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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 12 of Big Ten Football

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Purdue was off this week, but we were apparently a warm up for Melvin Gordon.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucket Game will once again be the bowl game for both Indiana and Purdue. The Hoosiers are officially ineligible for a bowl game after losing at Rutgers, setting up the potential hilarious scenario of Missouri winning the SEC, but having a loss to a winless in the Big Ten Indiana.

That and more is recapped here in the Whistlestop Tour:

Penn State 30, Temple 13

It was only over Temple, a team they have beaten like a drum for over 70 years, but Penn State is celebrating because they are bowl eligible two years earlier than expected. Things never got as dire as many were predicting when the original sanctions were handed down, but the Nittany Lions are back in the postseason:

Penn State is going to a bowl game. I cannot tell you how great it feels to type those eight words. There are plenty of players that were on the roster in 2011 that made the trip to Dallas. But in an honest moment, I am sure they will admit they did not really want to be there. For reasons we all know too well, that team deserved better than ringing in the new year on ESPNU in North Dallas. For guys like Sam Ficken, Mike Hull, and Miles Dieffenbach, they now have the chance to close out their Penn State careers with a holiday trip under much more enjoyable circumstances.

Iowa 30, Illinois 14

A week after getting pants in Minneapolis the Hawkeyes responded with a strong win in Champaign. Now they get to finish with Wisconsin and a Nebraska with an outside shot at winning the West:

Speaking of statistical dominance... Iowa rolled up 587 yards of offense in this game.  587 yards!  Honestly, 30 points was probably the minimum they could have scored today, given how easily they moved up and down the field for most of the day.  (Related stat: Iowa punted twice in this game.  TWICE.)  Iowa should have had far more than 9 points (on 294 yards of offense) in the first half; once they started finishing drives with touchdowns, this game turned into the rout it should have been from the start.  If Iowa had been sharper in the first half, the score of this game could have been virtually identical to their 45-7 beatdown of Northwestern two weeks ago.

Illinois still has a hope of a bowl game, but they are now officially on the brink:

The defense. Yes, they had a nice first half but I'm not sure how much of that was actually them and not just a disturbingly anemic Hawkeyes offense. Iowa eventually stopped calling plays that wouldn't work and realized that all you need to do to beat Illinois is throw to your tight ends.

Ohio State 31, Minnesota 24

In probably their toughest remaining test the Buckeyes got a hard-earned victory in Minneapolis:

J.T. Barrett struggled a little throwing the football, and wasn't bailed out by his wideouts, who dropped a few passes, but was exceptional running the football, finishing the game with 189 yards and a touchdown. David Cobb paced the Gophers, getting the rock early and often, rushing for 96 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns in the early goings. Cobb would call it a day with 145 yards and three touchdowns.

Minnesota can still win the West, as beating Nebraska and Wisconsin to finish would give them the tiebreakers over both if all three finish at 6-2:

On the other hand Minnesota had a number of missed opportunities that could have turned this into the biggest win in Jerry Kill's career.  Ryan Santoso's missed FG that bounced off the left upright would have put the Gophers in position to tie the game from the 17 yard line rather than kick a FG to get within seven.  Mitch Leidner's pass to a wide open KJ Maye that was just out of reach prevented a third quarter touchdown.  Blown coverage by the secondary allowed Ohio State's third touchdown to be the easiest touchdown pass of Barrett's career.

Wisconsin 59, Nebraska 24

Melvin Gordon is really, really, really good, y'all:

Unbelievable is a proper adjective to describe Gordon's FBS-record setting and Heisman-defining performance on Saturday. He first broke his personal career rushing record for a single game -- one he set against Northwestern earlier this season -- very early in the third quarter. To note, he was knocking on the door of his personal record by halftime with 238 yards.

The Nebraska report card, as expected, was not good:

Let's set a baseline for this game.  This was Nebraska's worst game with Bo Pelini as head coach, and frankly, I think it was Nebraska's worst game in over ten years (Texas Tech's 70-10 trouncing).  Worse than the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game?

Yes.

Simply because at least in Indianapolis, we saw the offense make some plays.  Taylor Martinez's mad scramble was legendary, as was Kenny Bell's block on that Jamal Turner reception.

Northwestern 43, Notre Dame 40

This was an epic choke job, as the Irish lost even after being handed the supposed game-clinching first down on a horrible pass interference call. It couldn't happen to a better program:

You could argue this was also a terrible coaching decision by Kelly. If he'd had his team simply kneel three times, they would've had to snap on fourth down with about ten seconds left. That would've left a punt to NU where the Wildcats would've gotten the ball with about five seconds left. But if he wanted to avoid a potential punt block or punt return, he could've had the QB run backwards a few yards on each kneel or had the QB scramble a bit on fourth down and then throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. But I won't pin this on Kelly -- asking somebody as typically surehanded as McDaniel to run forward three times seemed like a pretty safe bet. And yet it didn't pay off.

Rutgers 45, Indiana 23

The Scarlet Knights are also bowl eligible in their first year in the Big Ten:

Despite Coleman's career-high 307 rushing yards, Rutgers handily beat the Hoosiers 45-23 in the last home game of the season. Indiana finished with less rushing yards as a team than Coleman, mostly due to six sacks on Hoosier QB Zander Diamont. The freshman quarterback looked every bit the part of a young signal-caller thrust into the starting role before he was ready, as the Rutgers pass rush made life difficult for him all game long. His receivers didn't do him any favors, however, as they frequently dropped passes on key drives. That's a credit to the Scarlet Knight defense too. Rutgers defensive backs had good coverage on Indiana's receivers and didn't give up too much of a cushion on passing situations. Aside from a blown play in which Diamont found a wide-open Shane Wynn for a 28-yard touchdown toss, Rutgers did a fine job defending the pass.

I am starting to feel for Tevin Coleman. At this point he is like a hostage. Even in a week where he runs for over 300 yards his team loses by 22 and Gordon breaks the FBS single-game rushing record to take his likely Player of the Week honors:

Coleman has had an incredible season as Indiana's top running back. He has rivaled the marks that Anthony Thompson set during his career at IU in the late 1980s, and has been the offense's biggest spark during a tough season in which the Hoosiers are 3-7 and have still not won a single Big Ten game. Despite this, Coleman has not slowed down, even as defenses have become more adept at containing him. And on Saturday, he had his magnum opus of the season, running for 308 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers during an otherwise forgettable late-season Big Ten matchup.

Michigan State 37, Maryland 15

Michigan State had a solid response after getting beat by Ohio State last week:

The Spartans' 37-15 victory over Maryland Saturday night, improving to 8-2 overall in the process, was a sign of a good team doing what it should do: beat a team you are more talented than.

For Maryland, their offense went stagnant against a once-again stout Michigan State defense:

The Maryland football team knew it would face one of the country's better offenses on Saturday night. Michigan State entered the week with the sixth-best scoring offense in major college football, running up 45 points per game behind highly regarded skill players and a confrontational offensive line. On Saturday, the Terps' defense stifled them all for as long as it could, but that effort wasn't enough to drag a lowly offense to a victory.

Non-conference opponents:

Western Michigan 51, Eastern Michigan 7 - The Broncos are now 7-3 and in a three-way tie for the lead in the MAC West.

Central Michigan 34, Miami (OH) 27 - The Chips are 7-4 and they close their season this week with a rivalry game against Western Michigan.

Northern Iowa 40, Southern Illinois 21 - The Salukis have now lost 4 of their last 5 and will close their season next week at Brock Spack's Illinois State, who is 9-1.