls their own fate in relation to the conference championship game; while a trip to Indy seems unlikely, their remaining schedule is soft enough to make bowl eligibility a realistic possibility. Illinois still has dates with Minnesota and Purdue to try for Tim Beckman's first conference win; the prospects don't look good.
Minnesota 44, Purdue 28
The other matchup of winless teams was more one sided, as Minnesota built up a 44-7 lead before a Purdue rally made the score look more respectable. Minnesota's true freshman quarterback Phillip Nelson had a nice day, going 15-22 for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns; 4 of those passes were caught for 53 yards by former quarterback Marqueis Gray. Minnesota's remaining schedule includes Illinois, so Jerry Kill should be able to get his team to a bowl in his second year. Purdue needs to win 3 of their final 4 to get to 6 wins; while their only remaining quality opponent is Penn State, beating both Iowa and Indiana seems out of reach for the Boilermakers.
Syracuse 37, South Florida 36
I stopped paying attention to this game when South Florida took a 23-3 lead into halftime, which explains my confusion when I found this thread at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. A third quarter rally gave the Orange a 24-23 lead, but South Florida was able to retake the lead, stretching it to 9 with a fourth quarter touchdown. After Syracuse pulled within 2, a 6 minute field goal drive extended the South Florida lead and left Syracuse with only 1:23 to score a touchdown. Ryan Nassib only needed 1:20 to take his team 75 yards on 8 plays to win the game. With Syracuse leading by one, the Orange went for the 2-point conversion. This sparked a game management discussion in that postgame thread about whether the correct decision in that situation was to take a knee instead of risking a returned PAT that would have handed South Florida the lead; I am convinced that kneeling is correct, though I don't expect any coach to think of it when faced with the situation.
Vanderbilt 49, UMASS 7
This was effectively Vandy's second FCS game, but it counts for bowl eligibility like any other FBS game. Both Vanderbilt and Syracuse have now reached 4-4.
Boston College 20, Maryland 17
There was good news all around for Northwestern's out of conference opponents, as BC picked up their first FBS win of the year. Frank Spaziani is still doomed, but it looks like he will make it to the end of the season.
Northwestern is on a bye, and the Big Ten slate features an bad 11:00 game and four bad 2:30 games. This would be a good week to spend time with your families.
#20 Nebraska @ Michigan State
If Nebraska wins out, they win the division. Michigan State needs another win to become bowl eligible. This is the best conference matchup by far, and it has a good chance of turning into an easy Nebraska win. Still, Michigan State has a great defense that specializes in terrorizing mobile quarterbacks; if they can hold Nebraska under 20 points the Michigan State offense might be able to score just enough to win.
Michigan @ Minnesota
One of these teams will be bowl eligible after Saturday. I will be shocked if it is Minnesota.
Iowa @ Indiana
Iowa is counting on a win here for bowl eligibility. A win would keep Indiana's slim bowl hopes alive, but the Hoosiers would be thrilled just to pick up back-to-back conference wins.
Penn State @ Purdue
A team that can't play for anything visiting a place that doesn't exist. No thank you.
Illinois @ Ohio State
Ohio State should be able to get the backups some playing time in this one.
Syracuse @ Cincinatti
Syracuse has clawed their way to 4-4 after a 2-4 start, but the road to 6 wins looks tough. This is one of three road games, while the only home game is against unbeaten Louisville. At the very least, the Orange should be motivated.
Vanderbilt @ Kentucky
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, has to like their bowl chances. Though the Commodores also need two wins and have three road games remaining, 1-8 Kentucky is a significantly less intimidating opponent than any of Syracuse's foes. Northwestern should have an OOC opponent with a winning record by the mid-afternoon on Saturday.
Boston College @ Wake Forest
Can BC hold off on their seventh loss until Notre Dame comes to town? No, they can't.