Week 12 of college football -not just in the Big Ten - is intentionally set up each year as a sleeper of a Saturday. This is done as a precursor to the final weekend of the year that highlights a cornucopia of rivalries - we'll get to that. The only major storyline going into the penultimate Saturday of the college football regular season was whether or not Wisconsin would acquiesce into the doldrums of the CFP rankings. They would not. Though Michigan's east division title hope's were still within reach, they would have needed to knock out the west division champs first. They would not. Blowouts and bumbling offense would highlight a snoozy, blustery day across Big Ten country.
Sorry to Badger You Wisconsin 24 Michigan 10
With 1:34 left in the first quarter, Michigan punter Brad Robbins lined up just in front of his own goal line to punt. Through the first 13 and a half minutes of the game, there was only 75 yards of offense. TOTAL. This was shaping up to be so late-November in the Big Ten it hurt. Robbins got his punt away while Nick Nelson waited just beyond the 50 yard line. Two things happened. First, a would-be Michigan tackler got his feet tangled up with Wisconsin's Adam Krumholz and he tumbled. Second, the ball bounced and DIED. With no one around, Nelson scooped the ball up, made a few Michigan defenders miss, cut back toward the middle and into the endzone. Though the game was no where near in hand, it felt to be a moment that Michigan couldn't allow to happen if they wanted to win in Madison. They would not, losing 24-10 in Madison.
The only real break the Badger defense gave the Michigan offense came in the back end of the second quarter when Michigan quarterback found Donovan Peoples-Jones for 48 yards. Five plays later, Ben Mason would punch in from one yard out to tie the game at seven.
Tension was highest in Camp Randall when Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was intercepted with 8:33 left in the third quarter by Devin Bush at the Badger 29. They could only turn that into a 10-7 lead, but a lead nonetheless.
The Wolverines had 39 yards the rest of the game.
Wisconsin responded with a seven play, 77-yard touchdown drive. Michigan punted after going three and out on their next drive. Wisconsin swept Michigan's leg the next drive - going 61 yards in under two minutes. Kendric Pryor put the Badgers up 21-10 on a 32 yard touchdown run, effectively drowning any hopes for John Harbaugh and Michigan.
Badger freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor was sensational again, rushing for 132 yards on 19 carries. Hornibrook did just enough not to single-handedly ruin the Badgers' hopes for a CFP berth.
Wisconsin came into the game ranked fifth in the CFP rankings. There has been a lot of internet fear-mongering about the possibility of Wisconsin being left out as an undefeated conference champion. The fact remains simple: if Wisconsin wins out, they WILL be in the College Football Playoff. Miami and Clemson still have to play each other. One will lose. The CFP committee has made it clear that winning a Power 5 conference championship game with zero losses is a golden ticket. This happens every year. Every year people get upset thinking there's too many teams and not enough playoff spots. They're always wrong. Wisconsin still has Minnesota and Ohio State. They'll have their chance to throw away the Big Ten's CFP playoff spot for the first time since its inception.
And Here Weeeeeee Go Northwestern 39 Minnesota 0
Northwestern is 3-5 in September over the last two seasons. In all other games? 12-4. Last year it was Western Michigan and Illinois State, Duke this year. Coach Pat Fitzgerald talked about getting more consistent offensive line play at the beginning of the year in order to find sustained success. Though protecting quarterback Clayton Thorson was not a priority - he only threw 13 times but for three touchdowns - the Wildcats rushed for 277 yards, collectively.
PJ Fleck needs a quarterback at Minnesota. Demry Croft threw for just 43 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
Working For Next Weekend
Week 11 is just a formality. College football does not want any major developments to take place the week before Thanksgiving - the final weekend of the college football regular season. Here's a quick breakdown of some major rivalry games in the Big Ten.
Iowa-Nebraska: "The Hero's Game". Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the series sits at 3-3 between the two corn-loving states. Enjoy it now, after next year this game will not be on Black Friday. This game is played for a silver football. Lame
Ohio State-Michigan : "The Game". Michigan can only play spoiler when they host Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won 14 of the last 16. They don't play for a trophy :(
Indiana-Purdue: "Old Oaken Bucket". This is a pretty back and forth rivalry lately with both teams being really bad. But yeah, they play for a bucket. Both teams still aren't very good.
Wisconsin-Minnesota: Wisconsin has won the last 13. The Badgers will be looking to prevent a let down while looking forward to the Big Ten Title game. The play for Paul Bunyan's Axe. Not his real axe.
Northwestern-Illinois: They used to play for a tomahawk. Now they don't. They play for a trophy of Abe Lincoln's top hat. Madam.
Purdue 24 Iowa 15
Indiana 41 Rutgers 0
Michigan State 17 Maryland 7
Penn State 56 Nebraska 44
Ohio State 52 Illinois 14