Monday, November 3, 2008

Big Ten Week Ten Wrap-up

What a week in the Big Ten. Strange that the most exciting action of the season came the week that the only two good teams in the conference were idle. The result of every single game Saturday was uncertain until the final minutes of play. The average margin of victory was four points, with the two biggest differentials (six and seven) decided on touchdowns in the last 30 seconds.

Northwestern upset Minnesota when Brendan Smith returned an interception 48 yards for a score with 12 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 24-17 road win. Quarterback Mike Kafka did the job offensively, filling in for injured CJ Bacher with 217 rush yards, a record for a Northwestern quarterback. The junior from Chicago overcame two picks to lead the Wildcats to the win.

Michigan State looked like they were starting the late season meltdown against Wisconsin Saturday. Javon Ringer was bottled up, Brian Hoyer was overthrowing receivers, and when he wasn't overthrowing them, the receivers looked like they were trying to catch the ball with their knuckles. Down 11 in the fourth, the Spartans charged back and won the game on a 44 yard Brett Swenson field goal with seven seconds remaining. State's first touchdown drive in the comeback was helped along by a five yard penalty, followed immediately by a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct call on UW coach Bret Bielema. MSU has a shot to share the Big Ten title if they can win against Purdue and upset Penn State.

Illinois did not look good against Iowa this week, but came through at the end when Matt Eller hit a 46 yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining to win by three. Illinois built a 24-9 lead before Iowa got a couple of fourth quarter touchdowns and tied the game. But Juice got his act together and led the Illini down the field to set up the game winner. Illinois moved to 5-4 and can become bowl eligible with a win over Western Michigan.

Speaking of bowl eligibility, any hopes Michigan had to extend its nation-leading 33 game bowl streak alive ended Saturday with a 48-42 loss at Purdue. Justin Siller filled in for the injured Curtis Painter at quarterback and tore up the Wolverines for 266 yards passing. Not bad for a guy who was a third string running back a few weeks ago. Purdue won the game on a hook and ladder with 26 seconds left.

Central Michigan came very close to getting a win against a Big Ten team against Purdue earlier in the season, but lost the game late. This week, the Chips got it done against Indiana. Backup QB Brian Brunner threw for 485 yards for CMU, filling in for the injured Dan LeFevour as the Chippewas became the second team this year from the MAC to beat Indiana.

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