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Sunday Morning Coming Down: Sparty and the Buckeyes Map the Path to Indianapolis

Two beatdowns, an upset, and a low-scoring overtime affair results in a clear path to Indianapolis for Sparty and the Buckeyes...

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

  • Wow, the Buckeyes are good.  They're still going to need 2 of the 3 teams ahead of them (Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State) to lose at least one game, but make no mistake about it, Urban Meyer's team is a juggernaut. The Buckeyes' 63-14 win over Penn State was PSU's worst loss in 114 years, as the Buckeyes simply pounded the ball for 408 rushing yards (Carlos Hyde had 147 yards rushing and 2 TDs), and Braxton Miller found the end zone 5 times (3 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs).  Hell, even Kenny Guiton rushed for 2 TDs. Ohio State has the nation's longest winning streak at 20 games, and virtually a clear path all the way to Indianapolis (next four opponents: at Purdue, at Illinois, Indiana, at Michigan).  As for Penn State, this was a very bad loss, but with a young team and young QB in Christian Hackenberg, you chalk this one up as a learning experience and move on.  Hackenberg has a long career ahead of him, and I doubt we ever see him struggle that much again.
  • Sparty might have stamped its own ticket to Indianapolis, too.  The slate is harder from here on out for MSU (Mcihigan, at Nebraska, at Northwestern, Minnesota), but Saturday's 42-3 stomping of Illinois on the road was an impressive statement.  The defense obviously is the lead story - it destroyed a decent Illini offense, holding them to just 8 first downs, 128 total yards (just 25 rushing yards), 2 turnovers, and 3 points.  But Connor Cook was spectacular (15 of 16, 208 yards, 3 TDs, no INTs), and Jeremy Langford is starting to heat up (104 yards rushing, 2 TDs). AP/Coaches Poll voters, pay attention - Sparty is damn good, and it's an embarrassment they're unranked...hell, they should be in the top 15 or even 10.
  • The biggest story of the day? Minnesota, who beat Nebraska for the first time since 1960, and did so in fairly dominant fashion, as the Gophers jumped out to a 17-13 halftime lead that they never relinquished, winning 34-23.  Nebraska had no answer for Minnesota's rushing attack, which gained 271 yards and dominated time of possession (35:37), with David Cobb accounting for 138 yards on the ground, and Phillip Nelson getting 55 yards and 2 rushing TDs.  The Gophers are bowl eligible, which is good because the schedule is pretty tough after this (at Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin, at Michigan State).  As for Nebraska? Yikes. The Fire Bo Pelini (or is that Pellllini?) wing of fans will have a field day with this one, and you have to expect the Cornhuskers are going to have a tough time stopping the good rushing attacks they'll see in November (Northwestern, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Iowa).  Taylor Martinez showed some rust in his return, going only 16/30 for 139 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT; you could tell he lacked explosiveness running, too.  Looking at that slate, you could make the case that the Huskers could struggle to become bowl eligible.
  • The most B1G game of the day occurred in Iowa City, where Iowa scored 10 first half points, Northwestern scored 10 second half points, and the Hawkeyes escaped in overtime with a 17-10 win.  Game ball goes to the Iowa linebackers, particularly Anthony Hitchens and James Morris, who combined for 17 tackles, 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.  Northwestern moved the ball decently well (and certainly better than against Minnesota, thanks to the return of Kain Colter), and played pretty good defense all day, but 2 fumbles in Iowa territory and tons of penalties (5 for 55 yards) were too much for the Wildcats to overcome.  Northwestern is 0-4 since Gameday came to Evanston, and will need an upset or two to become bowl eligible (at Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, at Illinois); just a depressing season in Evanston, but hopefully they can turn things around and ruin someone's season down the stretch.  This win all but seals bowl eligibility for the Hawkeyes (they play Purdue in 2 weeks), and they should have a decent chance at playing spoiler in the Legends with games against Michigan and Nebraska to end the season.