Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Recap - Week 9
Big Ten Week 9 Football Scores
Minnesota 44, Purdue 28
Ohio State 35, Penn State 23
Indiana 31, Illinois 17
Nebraska 23, Michigan 9
Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 (OT)
Northwestern 28, Iowa 17
It was a week of intrigue in the Big Ten Conference. The best team in the league stamped itself as a threat to go 12-0 this season, despite being ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game or the national title. The Legends division gained a new leader. Purdue's head coach could be on the way out after a disastrous showing by his team. Michigan State took one big step… no, not to the conference championship that many people expected, but mere postseason eligibility. A downmarket team stayed in the hunt for one of the two spots in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Let's handle the stories one by one. The first order of business is to accord due primacy to Ohio State's convincing win over Penn State in the game of the year in the conference. Penn State's ability to avoid a single loss in the first few weeks of conference competition was particularly impressive. Bill O'Brien had vaulted himself squarely into the thick of the national coach of the year conversation with his body of work under very trying circumstances. The lack of depth on the Nittany Lions' roster, given recent NCAA sanctions this past summer and the player exodus that followed, was supposed to turn Penn State into a bottom-tier team. Instead, the Nittany Lions were one of just three teams – alongside Ohio State and Michigan – who entered week nine without a Big Ten loss.
Ohio State was coming off a double-scare against Purdue: The Buckeyes almost lost to the Boilermakers, trailing by eight points in the final minute of regulation and needing a tying two-point pass to survive with three seconds left in the fourth quarter. Ohio State also breathed a massive sigh of relief when star quarterback Braxton Miller – injured in that game – was found to have avoided significant injuries that could keep him out of the lineup for at least a few weeks if not more. Entering this contest, both teams didn't know exactly what they had on their hands. They didn't know what was capable of their rosters, given the ebb and flow of the season.
Ohio State found out that its team is easily the best in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes' defense, which had been so spotty in 2012, contained Penn State's passing attack, corralling quarterback Matthew McGloin and confusing him from start to finish. Ohio State's offense once again played poorly in the first 20 minutes – continuing a season-long tendency – but when the Buckeyes woke up in the second half behind Miller's dazzling athleticism, the defense was able to hold the fort at the same time. That hasn't generally happened for coach Urban Meyer's team in 2012, but it did against Penn State, and as a result, Ohio State will very likely win the Leaders division title this season. Wisconsin is still likely to represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game.
The new leader in the Legends division is Nebraska. Sure, the Cornhuskers benefited from an injury to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (knocked out in the first half), but they still got the job done against the Wolverines to move into the top spot in that half of the Big Ten. Nebraska's defense was airtight on a night when the Big Red protected their home field yet again.
Purdue coach Danny Hope is feeling the heat. His team played well against Ohio State but couldn't seal that win. Beating Minnesota was not negotiable – it had to be done to alleviate political pressure. Yet, the Boilermakers got smacked by the high-octane Gophers in Minneapolis. Hope's hold on the job in West Lafayette, Ind., just became a lot more precarious.
Michigan State upended Wisconsin on the road to win its fifth game of the year. Since Minnesota is on the schedule, the Spartans should now feel that they will be able to make a bowl. Had they lost in Madison, Wis., they wouldn't have been able to know with certainty that a postseason game lay ahead for them.
Finally, Indiana beat Illinois in an off-the-radar contest. Don't laugh, but the Hoosiers – if they can somehow upset Wisconsin – could manage to get to the Big Ten title game. It's not likely, but it's possible, a crazy byproduct of the fact that Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for the 2012 postseason.
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