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Around the Big Ten Week 12: Michigan State upsets Ohio State, puts Northwestern in position for Outback Bowl

The landscape of the Big Ten East completely changed, and as a result, so did Northwestern's bowl outlook.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Every Monday, after a whirlwind autumn Saturday of college football, we'll be taking you around the Big Ten to keep tabs on the rest of the conference. As it fights as one for respectability in the non-conference, or as its power dynamics shift on a week-to-week basis in October and November, we'll follow the narrative to give you a better idea of where Northwestern fits into the 14-team puzzle.

Here are the top three storylines from Week 12:

1. Michigan State upsets Ohio State

The Spartans entered Columbus yesterday as 14-point underdogs and were without starting quarterback Connor Cook for what had been the most anticipated game in the Big Ten all season. And somehow, Mark Dantonio's team was able to hand the Buckeyes their first loss of the season, and Urban Meyer's first ever regular season Big Ten loss, after Michael Geiger kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give Michigan State a 17-14 win. Geiger, as shown below, also gave us one of the the better post game celebrations of all time.

The Spartans completely dominated on both sides of the ball, totaling 294 yards of total offense and holding the Buckeyes' offense to just 132 total yards. Michigan State was also able to keep the ball out of J.T. Barrett's hands for much of the day, as they controlled the ball for over 38 minutes and limited the Buckeyes to just five first downs all day long.

After saying that he would be ready to go earlier in the week, Cook did not play due to an injured shoulder he sustained the previous week against Maryland. Junior Tyler O'Connor started in place of Cook and had a quiet but effective day as he completed 7-of-12 passes while throwing for 89 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

The win puts Michigan State in the driver's seat of the Big Ten East heading into its final regular season game of the season against Penn State. If Michigan State wins out the rest of the season, the Spartans would have one of the more compelling one-loss resumes in the nation with wins at Michigan and Ohio State, a non-conference win over Oregon (who won its fifth-straight game on Saturday against USC to move to 8-3 on the season), and a potential matchup with Iowa looming in two weeks...

Which brings us to our next storyline:

2. Iowa clinches Big Ten West

Iowa, now the Big Ten's only undefeated team, took care of business against another hapless team this week, beating Purdue 40-20 at home to move to 11-0. The win marks Iowa's seventh victory this season over a team who currently has a record below .500, and while Purdue actually outgained Iowa in total yards (405 to 387), the Hawkeyes were able to jump out to an early 20-0 lead and never relinquished it. Despite the wind chill being near zero and almost eight inches of snow hitting Iowa City on Friday night, the Hawkeyes' passing attack still made an impact in the harsh conditions as C.J. Beathard tossed three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The win gives Iowa the Big Ten West division title, which means Iowa will make its first ever appearance in the Big Ten Championship in two weeks against the winner of the Big Ten East. At this point, nothing changes for Iowa as the Hawkeyes still control their own destiny for the rest of the season and the goal remains simple for Kirk Ferentz's team: if it wins its next two games (at Nebraska, then the Big Ten Championship), it appears Iowa will earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

3. Michigan holds off Penn State to set rivalry showdown next week

Michigan moved to 9-2 Saturday with a 28-16 victory at Penn State. The win, along with Ohio State's loss, moved the Wolverines into a tie with the Buckeyes for second place in the Big Ten East, but still on the outside looking in when it comes to clinching the division title. Michigan will face off against Ohio State at home next week for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era with major stakes on the line. If Michigan State were to lose to Penn State next week, the winner of the Michigan/Ohio State matchup would go to the Big Ten Championship and play for a chance to make a New Year's Six bowl — or possibly, depending on what happens in college football over the next two weeks, a playoff spot.

Michigan is 1-10 against Ohio State over the last 11 years, but the Buckeyes have major issues that need to be addressed before they travel to Ann Arbor, most notably running back Ezekiel Elliott calling out his coaching staff's poor play calling on Saturday after the loss.

Other games

Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak against Illinois as the Gophers defeated the Fighting Illini 32-23. The Gophers were led by running back Shannon Brooks, who ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Both Minnesota and Illinois are now currently 5-6 on the year and will both be playing for bowl eligibility next week in their final games of the season.

- After slumping to an early 21-3 deficit, Indiana outscored Maryland 44-7 over the rest of the game in a 47-28 victory. Despite this being Indiana's first conference win of the season, the Hoosiers are still 5-6 and will have a shot to make a bowl next week if they can win at Purdue.

-Rutgers also picked up its fourth win of the season, beating Army in a game that has absolutely no significant implications whatsoever.

Northwestern bowl implications

Michigan State's win means that the Big Ten now has a much better chance of finishing the season with three teams in the top 11 of the final College Football Playoff rankings (Iowa, Michigan State and the winner of next week's Ohio State-Michigan game). Assuming that Michigan State and Iowa both win next week, those two teams would face off in the Big Ten Championship, with the winner likely headed to the College Football Playoff, and the loser likely headed to the Rose Bowl. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game would then finish as the No. 3 team in the conference, but with Ohio State currently No. 8 in the AP Poll and Michigan No. 12 (College Football Playoff rankings to come on Tuesday), it's unlikely that the winner of next week's game would land outside the top 11.

This would put Northwestern and the loser of Michigan-Ohio State in line to play in either the Citrus Bowl or the Outback Bowl, both games that take place on New Year's day against an SEC opponent, and both a significant step up from the Holiday Bowl. The Outback Bowl, played in Tampa, would be the most likely destination for the Wildcats, with Wisconsin headed to the Holiday Bowl (after playing in Florida the past two years) and Penn State in either the Music City Bowl or TaxSlayer Bowl. If the Big Ten only gets two teams in New Year's Six bowls, things will get interesting, but for now, Northwestern is in very good shape.