Wednesday Big Ten Sampler: Conference Championship Week

Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

The Big Ten season in review

Last Week

The last week of the regular season didn't produce any big surprises

Nebraska 13, Iowa 7

With wind limiting the passing game, Iowa was able to take a 7-3 lead near the end of the first quarter and hold it until late in the third quarter, when a Rex Burkhead touchdown put Nebraska ahead by the final margin. Both offenses struggled, with neither team cracking 300 yards and both turning the ball over twice. While Nebraska can't be pleased with letting Iowa stick around that long, they still picked up their 10th win (7th in conference) and earned a shot at winning their first conference championship since 1999. For Iowa, this was their 6th straight loss to close the season.

Ohio State 26, Michigan 21

On a day that Ohio State honored Jim Tressel's 2002 national championship team, Ohio State pulled out a win in a way that must have had Tressel drooling on the sideline: after Michigan took a 21-17 lead on a 62 yard run by Denard Robinson at the end of the second quarter, Ohio State kicked a 52 yard field goal as the first half expired and then shut Michigan out in the second half while kicking two more field goals to provide the final margin. If that isn't Tresselball, I don't know what is. Since Nebraska had already won on Friday, this game never mattered to the West Division race, but Ohio State finished the regular season unbeaten for the first time since 2006 and their entire season unbeaten for the first time since 2002.

Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10

Michigan State's defense was as dominant as you will ever see, holding Minnesota under 100 total yards and picking the Gophers off 4 times; the only Minnesota touchdown came from an interception return. Michigan State's offense naturally struggled to turn this into points, with Andrew Maxwell completing only 13 of 29 passes and throwing two interceptions. LeVeon Bell was busy rushing for 266 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries, but apparently handing him the ball 15 more times was too complicated for MSU. The win got the Spartans bowl eligible, which Minnesota already was.

Purdue 56, Indiana 35

Purdue became bowl eligible by scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. This wasn't enough to save Danny Hope's job, but it does mean the Purdue is going bowling in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2006-07.

Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 (OT)

The farce in the Sanctions Division continued, as Wisconsin once again had to score a last-minute touchdown to prolong a loss to a superior division mate. At least the Badgers won enough of their out of conference games to spare the Big Ten having either a 6 loss conference champion or a runner-up needing an NCAA waiver to go bowling.

Syracuse 38, Temple 20

Syracuse won their third straight, scoring 21 points in the second half to blow past Temple. The Orange gained 475 yards and force four turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown to provide the final margin. If Rutgers beats Louisville Louisville beats Rutgers this weekend, Syracuse could still pick up a share of the Big East title, which would instantly become the biggest Northwestern talking point of the upcoming offseason.

Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21

Two special teams touchdowns, on a punt return and a punt block, provided the icing on a strong Vanderbilt showing. Vanderbilt's defense held Wake Forest to only 310 yards on 82 plays, an average of 3.8 yards per play, which helps explain why Vanderbilt could dominate a game in which its offense turned the ball over 3 times.

NC State 27, Boston College 10

Just another BC game. This week, Chase Rettig had an awful outing (16/45 for 123 yards and 3 interceptions) while the rest of the team was merely bad. Oddly, both BC running backs to get carries averaged over 7 YPC; since I can't bring myself to watch more BC football, I have no idea why Rettig dropped back 45 times with a running game like that.

This Week

The conference championship game is all that matters.

#12 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin

Wisconsin can win their third straight Big Ten Championship in spite of finishing third in their division with a 4-4 conference record. Northwestern finished third in their division with a 5-3 conference record, not that I'm bitter or anything. Nebraska is a slight favorite, and a win would take a lot of heat off of Bo Pelini, who many Nebraska fans consider not good enough in spite of winning at least 9 games in all of his 5 seasons in Lincoln and 10 games in 3 of those seasons. A Nebraska win would be far less awkward for the conference, though a Wisconsin win would increase the pressure on Pelini to win a conference championship in the next couple of years. Much as I want to root for chaos in Lincoln, I don't think a Nebraska loss would be quite damaging enough to Pelini's job security to warrant rooting for sending a 5 loss team to Pasadena.

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