The final chapter to the Big Ten’s Legends and Leaders saga will have two completely different endings.
Ohio State, winners of 19th straight, appears likely to claim the Leaders Division title with nary a mark. The Buckeyes already beat main contender Wisconsin and own that tiebreaker. Ohio State’s two primary challengers to an unblemished record are Penn State — which is ineligible for the divisional crown — and Legends Division team Michigan.
But in the Legends Division, there still are three squads that harbor legitimate title chances. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) and Nebraska (5-1, 2-0) both remain undefeated in league play, while Michigan’s (6-1, 2-1) only loss came in four overtimes at Penn State. They have yet to play one another.
Iowa (4-3, 1-2), Minnesota (5-2, 1-2) and Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) have outside chances at best, but all could have some impact on the divisional race.
Michigan outlasted Indiana 63-47 to win the weekend’s most exciting game. Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for a Big Ten-record 369 yards and two scores. Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner threw for a Michigan-record 503 yards, rushed for 81 to total 584 yards, one shy of tying the Big Ten all-purpose yardage record. Gardner tossed three touchdowns and rushed for two. Running back Fitz Toussaint’s 151 yards and four touchdowns almost became a footnote in the craziness.
“(Gallon is) a tough guy who really is a little slippery at times,” Michigan Coach Brady Hoke said. “Yards after the catch are usually decent with him. He’s a total wide receiver. Because if he wasn’t catching it, he’s going to be working his tail off blocking.”
“I guess I could never have dreamed to play a game like this,” Gardner said. “Such a tough loss last week, and I feel like the team, it’s all about the offensive line. They gave me time to read defenses. And when I had opportunity to make plays that’s what I did.”
Indiana (3-4, 1-2) quarterbacks Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld combined for 410 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Michigan, however, wants to be known a power running team with a staunch defense. But even Hoke can’t produce an accurate description of his team’s identity seven games into his season.
“That’s a great question,” Hoke said. “And so good that I don’t know if I can answer that.”
One team that doesn’t lack for identity is Michigan State. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) matched its 2012 regular-season win total with a 14-0 win against Purdue (1-6, 0-3). It was hardly a flashy performance, but the Spartans continued their dominance on defense. Purdue rushed for 66 yards on 34 carries and ran for just five yards in the second half. The Spartans picked up nine tackles for loss.
“As we know and as we saw in the football game, nothing is as easy as you think it’s going to be,” Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said. “Another message for our football team I think is that you just have to continue to be able to handle it and handle success. Give credit to Purdue. I thought they did a tremendous job of coming out ready to play.”
Minnesota upset a depleted Northwestern squad 20-17, virtually knocking out the Wildcats from divisional title talk. The Wildcats nearly upset Ohio State two weeks ago but lost dynamic athletes Kain Colter and Venric Mark to injury. That resulted in a 35-6 beatdown at Wisconsin last week and hurt Northwestern’s chances against Minnesota.
Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald said the team needs to make plenty of improvements, starting with taking care of the football (three turnovers against Minnesota) and defending gaps better on defense.
“We just need to stick together,” Fitzgerald said. “And that’s what I fully expect these guys to do. They’ll stick together, they’ll come back next week and have a tough road test. These guys are winners. They’ve won a lot of games. There’s no confidence that’s down in that room. It’s just a lot of disappointment of not doing a good enough job as a program to win. So, what do you do? You get off the mat and you keep swinging. That’s what you do.”
Minnesota ended a two-game losing skid within the division. Coach Jerry Kill attended the game in a non-working capacity and the Gophers rallied for their leader. Kill is on an indefinite leave of absence to deal with epilepsy.
“You know I thought our kids were ready to play,” Minnesota interim coach Tracy Claeys said. “They came out and played hard. They made some plays to stay in the game there in the first half, and I thought in the second half we got a little bit better rhythm on offense. We moved the ball. We still need to score more points, we know that, but defensively for the first time we’ve been able to go on the road in the Big Ten and perform well and win the game.”
Iowa battled with Ohio State for three quarters, but didn’t have quite enough in the fourth quarter to score an upset. Though a long shot, the Hawkeyes still could battle their way back into Legends contention with games left against Northwestern, Michigan, Nebraska.
“You don’t get prizes for playing a good first half,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You have to play the full 60 minutes. I think we realize it’s a matter of what do we have to do to be in a better situation the next time we get this chance.”
Wisconsin continues to make the case for a potential Bowl Championship Series spot with an offensively impressive 56-32 win against Illinois (3-3, 0-2). The Badgers (5-2, 3-1) put up 289 yards on the ground and rushed for six touchdowns.
“The offense was very powerful (Saturday),” Wisconsin Coach Gary Andersen said. “They ran the ball extremely well. I thought they reacted to situations where they got stopped a couple times with positive, good adjustments. Special teams were solid for the most part. I’m proud of that group of kids. Defensively, we played hard, and we flew around the field, but we’re going to have to be better than that on defense.”
Michigan QB Devin Gardner set a Michigan record with 503 passing yards and one was yard shy of eclipsing the Big Ten mark with 584 total yards. … Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for a Big Ten record 369 yards and two touchdowns. … Ohio State QB Braxton Miller completed 22 of 27 passes for 222 yards and rushed for 102 yards. … Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon ran for 142 yards and backfield mate James White put up 127 total yards while each scored three touchdowns.
Iowa tight end Jake Duzey hauled in six passes for 138 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown strike. … Indiana QB Tre Roberson threw for 288 yards and three scores. … Purdue punter Cody Webster dropped four punts inside the Michigan State 20-yard line and had a 44.8-yard average. … Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen had eight tackles and a 45-yard fumble return for a touchdown. … Illinois WR Steve Hull caught six passes for 105 yards.
How do Big Ten stadiums compared with the world’s wonders?
1. Ohio State (1) 7-0 3-0
2. Wisconsin (2) 5-2 3-1
3A. Michigan State (5A) 6-1 3-0
3B. Nebraska (5B) 5-1 2-0
5. Michigan (5) 6-1 2-1
6. Iowa (7) 4-3 1-2
7. Penn State (9) 4-2 1-1
8. Minnesota (11) 5-2 1-2
9. Northwestern (6) 4-3 0-3
10. Indiana (8) 3-4 1-2
11. Illinois (10) 3-3 0-2
12. Purdue (12) 1-6 0-3
Comments are closed.