Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Recap - Week 7
Big Ten Week 7 Football Scores
Iowa 19, Michigan State 16 (2OT)
Northwestern 21, Minnesota 13
Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
Michigan 45, Illinois 0
Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14
It was a week of contrasts in the Big Ten Conference. Two defensive grinders, two old-fashioned blowouts, and one unexpected shootout all graced the landscape in week seven, lending plenty of variety to the tableau of football in the Midwest.
The first defensive grinder of the day was also the one that created the biggest national splash. Michigan State was supposed to be a 10-win program this season. Coach Mark Dantonio had seemingly begun to transcend the Spartans' stomach-punch-filled past by recruiting better and instilling a defense-first mentality into his program. Michigan State has still suffered some agonizing losses over the past few years, but a shared Big Ten title in 2010 and a Big Ten Legends Division championship in 2011 affirmed Dantonio's methods and moves in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans had every right to expect that this season would continue their progression as a program. When they defeated Boise State and head coach Chris Petersen in the season opener on Aug. 31, the Spartans had to think they were still very much on the right track.
Now, they're in a deep and dark ditch.
Michigan State lost its third game of the season – also its third home game of 2012 – by falling to Iowa before a stunned crowd at soggy Spartan Stadium. Iowa entered this game with a humiliating loss to Central Michigan on its resume. The Hawkeyes' offense had been punchless for most of the 2012 season, and so it stood to reason that when Michigan State took a 13-6 lead into the final few minutes, the Spartans were going to close the deal and walk away with an ugly victory.
Instead, Iowa struck gold. The Hawkeyes used a 35-yard pass play and a 37-yard run on third and six to score a tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation. When Michigan State couldn't manage a field goal on its subsequent possession, the two teams marched into overtime. Iowa didn't produce anything more than a field goal in two overtime possessions, stopped twice by the Spartans' defense. Yet, in a repetition of the basic theme of 2012 for Michigan State, its offense fell flat on its face. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell hit only 12 of 31 passes on Saturday. He could not produce a game-winning touchdown in the first overtime sequence, and when his final pass of the day was intercepted in the second overtime, Iowa instantly won, having kicked its second overtime field goal moments earlier.
Michigan State must go to Ann Arbor to play rival Michigan this upcoming week. If the Spartans can't win that game, they'll be under .500 with November looming as a make-or-break month. Merely making a bowl game might be all the Spartans can hope for if they don't beat Michigan. Iowa, for its part, remains unbeaten in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes' game at Michigan later in the year now has a good chance to become the battle for the league's Legends division championship.
The other newsmaker from the day's early games was Wisconsin's blowout of Purdue in a matchup of Leaders division contenders. Ohio State will likely win the Leaders championship, but with the Buckeyes ineligible for the postseason (and Penn State sharing the same fate), the Badgers and Boilermakers were playing for the right to represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin is now almost certain to gain that honor. The Badgers built a 38-7 lead before allowing a garbage touchdown in the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. Running back Montee Ball galloped for 247 yards on 29 carries in a vintage performance that recalled the memories of last season, when Ball became a Heisman Trophy finalist. Wisconsin looked to be in big trouble four weeks ago, but the Badgers have recovered nicely since then.
The final newsmaker of the week in the Big Ten was Ohio State's second straight 101-point game. Last week, Ohio State and Nebraska combined to score 101 points, and this past Saturday, Indiana and the Buckeyes created 101 more scoreboard tallies. Ohio State did own a 52-34 lead with just over two minutes left in regulation, so it's not as though this was a true scare, but Urban Meyer will not be happy with the way his defense performed in this contest. The Buckeyes have to overhaul the way in which they're approaching the defensive side of the ball. They might not fix everything this year, but they'll need to have their defense prepared in 2013, when the national championship will be an expectation of the fan base in Columbus.
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