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Wednesday Big Ten Sampler: Week 12

The Big Ten in review and preview

Eric Francis

Last Week

Another team became bowl eligible, and Nebraska passed their last major test.

Nebraska 32, Penn State 23

Nebraska was down 23-20 going into the fourth quarter before picking up a touchdown, safety, and field goal to provide the final margin. There has been a major dispute about a might-have-been touchdown for Penn State that was ruled a fumble into the end zone instead, but Nebraska did enough to win in any case. Nebraska's road to Indianapolis is now wide open, as they only need to beat Minnesota and Iowa. Neither of those teams should be much of a problem

Wisconsin 62, Indiana 14

This game provided an anticlimactic finish to the Sanctions Division race, as Wisconsin clinched a berth in the championship game by rushing for 564 yards. With Joel Stave out due to injury and Danny O'Brien still Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin turned to senior Curt Phillips at quarterback, whose last game action came in 2009. Phillips only threw 7 passes, though he did contribute his share to the rushing total by totaling 68 yards on the ground. To win the division outright, Wisconsin needs to win out against Penn State and Ohio State and then for Ohio State to lose to Michigan. Indiana still has an outside shot at bowl eligibility; they need to win against Penn State and Purdue.

Minnesota 17, Illinois 3

Minnesota's defense dominated the Illinois offense, holding them under 300 yards and forcing 2 turnovers, on the way to Minnesota's sixth win. The Gophers will gladly take a bowl bid. Illinois extended their losing streak to 7, and thanks to Purdue's win over Iowa, Illinois is now the only Big Ten team without a conference win.

Purdue 27, Iowa 24

Iowa's offense was awful and their defense got torched for 490 yards, but three Purdue turnovers (including one returned for a touchdown) kept the Hawkeyes in the game until the end. A field goal as time expired earned Purdue their first conference win this year. These teams are both 4-6 at this point, but their bowl prospects couldn't be more different; Iowa has Nebraska and Michigan remaining, while Purdue has Illinois and Indiana.

Syracuse 45, Louisville 26

Louisville came into the game undefeated, but they had neither beaten any particularly good teams nor won by the margins one expects from a truly elite team. A Syracuse win, then, wasn't that surprising; what was surprising was how completely Syracuse dominated. After the first quarter ended in a 10-10 tie, Syracuse scored 21 straight in the second and took a 31-13 lead into halftime, which they extended to 38-13 early in the third quarter. The Syracuse offense was dominant on the ground and through the air, while the defense was able to come up with a pair of takeaways to mitigate Louisville's 472 yards. Syracuse now leaves the infernal confines of the Carrier Dome to look for one more win to send them to a bowl.

Vanderbilt 27, Mississippi 26

Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace had his way with the Vandy defense, finishing the day 31-49 for 403 yards, helping his team pull ahead 23-6 early in the third quarter. Vanderbilt managed to get within three going into the fourth quarter, but a field goal with 2:43 remaining left the Commodores needing a touchdown from the two minute drill. Jordan Rodgers delivered, throwing the winning touchdown pass with 52 seconds remaining. Vanderbilt is now bowl eligible, with Tennessee and Wake Forest remaining. That should be good for 8 wins for them.

Boston College 6, Notre Dame 21

Notre Dame is good, BC isn't. #FireSpaz

This Week

Nebraska should cruise, while the rest of the conference plays for pride.

Ohio State @ Wisconsin

This is definitely the most interesting game from a quality football perspective, and it also has a chance of determining the official winner of the Sanctions Division. If Ohio State wins, they clinch the division title, while if Wisconsin wins, they would win by winning their season finale against Penn State and Ohio State losing to Michigan.

Minnesota @ #14 Nebraska

Nebraska just needs to beat Minnesota and Iowa to win the West Division. Minnesota has achieved bowl eligibility, but I'm sure that a major road upset would still be a nice feather in Jerry Kill's cap. Nebraska should still cruise.

Iowa @ #21 Michigan

The other game with potential West Division relevance pits a collapsing Iowa teem looking to stave off bowl elimination against a Michigan team that has recovered from their loss to Nebraska nicely. Michigan should head into the Ohio State game with their division hopes still alive.

Indiana @ Penn State

Indiana sits at 4-6 with two road games remaining. This is by far the tougher, but if the Hoosiers can find a win in Happy Valley, we could see Indiana and Purdue playing for a bowl bid in the season finale.

Purdue @ Illinois

This could have been an epic cripple fight between teams with 0 Big Ten wins between them, but then Purdue had to ruin it by winning against Iowa. The Boilermakers do still have a chance at a bowl, however, and a win here shouldn't be too hard to get.

Syracuse @ Missouri

The winner of this game will become bowl eligible. Missouri plays at home, and their road matchup with fellow Big 12 transplant Texas A&M in the last week of the season should give them extra urgency to get their sixth win this week. Syracuse doesn't have a tough final week opponent for motivation, but I doubt that they want to go to Temple on Black Friday with their bowl hopes up in the air.

Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee

Vanderbilt continues the SEC gauntlet by hosting a 4-6 Tennessee team whose wins have come over NC State, Georgia State, Akron, and Troy. That schedule is a bit harder than Vanderbilt's FCS double dip, but Tennessee made up for it by losing all 6 of their conference games to date. Vanderbilt has no excuse for not winning, which would set up Tennessee and Kentucky for a match of the winless in the final week of the season.

Boston College vs. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech hasn't finished below .500 since 1992. With the Hokies sitting at 4-6, BC has a chance to make that happen again. I didn't say it was a good chance.