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Wha Happened? Week 13 Around The Big Ten

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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!

Buzzsaw thy name is Wisconsin.  For the second time in three games, Wisco erupted for 70 or more points and they did it without the fancypants blur offense or any of Gus Malzahn's offensive wizardry or whatever variation of the spread is the hot trend at the moment -- viva cro-mag football!  Of course, it helps when you have an enormous (and very effective) offensive line; not one, not two, but three running backs who are excellent; and an incredibly efficient quarterback (Tolzien went 15/19, 230 yards, 4/0 TD/INT yesterday).  Despite barely featuring for the first two months of the season, Montee Ball ranks 9th in the Big Ten in rushing -- of course, it helps when you rattle off 645 yards (and 13 touchdowns!) in four games.  Who needs the fattest (and least deserving) Doak Walker Award finalist anyway?  In any event, it was yet another completely dominant performance by the Badgers: since their 1-point win over Iowa, Wisconsin's won their final four games by margins of 21, 63, 20, and 47 points.  Only a fool would argue that they're not playing the best football in the Big Ten right now.

Meanwhile, our purple-clad friends continued their late-season decline.  Not that it was unexpected -- or at all inexplicable -- after they lost Dan Persa to a torn Achilles tendon in the Iowa win.  No other offensive player meant as much to his team as Persa meant to jNW -- and it's not even close.  Evan Watkins may become a suitable replacement at some point, but for now he's a bit of a mess, as evidenced by yesterday's middling stat line: 13/22, 123 yards, 1/3 TD/INT.  And you're never going to win a game when you turn it over seven times.  Still, Northwestern's 7-5 and headed to yet another bowl game, so it's not a lost season or anything.  Maybe they'll actually win one this tim-HA.  Sorry, I couldn't say that with a straight face.

After falling into double-digit holes in three of their previous four games, Michigan State embarked on a bold new strategy: open up a big lead early and madly hang on.  And despite their best efforts (note to Trenton Robinson: you are not Ed Reed or Antonio Cromartie -- don't leave the end zone when you get an interception there), hang on they did, notching their first win in Happy Valley since before JoePa was even head coach (back then, game results were sent via carrier pigeon, so no one in East Lansing even knew Sparty had won for weeks) and securing  a share of the Big Ten title.  In fact, you could probably make an argument that they have the most legitimate claim to the title, since they're only of the three teams at the top that didn't lose to one of the other two: they beat Wisconsin and didn't play Ohio State.  On the other hand, there's also the matter of their increasingly inexplicable 37-6 beatdown at the hands of Iowa, so... whatevs.  Enjoy Orlando, Sparty.  

For about a quarter, it looked like Michigan might -- might -- be able to reverse the years of futility and embarrassment that this series has come to represent.  The much-maligned Michigan defense actually held Ohio State scoreless and forced a few three-and-outs in the first quarter.  Unfortunately, the Michigan offense didn't live up to their end of the bargain, as they scored zip.  Then Ohio State rolled off 24 points in the second quarter and that was that -- game, set, match.  The backbreaker was a kickoff return score immediately after Michigan had scored to make it 10-7; in an instant, Michigan went from possibly making it a competitive game to being on the verge of yet another blowout.  On the bright side, the 37 points Michigan conceded was the fourth-fewest points they conceded in Big Ten play.  Baby steps!  Still, this was yet another one-sided laugher in what used to be the (self-proclaimed) "greatest rivalry in the land."  Wake us up when Michigan can actually be competitive in this game.

INDIANA 34, PURDUE 31 (OT) (coverage)
As much as yesterday sucked, I suppose it could have been a little worse.  We could have been OMHR, who lost to their loathed in-state little brother rival at home.  Not to mention that OMHR also lost their basketball game last night... to Richmond.  Schadenfreude -- it's all we have.  Anyway.  Purdue hadn't lost to Indiana in West Lafayette since 1996 and most of the wins hadn't even been close -- only one of the games was decided by less than 10 points and four had been by 28+ points.  Oh, and there's the little matter of Indiana being winless in Big Ten play and riding a 12-game conference losing streak, too.  In any event, Indiana QB Ben Chappell went out a winner in his final collegiate game and put up some solid stats in the process: 31/50, 330 yards, 3/0 TD/INT.  Rob Henry was alright (16/30, 252 yards, 3/1 TD/INT), but Purdue's biggest problem was a staggering inability to run the ball -- just 58 yards and a TD on 30 carries.  Henry also picked an inopportune time to throw his lone interception (in overtime).  Of course, Indiana's win was a feel-good story for all of, oh, a day -- Bill Lynch got handed his walking papers today.  BHGP whips its gum across the room in remembrance.