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Wha Happened? Week Twelve Around The Big Ten

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Rinse, repeat. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Rinse, repeat. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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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?  Now with new-and-improved performance ranking system!

Wisconsin attempted one pass the entire second half -- and they still won by 20.  That's pretty much all you need to know about this game.  Wisconsin ran the ball with impunity -- 357 yards and six touchdowns on 58 carries.  Even without John Clay (DNP - fat camp), James White and Montee Ball both had boffo days.  White went for 181 yards and two scores; Ball had 173 yards and four scores.  In related news, Wisconsin's running back depth is absurdly good.  Denard Robinson was again the star of the show for the Michigan offense (16/25, 239 yards, 2 TD/1 INT, 12 yards rushing, 2 TD), but that's nothing new.  He also set the FBS record for rushing yards by a QB (1538 and counting), but that's also not surprising.  Going into this game we knew that the Wisconsin offense was an unstoppable force and that the Michigan defense was a very movable object.  Michigan's only hope for winning (short of going back in time and getting the 1997 Michigan defense to suit up for this game) was to turn it into a shootout and hope to have the ball last.  Unfortunately, their offense didn't show up until the second half and there was no way they were digging their way out of a 24-0 hole.

Oh Sparty.  Don't you know your coach has a heart condition?  You've gotta stop doing this to him (and your fans).  For the third time in their last four games, Michigan State dug themselves a double-digit deficit -- and for the second time they clawed their way to victory in the fourth quarter.  Perhaps every Big Ten season must have its tightrope-act team; last year was Iowa's turn, this year is Michigan State's moment in the sun.  Despite rolling out an offensive backfield that Danny Hope plucked from the Purdue Intramural Leauge runners-up (that's right, he couldn't even persuade the champions to suit up in their evil black and gold), OMHR opened up a 28-13 lead midway through the third quarter... and then spent the rest of the game vomiting all over themselves.  First, Rob Henry threw one of the most unconscionably bad interceptions of the college football season.  Then Purdue had a punt blocked on their own three-yard line.  And with that, the fork was firmly in Purdue and the game -- and their season -- was done. 

The loss was Purdue's fifth straight and while they continued their trend of narrowing the gap in their losses (they've gone from 49 to 34 to 21 to 11 to 4), it's too little too late.  At 4-7, they're staying home for the third straight year and while Danny Hope may get a pass for this year since injuries wreaked havoc on their offense, he's not going to get the benefit of the doubt forever if the Purdue faithful keep taking postseason trips to the Queso Bowl.  Meanwhile, Michigan State's dream of going to the Rose Bowl (or at least a BCS bowl) remains alive, although at this point they need Michigan to do them a solid and upset Ohio State next week to have a prayer.  Good luck with that.

So what's the takeaway now that the Grand Wrigley Experiment Debacle is in the books?  Well, football really ought to be played in football stadiums and, holy hell, Illinois can run the fucking ball.  Oh, and Mikel LeShoure better not get jobbed out of All-Big Ten honors.  Before the season, we called him the best Big Ten running back no one talked about and performances like the one he had in this game go a long way in justifying that praise: 33 carries, 330 yards, 2 TD.  Yeah, that's stupid good.  As a team, the Illini racked up 519 yards and five touchdowns on 70 carries.  Only bad things happened when Illinois tried to throw the ball -- Nathan Scheelhaase went 6/13 for 40 yards and a touchdown and an interception, while former quarterback Eddie McGee threw a pick-six on a trick play.  Northwestern scored off both those errors.  Those miscues -- plus a defensive breakdown that allowed Mike Trumpy to rumble for an 80-yard touchdown (Mike Trumpy!) -- were the only things keeping Northwestern in the game.  Once Illinois opted to simply run the ball down Northwestern's throat in the second half, the result was academic. 

As for Northwestern... the offense was predictably anemic in Dan Persa's absence.  They amassed only 318 total yards -- and those figures look even more gruesome if you subtract Trumpy's freakish play (because let's face it, Mike fucking Trumpy isn't going to be busting off big plays like that very often -- or ever again).  Good thing the Northwestern run defense doesn't have to face another powerhouse running team this week.  What, Wisconsin's next?  Oh hell.  Meanwhile, Illinois can spend an extra week basking in the glow of becoming bowl-eligible before heading out to Fresno State to avenge last year's absurd defeat.

PENN STATE 41, INDIANA 24 (coverage)
The good news for Indiana: they held an opponent to less than half of the scoring output they allowed a week ago.  The bad news: that still meant they gave up 41 points.  Hoo boy.  In spite of their defense's putrid efforts (and to be fair seven of those points came off a blocked punt), the offense hung tight with PSU until late in the third quarter, when the aforementioned blocked punt gave Penn State an insurmountable seven-point lead.  The Ginger Avenger had another fine game for PSU (22/31, 315 yards, 2/0 TD/INT), although Evan Royster (16-48-1) and Silas Redd (9-50-1) were a little quieter than you would have expected against the paperweights Indiana sends out on the field as defenders.  The loss puts the kibosh on Indiana's bowl aspirations for the third straight year and no doubt makes Bill Lynch's collar a little tighter.  Meanwhile, Penn State remains in play for a potential Outback Bowl bid -- if they continue their historical pwnage of Michigan State next week (in the final meeting for the Land Grant Trophy for the forseeable future -- sniff).