By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 11, 2012
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After a day full of watching college football (and most likely imbibing quite a bit, if you’re anything like the people I know), it’s back to the reality of the library and another week of classes.
But before the doldrums set in, it’s also time to recap another heart-pounding week of Big Ten football. And this week, I don’t even have to be overly sarcastic in saying that — there was a decent amount of compelling action in the conference on Saturday.
Let’s start with the hilarity, though. In other words, let’s start with Indiana.
Oh, Indiana. Even though the Hoosiers entered this week’s matchup with Leaders Division, um, leader Wisconsin sitting at just 2-3 in the Big Ten, the team gave all three of its fans reason for hope since Indiana actually controlled its own destiny to make to the conference championship game.
It was a long shot, obviously, but it was still a shot, and that’s significant for a program that earlier this season set the mark for most losses all-time among FBS teams. The stage was thus set for one of the biggest games in recent history for the Hoosiers with the resurgent Badgers in town.
When game time finally came, playing in the spotlight for the first time I can remember, Indiana Indiana’d all over itself.
Wisconsin dominated the Hoosiers from start to finish, taking a 17-0 lead and storming to a 62-14 win. If a team gets 564 total yards in a game, it’s a fantastic offensive performance — the Badgers had 564 yards rushing alone. Montee Ball ran it 27 times for 198 yards and three scores, and backfield mate James White was even more explosive, carrying the ball 17 times for a ridiculous 161 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Curt Phillips, the third person to man the position for Wisconsin this season, only had to pass seven times. He could’ve thrown all of those balls right to the Hoosiers and it still wouldn’t have been a close game.
At Indiana, the students celebrate football Saturdays by all gathering in a giant field, drinking and then proceeding to just go back to their dorms/houses. With a performance like Saturday’s, you can’t really blame them for never going to the games. At least basketball season is here now.
The other notable head-slapper came in Michigan’s game. All of you reading this are probably thrilled by the Wolverines’ inexplicable comeback overtime win, but if you look at it from the other side, it’s a colossal collapse by Northwestern.
I mean, seriously. Eighteen seconds left, and you leave single coverage on one of the wideouts streaking down the field, with no safety help over top? Isn’t Northwestern supposed to be smart? Most years that’s all the Wildcats have going for them.
Prevent defense often backfires miserably, but this is the one situation where it’s the right call — and yet Northwestern didn’t do it.
To call it a questionable decision by head coach Pat Fitzgerald would be kind, though Pat’s behavior in celebrating a late hit call on Michigan. is even more questionable.
Elsewhere, apparently Minnesota and Illinois played, with the Gophers winning 17-3 in an experience that surely was enjoyed by nobody. Purdue also upset Iowa, though when one very mediocre team beats a slightly less mediocre team, the real upset is if anybody actually paid attention.
The other big result came in Lincoln, where Nebraska passed its final real test of the regular season by dispatching Penn State, 32-23. The Cornhuskers still control their destiny for the Legends Division since they own the tiebreaker with first place co-leader Michigan.
Nebraska just has to beat Minnesota next week (yawn) and Iowa the week after in order to secure a trip to Indianapolis to face off with the Badgers, who clinched the Leaders by virtue of their win over Indiana. (Though more by virtue of the fact that Penn State and Ohio State aren’t eligible to play in the game.)
Sorry, Michigan fans. Looks like the Wolverines won’t be winning the Big Ten this season. The biggest thing to hope for right now is that Denard Robinson is healthy enough to play this week against Iowa — it’d be a damn shame if the kid can’t go on senior day.
That does it for this week’s recap. Just two weeks left in perhaps the worst season of Big Ten football ever. Feel the excitement!