If Ohio State and Penn State weren’t ineligible for postseason play, this would be a much more interesting season in the Big Ten.
In the Leaders Division, it appears that Wisconsin doesn’t have to do much to reach the conference championship game as there biggest threats are Purdue, Indiana and Illinois. In the Legends Division, the race is much tighter with Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern vying for a trip to Indianapolis.
This past Saturday, there were some good contests in the conference and while there was an upset in Wisconsin, the Badgers remain in the driver’s seat in their road to the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1.
Northwestern 28-Iowa 17
Finally the Wildcats offense got back on track in this game. After three consecutive subpar performances, quarterback Kain Colter showed why he’s one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the conference as he rushed for a career-high 171 yards against Iowa to go along with three rushing touchdowns and a 47-yard passing touchdown. Venric Mark also became the first Northwestern player to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since Tyrell Sutton in 2006. Mark rushed for 162 yards on Saturday to help the Wildcats edge Iowa in a pivotal Legends Division matchup.
Indiana 31-Illinois 17
The Hoosiers had to feel extremely confident about its chances of erasing a 12-game conference losing streak by facing the Fighting Illini. Indiana capitalized on the Illinois’ two fumbles en route to a season-saving victory for the Hoosiers. Although the team is 3-5, Indiana still has an outside chance of reaching a bowl game. For Illinois however, they should call themselves the Quitting Illini for the rest of the season because that’s what they’ve done to first-year head coach Tim Beckman.
Minnesota 44-Purdue 28
Remember when Purdue looked like they had a chance of reaching the conference championship game? Neither do I. The Boilermakers have gone downward over the past few weeks and Saturday wasn’t any different. The Golden Gophers started true freshman Phillip Nelson who threw for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in his second career start. Minnesota needed this victory to keep its hopes of reaching a bowl game alive. Purdue on the other hand, could be on the verge of seeing its season end without a trip to a bowl game which would be rather disappointing.
Michigan State 16-No. 25 Wisconsin 13 OT
The Spartans offense isn’t scaring anyone but a road conference win against the Badgers could save Michigan State’s season. The Badgers couldn’t get into any offensive rhythm as they were stymied by the Spartans defense. Wisconsin’s new dual-threat running back tandem in Montee Ball and James White were limited to 62 yards rushing on Saturday. Going into overtime tied at 10-10, Wisconsin were held to a field goal while quarterback Andrew Maxwell connected on a 12-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler for the Michigan State win.
Ohio State 35-Penn State 23
In the battle of postseason ineligible teams, the Buckeyes came out on top as Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde led Ohio State to its ninth victory of the season. Although both teams can’t play in a bowl game, they can win the Leaders Division and this game proved who valuable that is to both teams. Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin had a solid game with 327 yards passing and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes strength came in its rushing defense as they limited the Nittany Lions to 36 yards rushing.
The Cornhuskers are alone atop the Legends Division after an impressive win over Michigan. The Wolverines couldn’t muster much passing as Denard Robinson left with an elbow injury and freshman quarterback Russell Belomy didn’t have any success against Nebraska. With the victory, the Cornhuskers have the best chance at reaching Indianapolis out of the Legends Division and could possibly represent the conference in the Rose Bowl.
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