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Athlon recaps another huge weekend of action in the Big Ten.
The Wisconsin Badgers have clinched a berth in the Big Ten championship game for the second year in a row. And even though it won't finish with the best record in the Leaders half of the league, UW could still finish 5-0 in the division. Games against Penn State and Ohio State technically don't mean anything, but Jim Delany would likely feel better if the Badgers could win out.
Both Nebraska and Michigan won to maintain status quo, however, the Huskers are in the driver's seat to reach Indianapolis. Michigan needs Nebraska to lose and then has to beat both Iowa and Ohio State. It looks like another Big Red battle in the championship game.
Post-Week 11 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Miller was off this weekend as the Buckeyes rest up to finish the year with two tough tests: at Wisconsin and that school from up North at home.
2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - He completed 12-of-20 passes for 168 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass to go with 15 carries and 104 yards rushing. He once again led his team to a key victory in the fourth quarter and has a clear path to the Big Ten title game.
3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin - The Badgers tailback had another huge game against Indiana, rushing for 198 yards and three scores in the division-clinching win. He has 1,226 yards and 16 rushing TDs in 2012.
Post-Week 11 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - He registered 10 total tackles and forced what should have been the game-winning fumble late in the second half. He has been an emotional, statistical and physical leader for Penn State all year.
2. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin - The Badgers leader on defense helped clinch the division this weekend by shutting down the high-flying Hoosiers offense. He is fourth in the league in tackles and second in tackles for loss on the league's No. 1 rushing defense and No. 2 overall defense.
3. John Simon, DL, Ohio State - Simon was off this weekend. As was talented POY candidate Ryan Shazier.
Post-Week 11 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - His team has two tough tests to finish the year after this week's bye. Two wins would give Meyer his first undefeated season at a BCS program.
2. Bill O'Brien, Penn State - His team controlled the game in Lincoln until the final 10 minutes and came up just short in a hostile environment. He should at least split, however, to finish the year no worse than 7-5. Coach BoB would deserve heavy praise for his work in Happy Valley should they go 1-1 over the final two weeks.
3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - Bo Pelini may win the conference crown, but he just doesn't seem like Coach of the Year material for a variety of reasons. Kevin Wilson and Jerry Kill might get some votes as well. Coach Fitz gets the nod almost by default in what should be a two horse race between Meyer and O'Brien — two coaches ineligible to win the conference crown.
Post-Week 11 Power Rankings
1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 11 result: Off
The Buckeyes will head north to Madison to battle the Badgers following the bye week before finishing up their season at home against Michigan. An unbeaten record is within reach and the week off should have this team rested for the final stretch.
This week: at Wisconsin (7-3)
2. Nebraska (8-2, 5-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 11 result: Beat Penn State 32-23
With just under 11 minutes to go in the game, Taylor Martinez connected with Jamal Turner to give Nebraska its first lead of the day. The Cornhuskers never looked back, outscoring Penn State 26-3 in the second half, and now have a strangle-hold on the Legends Division crown. Martinez, who had thrown seven interceptions in his previous four games, threw for 168 yards and added another 104 yards on the ground and didn't throw a pick in the key win. After defeating Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, the Huskers have done the heavy lifting in their quest for a Big Ten title. Now, if Bo Pelini could just settle down on the sidelines.
This week: Minnesota (6-4)
3. Michigan (7-3, 5-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 11 result: Beat Northwestern 38-31 (OT)
Denard Robinson missed his second consecutive game, and this weekend, it nearly cost the Wolverines the win. However, Devin Gardner, who nearly gave the game away with a bad interception late in the game, was able to miraculously tie the game on a 53-yard heave to Roy Roundtree with less than 10 seconds to play. Gardner then accounted for his fourth touchdown of the game in overtime and then watched his defense get one last stop. When Tyris Jones was tackled for no gain on 4th-and-2 in overtime, Michigan celebrated its fifth Big Ten win of the year and kept pace with Nebraska in the Legends Division.
This week: Iowa (4-6)
4. Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2)
Previous rank: 5
Week 11 result: Beat Indiana 62-14
Curt Phillips made his first career start count as his team scored 62 points and rolled up 605 yards of offense to clinch the Badgers' second consecutive trip to the Big Ten Championship game. The redshirt senior was a highly touted prospect with electric athletic ability, but three torn ACLs kept him from starting a game until his fifth year in Madison. He wasn't needed much, but he played well and was certainly the feel-good story of the day in Bloomington. Montee Ball led the UW rushing attack that totaled a school-record 564 yards on 64 attempts. The former Heisman finalist finished with 198 yards and his 75th, 76th and 77th career touchdowns. He is now No. 2 all-time in NCAA history in total touchdowns (77) and No. 2 all-time in rushing touchdowns (71) — both to Travis Prentice (78 total, 73 rushing).
This week: Ohio State (10-0)
5. Penn State (6-4, 4-2)
Previous rank: 4
Week 11 result: Lost to Nebraska 32-23
Matt McGloin was solid in the first half as Penn State jumped out to a 20-6 halftime lead. The offense was stifled the rest of way, scoring only three points in the second half. McGloin completed less than half of his passes (18-of-37) for 240 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was unable to move the ball in the final quarter once the Big Red took the lead early in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions head home for the final two games of the regular season against Indiana and then Wisconsin. Bill O'Brien's team will be favored in both, but merely a split would give this team seven wins. A number many believed to be impossible considering the off-season in Happy Valley.
This week: Indiana (4-6)
6. Northwestern (7-3, 3-3)
Previous rank: 6
Week 11 result: Lost to Michigan 38-31 (OT)
Regardless of how Northwestern finished the final two weeks of the season, Pat Fitzgerald will have to wonder what if when looking back on 2012. His Wildcats held a double-digit lead against Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan and lost all three games. The Cats were leading by 10 late in the third quarter before it allowed Michigan to improbably finish the game on a 24-7 run. The most painful moment of the season came on the tip-drill heave from Devin Gardner that set up the game-tying field goal on the game's final play. Things aren't any easier this weekend against the Spartans.
This week: at Michigan State (5-5)
7. Michigan State (5-5, 2-4)
Previous rank: 7
Week 11 result: Off
The Spartans were off this week, giving them two weeks to watch the replays of the final drive against Nebraska. Painful stuff.
This week: Northwestern (7-3)
8. Minnesota (6-4, 2-4)
Previous rank: 10
Week 11 result: Beat Illinois 17-3
It wasn't pretty but the win over Illinois was a monumental one for Jerry Kill and the Golden Gophers. The road victory gets Minnesota to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2009. The passing game struggled — Philip Nelson threw for 78 yards and no touchdowns — but wasn't asked to do much as the ground game took care of business. Kill and company ran the ball 50 times for 233 yards and two second-half Donnell Kirkwood touchdown runs. With tough games against Nebraska and Michigan State left, this team is playing with house money now that it got its sixth win.
This week: at Nebraska (8-2)
9. Indiana (4-6, 2-4)
Previous rank: 8
Week 11 result: Lost to Wisconsin 62-14
So Indiana won't play in the Big Ten championship game after all. The Hoosiers fell behind quickly against the powerful Badgers rushing attack and was never competitive. The rushing defense was gashed all game long as Kevin Wilson found out his team still has a ways to go before it can compete in the division. The offense was held in check (294 total yards) as the defense has now allowed 83, 59 and 62 points to Wisconsin in the last three meetings. A split with Penn State and Purdue to end the season, however, would still give IU a five-win season in Wilson's second year at the helm.
This week: at Penn State (6-4)
10. Purdue (4-6, 1-5)
Previous rank: 11
Week 11 result: Beat Iowa 24-21
Danny Hope snapped a five-game losing streak with a huge road win over Iowa. Robert Marve threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns and led the Boilermakers on the the game-winning drive with less than a minute left in the game. Hope, whose fate as the head coach could have been sealed with a loss, now has a good shot to get to bowl eligibility. Purdue will face Illinois and Indiana to finish the year and two wins gets the Boilers to the postseason.
This week: at Illinois (2-8)
11. Iowa (4-6, 2-4)
Previous rank: 9
Week 11 result: Lost to Purdue 24-21
James Vandenberg completed a one-yard pass on a key fourth-down with 47 seconds left in the game. The only problem was Iowa needed three yards to convert and the turnover on downs allowed Purdue just enough time to move down the field and hand the Hawkeyes their fourth consecutive loss. Such is life for the fans at Kinnick Stadium these days. Kirk Ferentz, who is making roughly $4 million per season, is fighting for his job in Iowa City, and $1 million per victory is completely unacceptable. With Michigan and Nebraska still left on the schedule, a 4-8 season is very possible.
This week: at Michigan (7-3)
12. Illinois (2-8, 0-6)
Previous rank: 12
Week 11 result: Lost to Minnesota 17-3
Tim Beckman can't wait for recruiting season to begin. His team lost for the seventh straight time and it didn't look competitive. The Illini totaled 276 yards of offense, 13 first downs and three points as Minnesota (of all teams) held Illinois scoreless for the final 54 minutes of play. Nathan Scheelhaase continued his stunningly mediocre play at quarterback and one has to think a winless season in Big Ten play is likely in 2012. Illinois finishes with Purdue and Northwestern.
This week: Purdue (4-6)
by Braden Gall
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