Wow, what a weekend in the B1G. I have to admit, Saturday was an historic sports day. JoePa added another accolade to a career that we probably won't ever see again, if you're a baseball fan Albert Pujols had a World Series game for the ages, and then there was Wisconsin-MSU.
As DIck Enberg would say, Oh, My.
But we also figured out some other things: the Cinderella story for Illinois is over, Purdue is much better than Northwestern is, Iowa is a solid team again, and we have some great division races going on to get to Indianapolis.
So come along after the jump, where the Hail Mary Pass is still a touchdown, no matter how many different ways you want to look at it.
Iowa 45, Indiana 24: Marvin McNutt is really, really good. Indiana is really, really bad, but I have to say they at least have some fight in them, and they made it a game a lot longer than Minnesota did with Nebraska. Iowa's defense is still going to give Hawkeye fans fits, but James Vandenberg is running an offense that's hitting on all cylinders. Between McNutt, Vandenberg, and RB Marcus Coker, Iowa is going to be a team no one is going to want to face as the season draws to an end and we head towards bowl season. Iowa with a running game and a go to back is a foreign concept to me, so you'll have to excuse me if I hold my breath waiting for something bad to happen, but man, Coker is a fast and powerful runner.
Purdue 21, Illinois 14. Can one simultaneously feel bad for Illinois and good for Purdue? I do. I really thought Illinois was on the verge of a Cinderella season, but consecutive losses have put an end to that run. They're still bowl eligible, but they are really going to have to regroup after a disappointing loss. And how about a nice round of applause for Purdue? Condemned to the bottom of the conference, they've overcome an uneven start to get to 2-1 in the conference, and if they keep improving from week to week like they have, they might sneak into a bowl. With 4 wins, they should beat Indiana in their finale, but they'll have to steal a game from either Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, or Iowa. Tough challenge, but if they beat one of those teams (except Wisconsin), I won't be stunned.
Penn State 34, Northwestern 24. What more is there to say about Joe Paterno that hasn't already been said? I think it's safe to say that we will be hard pressed to find a coach stay at one school the way JoePa has ever again. With all the crap that's going in in college football today, it's nice to see that guys that do play by the rules and do it the right way get the accolades they deserve. And Penn State is quietly 7-1, with a good defense, a solid running game in Silad Redd, and it looks like they've settled on Matt McGloin. As for Northwestern, nice uniforms, but we can officially put away any pretense that this is a football team that we would call good. They cannot run the ball, and they cannot stop the run, a combination that makes it difficult for me to see a path to six wins for them. Dan Persa is just good this year, as opposed to other worldly, and good isn't good enough to overcome a bad defense.
Nebraska 41, Minnesota 14. I don't think anyone was expecting any other result. Nebraska had no problem doing whatever they wanted to do, and Minnesota can't get out of their own way. There's such a feeling of despair around the Gopher program that they were celebrating routine catches and tackles like they had just won the Big Ten. I mean really, it's come to that? Nebraska is going to miss Jared Crick before it's all said and done, but they managed to squeak by without him Saturday. Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez both had good days, and the Huskers rolled all day.
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31. This was the best game in the Big Ten so far this decade. It had wild lead changes, wild emotional swings, and the most improbable finish I have ever seen. I have to admit, I was switching back and forth between this game and the epic Pujols game in the World Series, and at different points I thought both Michigan State and Wisconsin had put the game away. But credit both teams, they handled adversity, made some great plays on both sides of the ball, and at the end, a miracle...or a load of bullshit, depending on your perspective. But that ending would not have been possible if Bret Bielema hadn't used his timeouts on MSU's last drive, giving Sparty enough time to throw the Hail Mary pass at the end. I still don't agree with that move--it was like he was begging Kirk Cousins to try and win it in regulation, and by God, he did. Oh, and for Wisconsin fans who claim that Keith Nichol didn't score, he scored. it was obvious from at least two different angles that I saw that the ball crossed the plane of the goal line. Any rational, impartial observer says he scored, the video says he scored...he scored. If there wasn't enough to overturn the call with instant replay on that call, then chuck the whole instant replay system, because if ever there was a play that was meant for an official review, that was it. It was the right call. If you're not careful, you're going to become the college football equivalent of birthers and truthers.
So 8 weeks in, and Wisconsin is mortal, felled by the green Sparty kryptonite. They're still a very good team, and my pick to win the B1G, but the national championship is done, and that's a tough pill to swallow for Bucky. But Nebraska, Penn State, and Iowa look a lot better now than they did at the beginning of the year, so the championship is far from decided, and we have some big games coming up in the next few weeks.
Isn't it awesome?