Well it took until the last week of the season to determine the conference championship game opponents. Unfortunately, Bret Bielema's Badgers earned the right to travel to Indianapolis to play Mark Dantonio's Spartans. Illinois also completed their collapse this year by losing to Minnesota. They became the first team to ever start the year 6-0, and finish it 6-6. This feat ended up costing Ron Zook his job though. I'm gonna miss the Zookings. Hopefully he finds another job, and quickly.
Game of the Week:
In the latest contest for the Old Oaken Bucket (one of the coolest rivalry trophy names imo), Purdue needed a win in Bloomington to get to bowl eligibility. For a quarter and a half, that was very much in doubt. Indiana took leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 17-10 before Purdue scored three times in the final 8:30 of the half to take a 23-17 lead. Purdue extended that lead to 33-17 before an Indiana TD with 8 minutes remaining cut the lead back down to 8. Indiana's last drive of the game ended in an interception at the Purdue 22, and Purdue was able to run the remaining time off the clock thanks to the running of Akeem Hunt and Justin Siller.
Purdue Player of the Game: Hunt rushed for 100 yards on 10 carries and was instrumental in sealing the win in the 4th quarter.
Indiana Player of the Game: Stephen Houston had 129 yards rushing and a TD on only 7 carries.
All the Rest:
It was an inauspicious end to a humdrum year for Iowa. The Hawkeyes allowed Nebraska HB Rex Burkhead to garner 160 yards rushing, while having trouble sustaining drives themselves. Iowa went 2-12 on third down conversions, and didn't crack the scoreboard until there was 3:26 remaining in the game. Not really a recipe for success. Nebraska wrapped up their first Big Ten season with a respectable 5-3 conference record, and fell just short of reaching the Big Ten championship game.
Nebraska Player of the Game: Burkhead had 160 yards and a TD on 38 carries.
Iowa Player of the Game: Marcus Coker had 87 yards rushing and Iowa's lone TD on the day
Michigan State Spartans 10-2 (7-1) @ Northwestern Wildcats 6-6 (3-5)
Final Score: MSU - 31 NW - 17
The Spartans played a very good game against Northwestern, even though the game meant nothing in the context of the Big Ten. They could have easily gone through the motions and played not to get anyone hurt before the Big Ten title game, but they were able to withstand a solid game from Dan Persa and finish the year with the best record in the Big Ten. The game was close for most of the first half until Keshawn Martin took a punt return 57 yards for a touchdown. After that, MSU and NW traded scores in the second half and NW never got close to tying the game.
MSU Player of the Game: WR B.J. Cunningham had 120 yards receiving and 2 TDs.
NW Player of the Game: Persa threw for 245 yards and 2 TDs.
Ohio State Buckeyes 6-6 (3-5) @ Michigan Wolverines 10-2 (6-2)
Final Score: Michigan - 40 OSU - 34
The streak is over! The Buckeyes had won seven straight games against Michigan, and eight of the past nine. But with the Buckeyes in the midst of their worst season in several years, this was the best chance the Wolverines have had to end the streak. Ohio State wouldn't make it easy though. The Buckeyes struck first with a 54 yard TD pass from Braxton Miller to Corey Brown. Michigan responded with two TDs and a safety to take a 16-7 lead into the second quarter. The Buckeyes quickly regained the lead with a FG and a TD run by Miller. The two teams traded scores for the rest of the game and Michigan was able to hold on for a 6 point win.
Michigan Player of the Game: Denard Robinson may have had his best game as a Wolverine. He completed 14/17 passes for 167 yards, 3 TDs and no INTs. He also ran for 170 yards and 2 TDs.
OSU Player of the Game: Miller had the best passing game of his career, as he threw for 235 yards and 2 TDs. He also added 100 yards on the ground and a TD.
This was easily Minnesota's most dominating win of the year. Minnesota scored 27 points between the 12:40 mark of the 2nd quarter and the 8:59 mark of the third. Illinois responded with its lone TD of the game, but couldn't muster anything on offense as they finished the day with a paltry 160 total yards. If Illinois goes to a bowl game, they'll have the opportunity to be the first team to have a 6 game winning streak and a 7 game losing streak in the same season, but they'll have to do so without the benefit of Ron Zook on the sidelines.
Minnesota Player of the Game: Marqueis Grey had 85 yards passing and a TD, and 167 yards rushing and 2 TDs. In other words, he had more yards and TDs on the ground than the entire Illinois offense did passing or rushing.
Illinois Player of the Game: Punter Ryan Lankford averaged 41.9 yards per punt on 9 punts.