Ohio State and QB Craig Krenzel proved all the doubters wrong as they knocked Michigan State out of the Big Ten title hunt with a 33-23 win this past Saturday. Krenzel was in danger of losing his starting job after Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel stated during the week that he would not hesitate to replace the starter with backup Scott McMullen, who had engineered a come from behind win over Penn State the previous week, if Krenzel struggled. The embattled QB -- who was recovering from a concussion he received against the Nittany Lions -- came up big as he completed 12 of 23 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. The three scores were even more amazing when you consider Krenzel had only thrown six touchdown passes the whole season. Michigan State took the early lead when QB Jeff Smoker hit WR Agim Shabaj for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Ohio State took over the game from there, as they scored the next 17 points and went into halftime with a 17-10 lead. The key play in the first half was an interception by SS Tyler Everett that was returned for 66 yards, setting up the Buckeyes' first score. On the first drive of the second half, the Buckeyes moved down the field with ease as Krenzel capped an eight play, 80-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to TE Ryan Hamby. The Spartans came right back when CB DeAndra Cobb shot down the right sideline for a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown. Form that point, it was all Buckeyes. Kicker Mike Nugent kicked three field goals in the second half and Michigan State could only manage a late touchdown when the game was already well in hand. One bright spot for the Spartans was the QB play of Smoker, who set some school records in the loss for attempts and completions. Smoker completed 35 of 55 attempts for 351 yards and two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. These numbers are especially impressive when you consider Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country. The Buckeyes were helped by a strong rushing day from Lydell Ross, who gained 125 yards on 24 attempts. The Spartans leading rusher, on the other hand, gained a paltry 14 yards. The Ohio State win kept them in the hunt for the Big Ten title and a possible BCS bid while eliminating Michigan State from contention. The Buckeyes are now tied at the top of the conference with Michigan and Purdue, who they play in the next two weeks. First up will be the Boilers, who will travel to Columbus for Saturday's game. Michigan State heads to Wisconsin this weekend. It would have been a huge game for them if they had been able to defeat the Buckeyes.
Purdue stayed on top of the conference and helped win our Big Ten Game of the Year as it defeated Iowa, 27-14, at home. I chose the Boilers for my top game because I thought that this line was very short and I believe the Hawkeyes to be the most overrated team in the conference. RB Jerod Void was the main man for Purdue as he gained 120 yards on 34 carries - both career highs. He also added two touchdowns, which was all the entire Iowa offense could manage the whole game. The Hawkeyes had some chances to score in the first half. But would up being shut out in the first two quarters. After Void scored on a 9-yard run in the opening series, Iowa had a chance to even up the score but QB Nathan Chandler overthrew WR Ramon Ochoa on what should have been an easy touchdown. A couple other bad throws could have been caught for scores if they had been on target. An illegal formation penalty also nullified a Hawkeyes touchdown and forced a field goal attempt by kicker Nate Kaeding, which turned out to be his first miss of the season. On the first drive of the second half, the Boilers cemented their lead as RB Jerome Brooks had a nice return and then QB Kyle Orton hit WR Anthony Chambers on a pretty pass that worked for a 45-yard touchdown, putting Purdue up 20-0. Then the Boilers decided to grind out the clock with Void and the Hawkeyes could never recover. Orton finished the day with 164 yards on 13 of 20 passing. WR Maurice Brown was a bright spot for Iowa as he gained 127 receiving yards on eight catches. Purdue will have a very important game this weekend against Ohio State, as I mentioned earlier. Iowa will be heading home for a game against the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota reclaimed Paul Bunyan's Axe as it defeated Wisconsin at home, 37-34, on a 35-yard field goal by Rhys Lloyd with the final seconds ticking off the clock. Once again, the Golden Gophers used a punishing rushing attack to propel them to the win. In all, the Gophers gained 336 ground yards. The duo of Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney did most of the damage. Barber finished with 139 yards on 27 attempts and one touchdown and Maroney added 135 yards on only 15 attempts and he also reached the end zone once. Minnesota was able to overcome the great play of Badgers QB Jim Sorgi, who threw for 305 yards on 23 of 34 passing. He added four touchdowns. This was a game of two halves, the first controlled by the Gophers and the second dominated by Wisconsin. For most of the fist half, Minnesota scored at will. They had three touchdowns and held the Badgers to just three field goals until Sorgi hit WR Owen Daniels for a 27-yard touchdown with less than 1:30 in the half remaining. The Badgers built on that momentum in the third quarter, as they closed the margin with two more Sorgi touchdown passes. One went to WR Lee Evans early in the quarter for 17 yards and the other was caught by WR Darrin Charles close to the end of the quarter. With the game tied up heading into the fourth quarter, Minnesota finally scored its first touchdown of the half as Barber ran 11 yards for a score. Wisconsin, however, came right back and scored a touchdown of its own as Sorgi threw his fourth touchdown pass, again to Daniels, this time for 26 yards. On the final drive of the game, the Gophers controlled the clock with Barber and Maroney and set up Lloyd's game-winning kick. Minnesota's game next week against Iowa will be its last of the season.
Northwestern extended Penn State's losing streak and also extended all of the negative talk involving Coach Joe Paterno as they downed the Nittany Lions, 17-7, in Evanston. Penn State has now lost six straight, its worst streak under Paterno and the biggest slide for the school since 1931. The Nittany Lions were in control for most of the game, as they held a 7-0 lead going into the fourth quarter. It was in the final 15 minutes that most of the action took place. Down 7-0 and facing a fourth-and-7 situation at the Penn State 19, Northwestern ran a trick play that resembled the one that helped them defeat Wisconsin a couple weeks back. The Wildcats brought out their field goal unit and it looked like they were going to be content with three points. But holder Eric Batis ran under center and took the snap. He faked a handoff and then darted left for the first down. RB Jason Wright capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run. As bizarre as that play was, Northwestern wasn't done yet. With the game tied, QB Brett Basanez threw a deep pass over the middle that looked like a sure interception, There was some miscommunication between the defenders and they knocked the ball into the air, and when it landed it was in the hands of WR Brandon Horn, who was credited with a 41-yard touchdown. The Wildcats added a field goal and the rest was history. RB Noah Herron was the star of the game for Northwestern as he rushed for 180 yards on 35 attempts. The Wildcats will have a tough task next week as they host Michigan. Penn State will have a good chance to end its losing streak as it hosts Indiana.
The Hoosiers stayed out of the Big Ten basement and ended its 11-game losing streak in the Big Ten with a 17-14 win over Illinois. Although the game didn't get any national attention due to the horrendous records owned by both squads, it was a very exciting contest. The game came down to the final seconds as QB Matt LoVecchio scored on an eight-yard run with 24 seconds left that lifted his team to victory. On third and goal from the eight-yard line, LoVecchio had no open receivers so he decided to keep the ball and ran it up the middle before diving into the end zone for the score. It was the Hoosiers first win in the Big ten since it defeated Wisconsin on Oct. 12, 2002. Illinois looked to have the game in hand after Christian Morton returned a punt 52 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter. But a holding penalty brought the play back. That score would have put the Illini up 21-10. Instead, LoVecchio led Indiana to a rare victory, its first since beating Indiana State on Sept. 13. LoVecchio finished the game with 161 yards on 17 of 24 passing. The Illini got two touchdown passes from their QB, Dustin Ward, who threw for 163 yards by completing 15 of 21 passes. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the top rusher for the Hoosiers as he gained 98 yards on 25 attempts. Illinois has a bye this week and they will try to get their first Big Ten win in two Saturdays at home against the resurgent Wildcats.
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