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Ohio State, Nebraska and more; Athlon recaps another huge Big Ten weekend.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will finish the regular season with the best overall record in the Big Ten after an exciting overtime win in Madison. But what really mattered most was a 24-point home romp by the Nebraska Cornhuskers over Minnesota. The win moves Nebraska into a commanding position in the Legends Division, needing only a win over Iowa on the road or a Michigan loss to Ohio State in the Horseshoe to ensure a trip to Indianapolis and the Big Ten title game where they would face Wisconsin. There could be a lot of red in Indy in two weekends.
Post-Week 12 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Miller wasn't his usual electric self, but he made big plays and got his team into the end zone in overtime. A great game plan by UW limited his numbers, but Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is all but his now.
2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - He is making a serious Heisman push late in the season. He threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns to go with 22 yards rushing in the key win over the Gophers. He is leading the Big Ten in passing efficiency and total offense.
3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin - The record isn't his yet, but he is awfully close. Ball rushed for 191 yards on 39 carries and scored his NCAA record-tying 78th career TD.
Post-Week 12 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. John Simon, DL, Ohio State - The senior defensive end was at his best in a huge road win over Wisconsin. He posted six total tackles, four tackles for a loss and four sacks. He was all over the field and now leads the Big Ten in sacks and TFLs.
2. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - He was carted off of the field in the first quarter of the easy win over Indiana. One has to wonder if missing essentially the final two games while Ohio State goes undefeated could cost Mauti the D.P.O.Y. award. He will, and should, get plenty of feel-good votes.
3. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin - Taylor leads the league's No. 1 rushing defense and No. 2 overall defense in tackles and tackles for loss. He is fourth in the Big Ten in tackles and helped contain Braxton Miller to his lowest offensive output of the year (145 total yards).
Post-Week 12 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - Ohio State has clinched the best overall record in the league but has eyes on an undefeated season. This team would likely be No. 2 in the BCS standings after seven losses a year ago.
2. Bill O'Brien, Penn State - After an easy win over Indiana, Penn State fans are staring directly at an eight-win season. Considering what this community has been through, it's a remarkable performance from the new coaching staff.
3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern/Bo Pelini, Nebraska - Finally, his Wildcats broke through with a big win over Michigan State, giving him a shot at nine wins this season. Bo Pelini doesn't feel like a Coach of the Year candidate, but winning the championship game has to count for something, right?
Post-Week 12 Power Rankings
1. Ohio State (11-0, 7-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 12 result: Beat Wisconsin 21-14 (OT)
Two of the better programs in the Big Ten played a thriller in Madison. Eventually, Ohio State got a key fourth-down stop in overtime and moved to within one win of a perfect season. Michigan will come to town next weekend and the Buckeyes are not only shooting for an unbeaten season but a win would officially eliminate the Maize and Blue from Big Ten title contention. Braxton Miller didn't post huge numbers, but he has won every game he has started this season and is just as electric as any player in the nation. How much the postseason ban hurts his Heisman chances remains to be seen.
This week: Michigan (8-3)
2. Nebraska (9-2, 6-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 12 result: Beat Minnesota 38-14
Taylor Martinez played another excellent day as the Big Red rolled over Minnesota on Senior Day in Lincoln. Unfortunately, fan favorite and senior Rex Burkhead missed his fourth game in a row and the sixth of the season. But having him healthy for a potential Big Ten championship game would justify not seeing No. 22 in red out there in the 24-point win. T-Mart totaled 330 yards of offense and two touchdowns without an interception. A win over Iowa next weekend sends embattled and temperamental coach Bo Pelini to Indianapolis with a very good shot at the Rose Bowl.
This week: at Iowa (4-7)
3. Michigan (8-3, 6-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 12 result: Beat Iowa 42-17
Devin Gardner is making a serious case as a force to be reckoned with next fall as Michigan's quarterback. He completed 18-of-23 passes for 314 yards, rushed for 39 yards on eight carries and accounted for all six Michigan touchdowns. Denard Robinson played, but was lined up as running back, rushing 13 times for 98 yards and catching two passes. Look for an interesting game plan from Brady Hoke with his athletic quarterback duo as he faces Urban Meyer for the first time as a part of the storied Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Should Nebraska lose, the Wolverines could still win their way to Pasadena.
This week: at Ohio State (11-0)
4. Penn State (7-4, 5-2)
Previous rank: 5
Week 12 result: Beat Indiana 45-22
Matt McGloin threw for a career-high 395 yards and four first-half touchdown passes. It was his third 300-yard effort in four games, his fourth of the season and sixth of his career. The running game and defense did the rest of the damage, out-rushing Indiana 151 to 24. The defense lost emotional leader Mike Mauti early in the game and it appears that his Penn State career is over. An eighth win next weekend would be an a tremendous way to cap what has been an extremely emotional season in Happy Valley.
This week: Wisconsin (7-4)
5. Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3)
Previous rank: 4
Week 12 result: Lost to Ohio State 21-14 (OT)
It would have been an unbelievable feel-good story for Curt Phillips and his three ACL tears had his final drive in regulation (5-for-5, TD) not just tied the score, but won the game for the Badgers. However, the fairy-tale ending wasn't meant to be for the star-struck quarterback from Kingsport, Tenn. After Ohio State scored on its first overtime possession, Phillips failed to answer as the Badgers were unable to pick up a first down and his pass on fourth-down was knocked down, handing UW its fourth loss of the season. All four losses have come within one touchdown and this was the first loss by more than three points all season. This weekend's trip to Happy Valley could give Wisconsin a shot at 10 wins — or a shot at seven losses.
This week: at Penn State (7-4)
6. Northwestern (8-3, 4-3)
Previous rank: 6
Week 12 result: Beat Michigan State 23-20
This was a big win for Pat Fitzgerald. With a win over Illinois next week and a bowl win, Coach Fitz could lead Northwestern to its first 10-win season since he played on the Wildcats' magical 1995 Rose Bowl team. This was a hard-fought road win over a well-coached team with more raw talent. Give Coach Fitz a lot of credit for what he has accomplished this season. Unfortunately, star tailback Venric Mark left the game very early on with an "upper extremity" injury and his status for next week's game is up in the air.
This week: Illinois (2-9)
7. Michigan State (5-6, 2-5)
Previous rank: 7
Week 12 result: Lost to Northwestern 23-20
The Spartans have failed to finish drives all season and the result was yet another crippling loss. Mark Dantonio's bunch lost for the fourth time in five games and lost by three points or less for the fourth time in Big Ten play. So after back-to-back 11-win seasons, the Spartans have to go on the road and defeat Minnesota next weekend in order to reach the postseason this winter. Kirk Cousins really was that good.
This week: at Minnesota (6-5)
8. Minnesota (6-5, 2-5)
Previous rank: 8
Week 12 result: Lost to Nebraska 38-14
The Golden Gophers are still a good ways from competing for a division title. Minnesota trailed 38-0 before two late fourth quarter touchdowns got Jerry Kill's bunch on the board. They finished with 177 total yards of offense. Minny beats the bad teams it faces and has lost to the good ones. A win over Michigan State at home not only guarantees a winning record but redefines the perception of this team. It would be the best win of the year for a team whose current best win is against Syracuse.
This week: Michigan State (5-6)
9. Indiana (4-7, 2-5)
Previous rank: 9
Week 12 result: Lost to Penn State 45-22
After an unheard of two-game Big Ten winning streak, Wisconsin and then Penn State established some normalcy in the Leaders Division with physical, easy wins over the Hoosiers. Indiana couldn't stop Matt McGloin and couldn't run the football, and is now assured its fifth losing season in a row and its 16th in 17 seasons. Still, this team is much more competitive than last year's squad and a win over Purdue gives Kevin Wilson a solid five-win showing in a make or break season.
This week: at Purdue (5-6)
10. Purdue (5-6, 2-5)
Previous rank: 10
Week 12 result: Beat Illinois 20-17
Robert Marve was just good enough and the running game was effective in yet another big win for Danny Hope. After starting the year 0-5 in Big Ten play, Purdue rushed to its second straight win and is still eyeing a bowl game. The team gained 207 yards on 37 carries for a robust 5.6 yards per carry clip. The Boilermakers will face Indiana at home in a very winnable finale with a shot at the postseason within their reach. Hope has to thankful that his final three games of the year have come against the three worst teams in the Big Ten.
This week: Indiana (4-7)
11. Iowa (4-7, 2-5)
Previous rank: 11
Week 12 result: Lost to Michigan 42-17
The 2-0 start to Big Ten play has to feel like years ago for those in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes lost their fifth consecutive game in embarrassing fashion. It allowed three passing and three rushing touchdowns to wide receiver turned backup quarterback Devin Gardner. This unimaginative and uncompetitive group has no chance to battle with Nebraska next weekend and that leaves Black and Gold fans staring at a 4-8 season. That's more than $1 million per win for Kirk Ferentz.
This week: Nebraska (9-2)
12. Illinois (2-9, 0-7)
Previous rank: 12
Week 12 result: Lost to Purdue 20-17
That was the Illini's last chance at a Big Ten win. If this team can't beat Purdue and wasn't really competitive against Indiana or Minnesota, what makes anyone think it will defeat a quality Northwestern team on the road? In just one season, obviously Tim Beckman can't really do anything on the field to lose his job. However, he will enter his second season after losing 10 games in his debut and will be under a powerful microscope from now on.
This week: at Northwestern (7-3)
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SEC Post-Week 12 Power Rankings