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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 11 Of Big Ten Football

The Big Ten title game is almost decided.

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

One half of the Big Ten Championship Game was decided this weekend when Wisconsin crushed Indiana to lock up the Leaders Division bid. It doesn't matter what the Badgers do in the next two weeks against Ohio State and Penn State. They will head to Indianapolis regardless because they are a good team and the rest of the division either sucks or is ineligible.

The other half of the game was narrowed down to two teams thanks to Michigan's escape against Northwestern and Nebraska's comeback against Northwester. The Cornhuskers now have the advantage, needing only to beat Minnesota and Iowa to reach Indianapolis. Michigan must beat Iowa and Ohio State while hoping Nebraska is upset in one of its last two games.

As for the rest of the league, it is all about bowl positioning. Since Indiana and Purdue still must play each other the conference is guaranteed to have a maximum of eight bowl eligible teams, but it is more likely to have 6 or 7. Here is how that picture looks with two games left for everyone:

Eligible: Nebraska, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota

Need 1 win: Michigan State

Need 2 wins: Iowa, Purdue, Indiana

Ineligible: Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois

And finally, the order of selection:

Rose: Winner between Wisconsin and the Nebraska-Michigan Division winner (Nebraska has tiebreaker)

Capitol One: Likely the Big Ten title game loser

Outback: Probably the third team from the Wisconsin-Michigan-Nebraska troika

Gator: Northwestern is the best option, but could pick Michigan State if Sparty beats the Wildcats Saturday.

Buffalo Wild Wings: Michigan State if it loses to NW but beats Minnesota. NW if loses to Sparty. Minnesota if MSU doesn't reach eligibility, and it is their best-case scenario.

Meinecke Car Care of Dallas: This is likely Minnesota's worst case scenario. Purdue is here if eligible, but Iowa and MSU are not. Indiana goes here if it reaches 6-6 and both Michigan State and Iowa do not.

Heart of Dallas: Purdue's most likely destination if it wins the next two games since Minnesota beat us straight up and Michigan State is a better pick if eligible. Indiana also likely goes here if it beats Penn State and Purdue.

Little Caesar's Pizza: This is Iowa's spot if eligible, but they must beat Michigan AND Nebraska, their two division leaders, just to get to 6-6. Lose one and this bowl will not have enough Big Ten teams eligible since the Purdue-Indiana winner eliminates the other at best.

Now, onto this last week:

Wisconsin 62, Indiana 14

I admit I had a nice smirk going because Indiana were adding the whole, "We might go to the Rose Bowl!" attitude to their basketball attitude and they were getting a little too cocky. It was nice to see them taken down a peg by getting absolutely steamrolled:

Well, so much for all those magical thoughts. The hard reality of Wisconsin's rushing attack and defense quickly ended IU's conference title aspirations and put the Hoosiers' bowl hopes up against the wall. IU, at 4-6, still can qualify for a bowl game, but will have to win at Penn State and at Purdue to get there. I don't think it was crazy to think that IU could compete with a team that nearly lost to Utah State and Northern Iowa and was starting a first-timer at quarterback, but obviously the Hoosiers had no hope against a Wisconsin team playing to its potential.

It does give Purdue a game plan for playing Indiana. We should absolutely run the damn ball on every single play until they prove they can stop it, then run some more because that was obviously a fluke.

Bucky's Fifth Quarter was obviously elated to return to Indianapolis and earn a possible third straight trip to Pasadena:

After the win, Bielema was proud of his squad's response to a rocky loss and losing their starting quarterback just two weeks earlier, earning the team shot for the program's third consecutive Rose Bowl.

"Give a lot of credit to our guys perseverance," Bielema said. "Because a lot of times people will let go of the rope in this situation or back away from the things that are in front of them, but our guys just charge ahead at full speed."

Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 OT

Roy Roundtree is a certified heartbreaker for the Wolverines, as he caught a miraculous heave to set up the game-tying field goal in regulation and shattering the souls of Sippin' On Purple:

Of course, Devin Gardner's pass to Roy Roundtree was tipped, hung in the air for probably less than a quarter-second, but basically three millenia, and found its way into Roundtree's hands to put Michigan in field goal range, tie the game up, and eventually win in overtime. Northwestern played Russian Roulette with a 1,000 barrel revolver and a single bullet, and yet here we are, sweeping their brains off the floor. We looked around and said "you can't be serious!", and whoever "you" is, he wanked aggressively and confirmed to us that he was. He was and remains completely serious, and every second we are closer to dying is his new favorite second.

Maize N' Brew, naturally, had the opposite reaction:

Fast forward to the end. Devin Gardner steps up, plants, and launches a pass downfield to a single-covered Roy Roundtree. He is near the Northwestern 10 yard line, on the same side of the field as the aforementioned fumble. The initial play was the point, and in every point lies the seeds of a counterpoint, a balancing argument or occurrence. This counterpoint doesn't always happen immediately, and so we don't always recognize it as such.

Purdue 27, Iowa 24

There is emo, then there is Black heart Gold Pants After the Hawkeyes fell once again:

At least Ferentz admitted to being outcoached by a guy who has a 20-27 overall record in four seasons at Purdue and is a near-certainty to get the axe at the end of the year. That's a first.


Nebraska 32, Penn State 23

I didn't get to see much of this since I went to see Skyfall, but judging by the reactions it was a wild won. The Cornhuskers now control their fate for Indianapolis thanks to a questionable call:

Down 29-23, Penn State fumbles as a receiver is going into the end zone. It's ruled a fumble, anyway. Nebraska maintains the lead and goes on to win 32-23.

Penn State fans were not so happy at that call, and the Nittany Lions have now lost two of three:

For the second straight week, Nebraska was handed a win by the sad excuse of Foot Locker employees the Big Ten calls its referees.

Minnesota 17, Illinois 3

People watched this game? Apparently the Daily Gopher did, because all that matters for the Golden Gophers is that there will be a bowl game:

I'm sure Gopher Nation will have one of his quality recaps up at some point. But I'm too excited about the Gophers being bowl eligible to wait on this post. There have been plenty of ups and downs to contend with as a Gopher fan in recent seasons. Which is why I don't feel awkward at all about celebrating this team's accomplishment. Let the haters and naysayers blab their "mediocre bowl" nonsense. This team was not expected to do this well but they did it anyhow. This is a team that has gotten bowl eligible despite playing with an injury depleted roster, moving to a true frosh QB halfway through the year, and on and on with the obstacles. This is a big step for the program's momentum. We all know that this isn't a great football team yet. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy this.

As for Illinois, The Champaign Room notes that the first year for the Fighting Illini under Tim Beckman has definitely not gone well:

So, yeah. The Illini just got held to 3 points at home by Minnesota. The Illini managed a whole 276 yards of offense today. A week after managing 170 yards against Ohio State. That's 446 yards of offense in two games.

Wisconsin rushed for 564 yards today in a single game. Against an Indiana team that beat us 31-17 two weeks ago.

That's Illinois football right now. And that's alcohol in your home.

Get it. Drink it.

Non-Conference Opponents:

Eastern Kentucky 55, Murray State 24 - The Colonels have finished their regular season and will wait to see if 8-3 is enough to receive an FCS playoff bid. They are a half game out of first place behind eastern Illinois, who beat them 24-7 to clinch the auto-bid from the OVC.

Notre Dame 21, Boston College 6 - How delicious would the butthurt be if Notre Dame went undefeated, was shut out of the title game thanks to Oregon and Kansas State, and missed the AP title because of Ohio State?

Central Michigan 34, Eastern Michigan 31 - The Eagles are now 1-9 on the season and might be the worst FBS team in the country.

UAB 38, Marshall 31 - The Thundering Herd could be the best team we've beaten and they likely won't even make a bowl game.