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Wednesday Big Ten Sampler: Week 11

The Big Ten in review and preview

Gregory Shamus

Last Week

One game mattered.

Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24

The marquee Big Ten game was competitive (and surprisingly high scoring), and Nebraska pulled out a come-from-behind win in dramatic fashion when Taylor Martinez hit Jamal Turner on a corner route with 6 seconds remaining. MSU fans will remember the phantom pass interference call that handed Nebraska the ball on the MSU 5 as well as a call that nullified an interception return for a touchdown, but had Nebraska lost their fans would likely be up in arms about a questionable personal foul that extended MSU's final TD drive. Michigan and Northwestern fans are mostly disappointed that Nebraska retains control of the division with the win. Michigan State now has four losses in the conference and five overall; they get a bye week before looking for their sixth win against Northwestern and Minnesota.

Indiana 24, Iowa 21

Indiana picked up their first home Big Ten win since 2009 against a collapsing Iowa team and have now won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since 2007. While the Hoosiers are undoubtedly thrilled to be winning games at all after last year's 1-11 disaster, their failure to hold a lead against Navy now looks even costlier, as it might cost them a bowl bid; Indiana needs to take two of three from Wisconsin, Penn State, and Purdue to reach 6 wins. Iowa, meanwhile, now looks more likely to miss a bowl than not, needing two of three from Purdue, Michigan, and Nebraska.

Michigan 35, Minnesota 13

Denard Robinson missed the game, but Michigan didn't have much trouble with Minnesota. Devin Gardner moved to back to quarterback from wide receiver and had a good day, going 12-18 for 234 with 2 TDs and an INT. A decent day running the ball and yet another stout defensive performance turned this game into a blowout. Nothing significant changes for these two teams; Michigan will still look to win out and hope Nebraska stumbles, while picking up a sixth win remains a realistic goal for the Gophers.

Penn State 34, Purdue 9

Purdue scored a touchdown as time expired to make this game look slightly more respectable; it could have been even worse had Penn State converted their three fourth down attempts. This was another utterly unsurprising result that also looks to have no impact on the postseason or the rest of the conference. Purdue could still make a bowl by winning out against Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana; even that schedule is probably too difficult for this team.

Ohio State 52, Illinois 22

Once again, there isn't much to say about this game; Ohio State is extremely good and Illinois is the worst team in the Big Ten. Illinois picked up loss number 7, making them the first postseason-eligible Big Ten team officially eliminated from bowl contention. Ohio State, on the other hand, remains unbeaten heading into a late bye; if they can beat Wisconsin in Camp Randall, the Buckeyes will get a chance to finish an unbeaten season in front of their home crowd against their biggest rival.

Cincinatti 35, Syracuse 24

Syracuse took a 24-21 lead in the third quarter before Cincinatti's backup quarterback Brendon Kay led two late touchdown drives to put this away. Syracuse dropped to 4-5 with 2 road games remaining.

Vanderbilt 40, Kentucky 0

Vanderbilt is now on a three game winning streak. Those three opponents have three wins between them this year. That schedule is brutal; better schedule another FCS opponent for next year.

Boston College 14, Wake Forest 28

BC was finally mathematically eliminated from bowl contention by dropping a road game to Wake Forest. I've got nothing else about this one.

Next Week

Nebraska has their last serious chance to stumble, and Syracuse has a chance to boost Northwestern's strength of schedule

Penn State @ #16 Nebraska

After this, Nebraska has Minnesota at home and Iowa on the road. This makes this game their most realistic chance to allow someone else into the division race. The good news from their perspective is that this is a home game for the Huskers; the bad news is that they have needed big comebacks against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan State. Penn State's combination of a ball-control offense and an excellent defense is tailor-made to play from ahead, so Nebraska needs to start strong in this one.

Wisconsin @ Indiana

This is essentially a Sanctions Division championship game. It is also an Indiana home game. No, seriously, Indiana will be in control of the division if they win: after this game, Wisconsin hosts Ohio State and visits Penn State, while Indiana visits Penn State and hosts Purdue. If Wisconsin wins, they officially clinch a berth in Indianapolis, while Indiana would be ahead by virtue of the tiebreaker with a much better chance of picking up at least one more win. Go Hoosiers.

Minnesota @ Illinois

Goldy has lost four of their last five, but Illinois is still Illinois. Minnesota should become the fifth bowl-eligible Big Ten team.

Purdue @ Iowa

Cripple fight! Purdue would be out of bowl contention with a loss, while Iowa would drop to 4-6 with Michigan and Nebraska remaining on the schedule. One of these teams needs to go on a streak to keep the Big Ten from sending its smallest bowl contingent since the 90s.

Syracuse vs. #9 Louisville

This is Syracuse's last home game; a loss here would leave the Orange needing back-to-back road wins to become bowl eligible. Louisville has managed to go undefeated without beating anyone good or being terribly impressive in their wins, so don't count Syracuse out.

Vanderbilt @ Mississippi

Vanderbilt continues their tour of the bottom of the SEC in Oxford. The Commodores only need one more win to reach 6; maybe they can do it against a team that has beaten a conference opponent.

Boston College vs. #4 Notre Dame

I would be so very, very happy if BC somehow pulls this one out.

Rooting Interest

Nebraska losing obviously heads the list, and fuck Notre Dame. Indiana for their chance at Indy, and Minnesota for their chance at a bowl. Syracuse winning would boost Northwestern's standings in the BCS computers, which would be nice.