Wha Happened? Week Twelve Around The Big Ten

Wha Happened? is the weekly round-up of the rest of the games that were in the Big Ten -- you know, the ones that were going on while you were shotgunning that beer, or watching Iowa, or sleeping off that early-morning tailgating.  Who won?  Who lost?  Who made us quiver with fear?  Who made us laugh hysterically?  In short... Wha Happened?

WIN
#18 Michigan 45, #16 Nebraska 17
Expecting a Michigan win here wasn't exactly the craziest idea -- they were the home team and a slight favorite (-3.5) -- but expecting them to win like that?  Uh, no.  It was tied at 10-all partway through the second quarter... and then Michigan unleashed the hounds.  They scored five touchdowns over the last two and a half quarters, while Nebraska could only muster one more score.  Fitzgerald Toussaint had a fine day running the ball for Big Blue (29 carries, 138 yards, 2 TD) and Denard wasn't too shabby, either: 11/18, 180 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, plus 83 yards and 2 TD rushing.  Meanwhile, once Nebraska's offense again struggled, headlined by Taylor Martinez's miserable outing (9/23, 122 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT and 49 yards rushing on 16 carries).  He didn't get much help from his sidekick, either: Rex Burkhead had just 36 yards on 10 carries.  They were, quite frankly, a goddamn mess.  Hopefully they stay that way for another week.

PLACE
#21 Penn State 20, Ohio State 14
Two teams with utterly anemic offenses (Penn State has the 106th best scoring offense in the nation; Ohio State has the 118th best passing offense in the nation) and stout defenses (both teams rank in the top fifteen of scoring defense)?  Surely we were looking at another 6-4 cripplefight, right?  Not for one half, anyway: Penn State and Ohio State combined for a stupefying 34 points in the first half.  Order was restored with a scoreless second half that included some impressively stingy defense (including an Ohio State goalline stand in the fourth quarter that preserved their chance at a win).  Stephon Green was the unexpected offensive star for Penn State (16 carries, 92 yards, 2 TD), while the Ginger Avenger managed to limit his mistakes (just one INT), mainly by limiting his opportunities to eff up (he attempted just 18 passes).  Ohio State is now staring a 6-6 season squarely in the face, with the possibility of their first losing season (with a bowl loss) since 1988.

SHOW
#17 Wisconsin 28, Illinois 17
For one half, this looked like one hell of an epic Zooking in the making: Illinois rose up from the Zook-related job turmoil of the past week to take a 17-7 halftime lead.  And then the magic ran out and the Badgers rolled off three unanswered second half touchdowns to take home the win and set up this weekend's winner-take-all clash for the IlliBuck Division title with Penn State.  The hero of the day (and the probable favorite for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year right now) was Montee Ball, who ran the ball 38 times (!) for 224 yards and two touchdowns (with a receiving touchdown thrown in for good measure).  He's now scored an utterly absurd 30 touchdowns on the season and hasn't had a single game all year where he's scored fewer than twice.  Isn't it kind of crazy that he isn't getting more Heisman buzz?  He could very well run for 1800 yards and score 35 touchdowns this season (presuming they make the Big Ten Championship Game)... doesn't that deserve a little love?

And in other news...

#15 Michigan State 55, Indiana 3
Maybe those snazzy all-white new uniforms Indiana has been sporting this year aren't just an homage to Stormtroopers, but also an indication that they're throwing in the towel on the season.  Seriously, 55-3?  Sparty was never remotely threatened: they hopped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead and a 34-3 halftime lead and simply played out the string from there.  The star of the day was Kirk Cousins, who continued his recent run of strong play with a 16/23, 272 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT day.  B.J. Cunningham did his best Marvin McNutt impression (6 catches, 132 yards, 2 TD) and the Sparty defense smothered the Hoosier offense (236 yards).

just Northwestern 28, Minnesota 13
It's not often that you see a team run the ball almost twice (51 to 22) as much as they pass it in a game in which they're down 21-7, but that's just how Minnesota football rolls.  To be fair, they were running the ball very well (269 yards on 51 carries, a brisk 5.3 ypc) and that 21-7 deficit happened in the first quarter, so there was still ample time left in the game to run the ball.  And, hell, if MarQueis Gray was the guy throwing the ball, well, you'd probably run it a ton, too.  Anyway, this was a thoroughly uneventful game (jNW hopped out to that early 21-7 lead and then just put it on cruise control for the remaining three quarters), played in front of a listed attendance of 26,215 fans.  Ho hum.

NEXT: Penn State and Wisconsin stage a rumble in the (Madison) jungle (where Miller Lite trees and cheese curd bushes line the streets); Iowa and Nebraska wage a border war to determine whose Hy-Vees are more heroic; Purdue and Indiana battle for an old bucket of some sort; Illinois and Minnesota play a football-like substance; just Northwestern attempts to spring another upset over a ranked opponent (Michigan State); and Michigan and Ohio State have some sort of greater-than-normal-sized pigskin skirmish.

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