Sunday, November 28, 2010
What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 13
By Adam Rittenberg
Five lessons from the Week that was in Big Ten football:
1. Wisconsin and Ohio State look poised for BCS success: The Big Ten won't have a team in the BCS title game, but the league appears ready to do some damage in the big bowls for the second consecutive season. Wisconsin finished the regular season with seven consecutive wins and won four November games by a combined score of 235-84. Ohio State, meanwhile, continued its November success under head coach Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes stepped up in the second halves of all three of their November victories and now take aim at a second straight BCS bowl win.
Montee Ball rushed for 174 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries against Northwestern as Wisconsin clinched a share of the Big Ten title.
2. Michigan State can finish: The Spartans' season of milestones ended with several more, as they won at Penn State for the first time since 1965 and captured a share of the Big Ten championship for the first time since 1990. Fittingly, Michigan State found a way to finish after Penn State made things very interesting with 19 fourth-quarter points. While previous Spartans teams might have fallen short against Notre Dame, Northwestern, Purdue and Penn State, the 2010 version proved that it is truly special.
3. Michigan's progress is hard to find: Two years after a 42-7 loss in Columbus, Michigan came to The Shoe and fell 37-7 in a game that was just as uncompetitive as the 2008 contest. The Wolverines continued to make major mistakes in all three phases, and Rich Rodriguez's record against Michigan's Big Ten rivals fell to 0-6. This isn't the type of product Rodriguez expected to see in Week 13 of his third season on the sideline. Although Michigan improved its record by two games, the program's overall progress remains up for debate. Athletic director Dave Brandon must mull this over as he determines Rodriguez's future.
4. Ben Chappell and Adam Weber went out as winners: Both quarterbacks set team records but also experienced plenty of losing in their careers. But both men ended things on a good note Saturday, helping their teams to wins in rivalry games. Chappell was brilliant at Purdue, passing for 330 yards and three touchdowns as Indiana snapped a 12-game Big Ten road losing streak and won at Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time since 1996. Weber passed for 164 yards and got plenty of help from the running backs and his defense as Minnesota won a rivalry trophy for the first time in his four years as the starting quarterback.
5. Northwestern's and Iowa's seasons ended on the same play: Neither team has been the same since Dan Persa fired a touchdown pass to beat Iowa on Nov. 13 at Ryan Field. Northwestern has flatlined without its starting quarterback, and while the offensive struggles could be expected, the defense didn't show up in the final two weeks of the regular season. Iowa ended an extremely disappointing regular season with three consecutive losses, the last to a 2-9 Minnesota team that showed a lot more fight than the Hawkeyes in a rivalry game.