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The Whistlestop Tour: Week 12 of Big Ten Football

Your weekly look around the Big Ten.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa is in Indianapolis already for the Big Ten championship game. Michigan State will join them with one more win, while a Spartan loss will send the winner between Michigan and Ohio State to Indy. In addition to that there were some great games around the league on Saturday:

Iowa 40, Purdue 20

A division title and an 11-0 record has Black Heart Gold Pants all smiles:

Four Iowa halfbacks combined for 26 carries and 151 yards, a decent day against a much-maligned Purdue defense.  Two LeShun Daniels touchdown runs staked Iowa to its early lead, a 43-yard Jordan Canzeri run put a cherry on the sundae, and the rest of running game was effective enough to set up play action.  C.J. Beathard took it from there, throwing for 213 yards and three touchdowns, including a perfectly-executed 35-yard touchdown pass to George Kittle that put the game out of reach.

It was typical Purdue against a good team. They made it interesting for a bit, then John Shoop swooped in to dash our hopes:

After Blough was forced to the locker room, Appleby played for the first time in two months...and didn't look rusty. In fact, he completed 11 of his first 12 passes while the defense rose to the occasion. The result, was Purdue clawed back into the game to trail by just 10 points at the half (20-10). I joked on Twitter that the best thing for a Purdue QB seems to be not being talked to too much by the OC. Purdue QBs seem to get less productive the longer they start in this system...that's probably  not a great sign...I'm told we're on the right there's that.

Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14

The 30-game Big Ten win streak for the Buckeyes is over and they behaved like whiny, petulant children after the loss. First let's go to Michigan State's reaction, as they are back in the playoff discussion now:

If you're anything like me (and I'm guessing you are, loyal TOC reader) then you probably like ranking things in your life, High Fidelity-style. This is the main reason for this post: attempting to contextualize how big the 17-14 MSU win over Ohio State is in the Dantonio era.

LGHL is saying the coaching staff struggled. It must really suck to have a coaching staff be 58-4 over the last four seasons but they are struggling:

If you hire good people, others are going to want to pluck them away for promotions, and losing assistants isn't new to Ohio State or Urban Meyer. Perhaps because of Meyer's success with hiring coaches (he now has one of the largest and successful coaching trees in college football), or perhaps because the returning talent at Ohio State just seemed so overwhelming, the fact that the Buckeyes were replacing two excellent coaches and reshuffling responsibilities on offense flew under the radar a little bit, and nobody really batted too much of an eye when Ohio State hired Tony Alford and Tim Beck as the replacements.

Michigan 28, Penn State 16

This was more of the same from Michigan as their defense returned to form after last week's wild ride in Bloomington:

Penn State was held to only 207 yards of total offense on Saturday, but they were able to hit on a handful of big plays to get them into scoring position. In fact, 150 yards of their total came on just five plays. Michigan was able to keep them out of the endzone and hold them to field goals, which they in turn traded for touchdowns. That was the biggest story of the game.

Penn State's slim East division hopes were dashed, but they can still get a decent bowl game:

Although the game didn't turn out they way they would have wanted, there's no denying that the seniors (and the key few juniors we who may not be returning) gave it all they got, and played one heck of a game. Hat's off to you. Penn State is where it is today because of you. Don't you ever forget that. Our gratitude will be with you always.

Northwestern 13, Wisconsin 7

The Wildcats gets a controversial win and are a victory over Illinois from a nice 10-win season:

In the end, Northwestern deserved to win this game by the slightest of margins, and that's exactly what happened. While Wisconsin's defense played very well and its offense was hamstrung by turnovers on the other side of the ball, it's perfectly valid to argue that Northwestern got incredibly lucky at the end of the game. But if the Wildcats had lost, the narrative would have been about them playing well and choking, rather than them getting lucky.

Bucky's 5th Quarter was rightfully upset about the loss:

Twice, the Badgers appeared to score the dramatic game-tying touchdown. With an all-but guaranteed Rafael Gaglianone extra point, Wisconsin was going to emerge, somehow, victorious.

Twice, the call on the field of a Badgers game-tying touchdown was overturned.

Rutgers 31, Army 21

Another non-conference win for the Big Ten! Woo!

The Rutgers offense was just about average against an inferior Army defense. They failed to amass 400 total yards, which should be an easy task against an Army defense. Chris Laviano was unimpressive, as he completed 13 of 21 pass attempts for only 105 yards (5.0 avg). He had no touchdowns or interceptions and it was very clear that the coaching staff did not want to use him as a weapon to defeat army. Many of his completions were intermediate throws and bubble screens.

Indiana 47, Maryland 28

Indiana finally wins a non-Purdue Big Ten game and is a win away from official bowl eligibility:

This game did not follow any of the established Big Ten script for the Hoosiers. Where it's previously been good early, bad late, this team took the opposite approach and came away with a different result. How'd the do it? Defensive stops. Outside of one Brandon Ross run on the second play of the the third quarter, Indiana didn't give up a point after the 5:30 mark of the third quarter. Sure, Maryland's offense was limited and hardly potent -- but so was Rutgers'. Indiana's hallmark this season has been the ability to make pedestrian-to-bad offenses look like world-beaters. They didn't do that today -- and that's worth celebrating. For context, Indiana gave up 28 points to this Maryland team. The vaunted Penn State defense surrendered 30.

Maryland fans just want it all to end:

The Terps are 2-9. That's not much different than being 3-8, and it'll all be over very, very soon. Losing after holding such a commanding early lead might be a low point in a season with plenty of candidates.

Minnesota 32, Illinois 23

The Gophers now need to get the Axe back to get to a bowl game:

Today was the true freshman showcase but it ultimately featured Shannon Brooks who continued to emerge in the Gopher backfield and had himself a career game to day with 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns.  Rodney Smith got two carries on the second series of the game and then did not return, opening the door for Brooks.  On the third series Mitch Leidner opened things up with a 33-yard keeper on the zone-read, then it was Brooks who ran for 15, 11 and 5 with the last one tying the game up at 7 apiece.  On the next possession Brooks took a 3rd and 2 handoff that he turned into a 38-yard touchdown run.

Illinois also needs one more win, but it has to come over Northwestern:

Illinois outplayed Minnesota today. They outgained the Gophers too. But Illinois lost because the coaching was absolutely dreadful. Bill Cubit is not a good coach. His time at Western Michigan showed this and his time as the interim head coach at Illinois is showing it too.

Non-conference Opponents:

Marshall - on bye

Indiana State 27, Youngstown State 24 - Bo Pelini falls to the Mighty Trees on a late field goal.

North Carolina 30, Virginia Tech 27 OT - Frank Beamer's final home game is a crushing OT loss.

Toledo 44, Bowling Green 28 - Hey, Greg Hudson can learn from the Toledo defense!