'The Game' thankfully relevant again
Notebook: Northwestern finishing strong; Purdue eyes bowl
Jim Delany can rest easy. Michigan blew out Iowa and Ohio State survived in Wisconsin to make sure their end-of-the-year matchup this week is more relevant than ever.
For the first time since 2007, the Wolverines and Buckeyes will enter their annual rivalry game sporting elite programs with conference title implications resting in the balance.
“The Game” has returned and the world according to the Big Ten is back to normal.
Michigan’s hopes for a Legends Division title stayed alive by virtue of its 42-17 whipping of the Hawkeyes on senior day last week. The Maize and Blue will need that same Iowa team to defeat Nebraska on Friday to set up a clinching scenario the next day in Columbus, Ohio.
Senior wide-receiver Roy Roundtree has experienced both the highs and lows of the rivalry most claim the “best in all of sports.” He said the veterans always make it point to tell the new players each year that the whole season comes down to the Ohio State game.
“It's the last game of the year, playing Ohio. Ever since the freshman arrive on campus we bring it up and say 'Beat Ohio,' ” Roundtree said. “I’m pretty sure they know this week is about being totally focused.”
Yes, most in Ann Arbor refer to their rivals as “Ohio,” but there’s no mistaking this Ohio State squad for a MAC school.
After blowing a lead with eight seconds remaining, the Buckeyes kept their undefeated season alive with a 21-14 triumph in overtime at Wisconsin last week. Due to NCAA sanctions, Ohio State is not eligible for the postseason, but can still finish 12-0 with a win against “that team up north” this week.
"I'm honored to be the coach of an 11-0 Ohio State Buckeye team, especially one that's very deserving,” coach Urban Meyer said. “Another overtime win and that's good to see from the Buckeyes."
Amidst the plethora of storylines this contest carries into its 2012 edition, it will also mark the rivalry swansong for Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson who is questionable to start. He’s 1-2 in his career against the Bucks, but broke the Maize and Blue’s seven-game losing streak to the Scarlett and Gray last season.
For Shoelace, his storied career may be nearing an end this week; but for Delany and the rest of the Big Ten, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is just heating up.
Robinson is just happy to have helped lead it back to national relevance.
"It means a lot, it is hard to put into words what this means to me, just to be able to lead this team as one of the guys picked by the team to be a captain and their leader.” Robinson said. “It is kind of hard to swallow right now because it is coming to an end."
Illinois (2-9, 0-7 Big Ten)
• The Illini staged a late rally but, like too many times this season, fell short in a 20-17 loss to Purdue last week. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase accounted for 236 total yards and rushing for a touchdown, but he couldn’t lead Illinois to victory in his final game in Champaign.
• The Illni are still the only team winless in Big Ten play and are currently riding a 13-game conference losing streak dating back to last season. The disastrous season 2012 has become will come to a conclusion when Illinois battles Northwestern this week in Evanston.
Next Game: at Northwestern Nov. 24
Indiana (4-7, 2-5 Big Ten)
• The Hoosiers clinched yet another losing season, falling 45-22 at Penn State last week. The offense continued to roll as sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman threw for 454 yards and two touchdowns. The defense, however, remained anemic and helpd the Crimson to another defeat.
• One week after blowing a chance to win the Leaders Division spot in the Big Ten title game, the Hoosiers have blown their chance to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007. Still, Year 2 of the Kevin Wilson era probably has been a success, and a win against Purdue this week will add momentum toward 2013 for the rebuilding program.
Next Game: at Purdue Nov. 24
Iowa (4-7, 2-5 Big Ten)
• The Hawkeyes pulled even at 7-7 late in the first quarter before getting outscored 35-10 the rest of the way in a 42-17 blowout loss at Michigan last week. Junior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz had a career day, grabbing eight balls for 99 yards, his longest a 37-yarder in the defeat.
• Iowa has spiraled to five consecutive defeats, four by double figures, and will finish below .500 for the first time since the 2006 season. The Black and Gold will finish one of the worst seasons of the Kirk Ferentz era when they host Nebraska in their annual “Heroes Game” Friday.
Next Game: vs. Nebraska Nov. 23
No. 20 Michigan (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten))
• Junior Devin Gardner started at quarterback in lieu of a banged up Denard Robinson, and threw for 314 yards and a trio of touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 42-17 roll over Iowa last week. Robinson took a couple of snaps under center, but mostly played running back -- and did it pretty well by rushing for 98 yards on 13 carries.
• All that remains in the regular season for the Maize and Blue is a trip to Columbus for their annual clash with Ohio State with a whole lot on the line. Michigan will be looking to ruin the Buckeyes’ hopes for a 12-0 season, while trying itself to clinch a trip to Indianapolis although it needs help as Iowa must also defeat Nebraska on Friday.
Next Game: at Ohio State Nov. 24
Michigan State (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten)
• The Spartans can add one more disappointing loss to their underachieving season after falling to their sixth loss in a 23-20 setback to Northwestern last week. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw for 297 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but his two interceptions held back the offense enough to let the Wildcats pull ahead late.
• The defeat capped Michigan State’s conference slate in which the Green and White went 0-5 in league play. All seven of the Spartans’ Big Ten contests have been decided by four points or fewer, making them the second team to achieve that mark in FBS history. Michigan State still needs a victory to reach bowl eligibility, which will have to come in the regular-season finale against Minnesota this week.
Next Game: at Minnesota Nov. 24
Minnesota (6-5, 2-5 Big Ten)
• The Golden Gophers went to halftime down 24-0 and never put up much of a fight in a 38-14 defeat to Nebraska in Lincoln last week. Minnesota was out-gained 444-177, picked up only 11 first downs and converted just 1 of 13 third down opportunities against a riled up Blackshirt defense.
• Though the trip to Nebraska soiled hopes for an eight-win season, 2012 will undoubtedly go down as a swinging success for head coach Jerry Kill, who has taken a dormant program back to the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Gophers can clinch a winning season when they host a stumbling Michigan State team this week.
Next Game: vs. Michigan State Nov. 24
No. 17 Nebraska (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten)
• The Cornhuskers closed in on a trip to the Big Ten championship game with a 38-14 rout of Minnesota at home last week. Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez was close to perfect, going 21 of 29, throwing for 308 yards and two touchdowns as well as rushing for another 22 yards in the victory.
• Nebraska now stands one victory or a Michigan loss away from punching its ticket to Indianapolis, and can finish the job in Iowa City on Friday. If the Huskers lose to the Hawkeyes, they will have to hope the Wolverines fall at Ohio State Saturday in order to win the Legends Division.
Next Game: at Iowa Nov. 23
Northwestern (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten)
• The Wildcats held a late lead once again, but this time were able to hold on in a 23-20 triumph against Michigan State in East Lansing last week. Northwestern was held to only 57 yards rushing, lost their starting quarterback and had the ball for a measly 25:41. Somehow, though, they found a way to emerge from Spartan Stadium victorious.
• The Purple have pretty much tied all loose ends to their postseason destination, the Gator Bowl being the likely landing spot for the Wildcats thanks to the victory against Michigan State. Northwestern hosts the conference’s worst team, 2-9 Illinois, for the Land of Lincoln trophy next week as they close out one of the best regular seasons in school history.
Next Game: vs. Illinois Nov. 24
No. 4 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten)
• The Buckeyes kept their magical 2012 run alive to enter the final week undefeated thanks to a 21-14 overtime victory against Wisconsin in Madison last week. Junior running-back Carlos Hyde’s 2-yard touchdown scamper in the first overtime held up as the Ohio State defense held the Badgers scoreless in their extra possession to seal win No. 11. Head coach Urban Meyer is now 5-0 in overtime games in his career, including 2-0 with the Bucks.
• The Scarlett and Gray are a victory away from completing an improbable undefeated season which fittingly will have to come via a triumph against arch-rival Michigan in Columbus this week. For a year that will not include postseason play, the matchup with the Wolverines will serve as the Buckeyes’ season finale and bowl game all rolled into one.
Next Game: vs. Michigan Nov. 24
Penn State (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten)
• The Nittany Lions gave up the lead on multiple occasions before pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 45-22 win against Indiana last week. Senior quarterback Matt McGloin continued his stunning senior season with a career-best 395 yards and four touchdowns, while also becoming setting the school record for most yards in a season (3071) as well as career touchdown passes (45).
• Not all was well for the victorious Lions as senior star-linebacker Michael Mauti went down with an undisclosed knee injury in the first quarter and finished the game on crutches while watching the game from the sidelines. It's a sad twist for a player who has garnered national attention for his stellar play, and his status for the team’s season finale against Wisconsin this week is unknown.
Next Game: vs. Wisconsin Nov. 24
Purdue (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten)
• The Boilermakers took one more step to reaching bowl eligibility, holding off Illinois in a 20-17 victory last week. Senior quarterback Robert Marve turned in one of his better performances as a member of the Black and Gold, throwing for 173 yards and a touchdown in the win.
• After being left for dead two weeks ago, Purdue has rallied for back-to-back wins and is now a single triumph from reaching the postseason. To do that, the Boilers will have to take out Indiana in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket in West Lafayette this week.
Next Game: vs. Indiana Nov. 24
Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten)
• The Badgers scored a game-tying touchdown with eight seconds left in the fourth-quarter to send the game to overtime, but were shut out in the extra session in a 21-14 home defeat to Ohio State last week. Wisconsin dominated most of the game and rallied from a 14-0 deficit to knot the score late. However, it was unable to complete the effort and ruin the Buckeyes’ perfect season.
• The loss won’t help morale, but the Badgers didn’t lose much standings-wise since they have already clinched a spot in the conference title game. Senior quarterback Curt Philips made his bid to start the final two games for Wisconsin, throwing for 154 yards and a score as the team continues to look for a primary signal-caller.
Next Game: at Penn State Nov. 24