Was it ugly? Gut-wrenching? Should those with weak constitutions have looked away at several points? Yes, but that’s Big Ten football. It’s beautiful in ways, yet powerfully disturbing in others. One of three prime examples of that today was this year’s bout for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Former Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as “little brother” in 2007. That was before the Spartans ripped off four straight wins against the Wolverines. Today, big brother gave its alleged younger sibling everything it wanted.
With Michigan leading 6-0 heading at the half, it appeared that the Wolverines would simply stiff-arm the Spartans on their way to victory, but a short touchdown pass to Michigan State’s Paul Lang from Andrew Maxwell put Sparty right back in the thick of things in the third quarter.
Wolverine kicker Brandon Gibbons would end up sending the Champions of the (Big Ten) West home with a win by scoring his team’s final points including a 38-yard field goal with five seconds left to seal the game at 12-10.
As a result, Michigan State tumbles to the cellar of the Legends division along with Minnesota while Michigan now sits tied with Iowa at the top, both teams undefeated. That could change later this evening as Penn State visits Kinnick Stadium.
Nebraska and Northwestern swapped places in the Legends following the Cornhuskers’ 29-28 comeback victory. Regardless of the outcome of the Penn State-Iowa tilt, Wisconsin looks to be the likely representative for the Leaders division in the Big Ten Championship Game. Barring a loss to Penn State, Ohio State appears to be the official division champion, but won’t be advancing to postseason play.
Michigan’s schedule isn’t a cakewalk with a visit to Lincoln next week to face Nebraska and the annual blood feud with the Buckeyes left to play. Clashes with Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa shouldn’t be a problem for the Wolverines, but the Wildcats have yet to pull off their yearly Big Ten Spoiler Special after coming close today.
After two close losses, Michigan State travels to Wisconsin before welcoming Nebraska and Northwestern to East Lansing, then finishing out the season in Minneapolis. Sparty will need some serious luck to go bowling, but thanks to the probable emotional toll this regular season is taking on them, it might be best if they aren’t eligible.
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