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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 14 of Big Ten Football

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Rivalry week was a good one in the Big Ten.

If only this pissed off the football program as much as it does the fans.
If only this pissed off the football program as much as it does the fans.
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

It will be Wisconsin vs. Ohio State this week in the Big Ten Championship game, but football is mercifully over for Purdue. This weekend, frankly, sucked for Purdue sports. We lost the Bucket (again) and Purdue volleyball got absolutely hosed by not getting picked for the NCAA Tournament. At least basketball plays tomorrow night.

For one final time this year, here is the weekend in review of the Big Ten:

Nebraska 37, Iowa 34 OT

This was a surprising, back and forth game that Iowa kind of choked on. The bigger news is that Bo Pelini was fired pretty much because Melvin Gordon is amazing:

The Huskers (9-3/5-3 B1G) used a 4 Touchdown day from Armstrong, a 106 yard rushing performance from Ameer Abdullah, and 4 Iowa (7-5/4-4 B1G) turnovers to come back, being helped by 134 yards of Punt Returns by Demornay Pierson-El, with a big one coming on a 80 yard Punt Return TD to help Nebraska take the lead.

As expected, the reaction from Black Heart Gold Pants was calm and rational:

We'll get into the details later -- like how Iowa blew second-half leads to two of its four primary rivals this year, or how the trophy case will sit empty for the second time in three seasons, or how Ferentz is now below .500 in the Big Ten since signing college football's biggest contract and 10-11 at Kinnick in the last three seasons and hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since 2011 and still somehow keeps getting paid -- but for now, there is little more to say than that Iowa ended up exactly where it should have: 7-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten, fourth in a crappy division behind three primary rivals who all beat it, with a Brewster-like talk to performance ratio.

Illinois 47, Northwestern 33

The Fighting Illini are bowl eligible, and that is stunning. I think Tim Beckman deserves a ton of credit because this was a dead team walking after losing to Purdue:

What fight. I know most had written Tim Beckman and this year's Illini off after the bad loss to Purdue; even I had pretty much given up on Tim Beckman. After a blowout loss where Wisconsin ran for what felt like a thousand yards, Illinois faced Minnesota at home in their special Gray Ghost uniforms. I, and others, predicted the upset but the Illini actually came through this time. We were 4-4 and needed to win two out of the next four.

Northwestern joins Purdue, Michigan, and Indiana in being home for the winter:

Had Northwestern finished 6-6 and qualified for a meaningless bowl game, this season wouldn't have provided that shock. In fact, Pat Fitzgerald probably would've dubbed it a success, lauded how his players turned the season around down the stretch, and maybe even insisted his team had momentum heading into 2015. We know that would've been utter nonsense, but he might've actually believed it.

Ohio State 42, Michigan 28

The Buckeyes run their streak of regular season B1G wins to 24, but lost J.T. Barrett for the season:

Though the team appeared to show signs of improvement in the second -- mental lapses aside -- the entire atmosphere in the stadium was sucked out after Buckeyes signal caller and potential Heisman finalist J.T. Barrett had to be carted out of the stadium with an apparent ankle injury.

For Michigan, it is also a merciful end to a bitter season:

Despite not winning since 2011 and if morale victories are your thing, the scores were relatively close. Fast-forward to 2014, that isn't the case anymore. The nightmare of a season that was 2014 has ended and odds are the tenure of Hoke at Michigan has come to an underwhelming close.

Indiana 23, Purdue 16

It has been 20 years since Indiana had consecutive Bucket wins, and Crimson Quarry is definitely satisfied:

Zander made far fewer mistakes than his Purdue counterpart and in a game where scoring opportunities were low, that's incredibly important. The true freshman was particularly gutsy down the stretch, using his feet to keep plays alive and to score the game-winning touchdown. His pass to Nick Stoner on third down wasn't an explosive downfield play but it kept the drive alive. Very nice snag by the senior as his momentum carried him to the ground out of bounds, as well.

Boiled Sports said it best:

Purdue has now finished 12th (last) and 14th (last) in successive seasons while losing the bucket in both years. Back-to-back bucket losses hasn't happened in about 20 years...and finishing last in the conference in two straight seasons is historical, by any measure.

Morgan Burke's promise to not get into an arms race with the rest of the conference has dropped us here.

Michigan State 34, Penn State 10

The Spartans win 10 games yet again and have an excellent chance at one of the big New Year's Day bowls:

The defensive performance was straight out of 2013. It was impressive that the defense yielded just 3 points in the second quarter considering that Penn State's three drives started at the MSU 41, 40 and 36 respectively. With the offense struggling in that quarter (two 3-and-outs and an interception) the stands made by the defense stopped this game from being particularly competitive.

Penn State is bowl eligible, but does it really deserve to go:

The 17 Penn State seniors deserved a victory Saturday, wearing the blue and white for the last time in Beaver Stadium.  They'd been through 4 head coaches, unprecedented sanctions, and everything that came with that.  Unfortunately, as Will Muney once spoke, "deserve's got nothing to do with it".  And, indeed, clearly it does not.

Rutgers 41, Maryland 38

Rutgers wins the inaugural Big Ten Overexpansion Cup:

Edsall is in a different place now, but the result was the same. After being down 35-10 with less than three minutes to go in the first half, the Scarlet Knights completed the largest comeback in school history to beat the Maryland Terrapins, 41-38.

Maryland is left wondering what happened after blowing a huge home lead:

After a frustrating loss, the knee jerk reaction is to, well, overreact. Losing to Rutgers in the fashion Maryland lost on Saturday is inexcusable. You just can't allow a team to come back from 25 down and beat you, at home nonetheless. Blame is rightfully deserved by many as a result. But that one loss, no matter how frustrating or embarrassing it was, doesn't negate other positive things Maryland as a program has accomplished this season.

Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 24

The Badgers are back in the B1G title game after falling behind early at home:

It was a familiar tune for the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday afternoon. Down by two touchdowns only five minutes into the second quarter due to a key turnover and poor field position to a vaunted rival, the No. 18 Minnesota Gophers, the Badgers had a significant hole to dig out of.

For Minnesota, it was a wildly successful season, but still frustrating at the end:

There is no doubt that Wisconsin is a very good football team.  The Gophers are also a good team, capable of winning this afternoon's game but getting a few things to fall their way would certainly help.  Early on the script was certainly playing out in Minnesota's favor, about as good of a start as we could have hoped for.  The Gophers opened the game in control and remained in control for about a quarter and a half before things turned and they could never fully recover.

Non-conference opponents:

Northern Illinois 31, Western Michigan 21 - The Broncos go 8-4, but blow a late lead at home to stop them from winning the MAC West.

Central Michigan - ON BYE

USC 49, Notre Dame 14 - Any game where Notre Dame trails 49-7 is a good one.

Southern Illinois - SEASON COMPLETE