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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Big Ten Season Recap - Part 1 - Legends
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Nebraska Wisconsin1The Big Ten Championship Game will be played this Saturday night in Indianapolis with Nebraska and Wisconsin competing for the Stagg Trophy (formerly known as the Stagg-Paterno Trophy). It’s a rematch of the teams’ meeting in late September, won by the Cornhuskers 30-27 in Lincoln, in one of their numerous 4th quarter comebacks of 2012.

Back in August, the Leaders Division preview predicted that Ohio State would win the division and force the conference to field something less than their best two teams in the second annual title game, and that’s how it turned out. (The Legends preview wasn’t nearly as prescient...I liked the Spartans)  

Small wonder then, that the championship game of an unusually weak conference is eliciting a large national yawn by featuring the Badgers, with their 4-4 Big Ten mark, and a 7-5 overall record, against a Nebraska team that has already beaten them once, but that also gave up 63 points in a loss to the undefeated Buckeyes.

But so be it. This is what Ohio State and their fans signed up for in 2012. A low-stress bowl season. Enjoy...and let the rest of Big Ten country savor a postseason without Ohio State. It’s the future of OSU under Urban Meyer that they have to worry about.


All-Big Ten Teams - Coaches and Media Polls and Individual Award Winners

Final Regular Season Big Ten Statistics


Rather than rehash last week’s games, very few of which were meaningful, I’ve decided to recap each team’s season in brief, with a look ahead to 2013. Part 1 will deal with the Legends Division, and we’ll get to the Leaders in a day or two. Without further ado...the final Big Ten standings...

Nebraska Wisconsin3Legends Division

Nebraska   7-1
Michigan   6-2
Northwestern   5-3
Michigan St.   3-5
Minnesota   2-6
Iowa   2-6

Leaders Division

Ohio State   8-0
Penn State   6-2
Wisconsin   4-4
Purdue   3-5
Indiana   2-6
Illinois   0-8


Nebraska2012bNebraska - (10-2, 7-1)
The Cornhuskers only two losses in 2012 were to Pac-12 South champs UCLA and Leaders Division champion Ohio State. They finished games strong, coming from behind in  the 4th quarter in wins over Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin. They finished 8th in the nation in rushing despite losing star tailback Rex Burkhead for half the season. While they were not a good passing team (91st), they didn’t need to be, because Taylor Martinez was enough of a run threat to keep defenses off balance, and Ameer Abdullah (1,071 yds, 8 TD) emerged as a dangerous running back.  The defense finished 31st in points allowed (22.8), a more than respectable number for a team that had real questions on that side of the ball coming in to 2012. The Huskers have a shot at their first ever Big Ten title in just their second season in the league. And it looks like they’ll be contenders in the Legends for the long haul. Team Stats

2013 Outlook: Burkhead is gone, but the core of the potent Husker offense, Martinez, Abdullah, the top three receivers, including Kenny Bell (44 rec, 789 yds, 8 TD) and 80% of the offensive line are back. On defense though, Nebraska is hit hard by graduation. Three standout defensive line starters (Steinkuhler, Martin and Meredith) are gone, and top linebacker Will Compton and half the secondary leave as well. Stud kicker/punter Brent Maher will also have to be replaced.


Michigan2012bMichigan - (8-4, 6-2)
A Wolverine team that opened the season ranked 7th in the AP poll finished out of the Top 25, and without a Big Ten title game invitation, let alone a BCS berth. Losses to four good teams (Alabama, Notre Dame, OSU and Nebraska) make the 2012 downturn for the Wolves slightly easier to take for their fans, but some people see the bloom coming off Brady Hoke’s rose just a bit. A fifth loss to Northwestern was averted by a miracle Hail Mary of the sort that made Denard Robinson famous, and of course the Big Ten won’t have Robinson to kick around any more after the Wolverines play the Outback Bowl, or some such January 1st consolation prize. An 11-2 BCS-win season in 2011 was the exception, not the rule. These guys are who we thought they were.  Team Stats

2013 Outlook: Michigan did discover their quarterback for 2013, as Devin Gardner showed what he can do in the season’s second half. Receiver Jeremy Gallon and RB Fitz Toussaint will return on offense as well, but the offensive line is hit hard by losses, and even more so if B1G O-Lineman of the Year Taylor Lewan opts out early for the NFL Draft. There are not a lot of scary skill position weapons on this team. They have lots of talent on the offensive line, but they’ll be green in 2013. The defense loses five senior starters, and although Jake Ryan, James Ross, Jibreel Black and Frank Clark look like keepers, that group will be young and relatively untested.


NW2012cNorthwestern - (9-3, 5-3)
The Wildcats put together a fine season, and Pat Fitzgerald’s guys will be rewarded with a prestige bowl least by Northwestern standards. But when they look back at 2012, they’ll see three losses that were all very winnable games for them. As noted above, they were victimized by a Michigan Miracle and lost to the Wolves in OT, and they had 4th quarter leads against Nebraska and Penn State, but failed to close the deal both times. They avoided OSU and Wisconsin from the Leaders, but that is not to minimize what they accomplished this season. Running back Venric Mark (1,310 yds, 11 TD, 6.2 td. avg) emerged as a star and a breakaway threat from scrimmage or on kick returns. And the QB combo of Kain Coulter and Trevor Siemian worked out better than those arrangements typically do. More surprising than the Wildcats’ 14th-ranked rushing offense nationally was their 31st-ranked points against rank. Yes, Northwestern played defense. Figure that one out.  Team Stats

2013 Outlook: Coulter, Siemian and Mark all return for the ‘Cats next year, so expect more of the same kind of rush-happy offense, with just enough throwing to strike a balance. They do have to replace three O-line starters, but they lose only four regulars from the defense.The biggest worry in Evanston has to be some major college football program coming after Fitzgerald to steal him away with an offer he can’t refuse.


MSU2012aMichigan State - (6-6, 3-5)
With a first-year starter at QB, the Spartans were bound to struggle on offense, but few people thought they’d be dubbed “the .“most disappointing team in the Big Ten” so early and so often. Even with LeVeon Bell (1,648 yds, 11 TD, 4.7 yd. avg) running the ball, the Spartans’ were inconsistent moving the ball all year. Worse yet, they couldn’t win at home, dropping five games in East Lansing, including all four conference home games. On closer examination though, it could have been a lot better with a break or two. Consider: MSU’s five losses in Big Ten play were by a combined 13 points. Mark Dantonio didn’t get dumb in the course of one year, and Andrew Maxwell did show some arm strength and accuracy in his baptism under fire at quarterback. They discovered some good young receivers and some big, talented defensive backs as the year progressed, so I don’t expect the slump to be a prolonged one.Team Stats

2013 Outlook: Bell is a junior, and he would likely be a 1st round pick, but if he decides to stay, the biggest issue on offense will be replacing two offensive line starters. All the other contributors will be back. On defense too, the team’s stars (Gholston, Bullough, Allen, Rush) all have eligibility remaining. OSU rotates off the Spartan schedule for two years starting next season, another positive for the MSU faithful.


Minnesota2012aMinnesota - (6-6, 2-6)
The Golden Gophers were 4-0 in non-conference play, but Jerry Kill’s charges could manage just two wins in Big Ten play, and they failed to finish within a touchdown of their opponent in any of their six conference losses. They were a respectable 40th nationally in points against, giving up 23.9 per game, but they were awful (100th) putting points on the board themselves, as the Marqueis Gray as quarterback experiment mercifully ended halfway through his senior year. Promising freshman Philip Nelson took over, but he played like a freshman, and had very little help at the other skill positions. It’s indicative of the problem with college football’s bowl game system that a team like Minnesota can qualify with just two conference victories. Especially since those two wins were over teams (Purdue, Illinois) with a combined two conference wins themselves.  Coach Kill left the field at halftime of the Gophers’ final game and didn’t return. Sadly, the coach’s seizure disorder is an uncertainty that faces the Gophers each week, and is potentially a significant problem for a program with lots of them already. Team Stats

2013 Outlook: Nelson is the immediate future at quarterback, and with the exception of tight end John Rabe, the entire offense returns next year. You decide if that’s a good or a bad thing. There are a couple of highly-touted recruits on campus (freshman Jonah Pirsig, junior Ra’Shede  Hageman) but the Gophers failed to place a single player on either the coaches or the media All-Big Ten first or second teams for this season, and until they start getting better talent, a backdoor bowl invitation like this year’s is going to be this program’s ceiling.


Iowa2012bIowa - (4-8, 2-6)
The Iowa season started out on shaky ground with non-conference losses to Iowa State and Central Michigan, but the Hawkeyes were still 4-2 at the halfway point when the season peaked in a double-overtime victory over Michigan State. That’s when it crashed and burned for the Hawkeyes, who finished the campaign with six straight losses. Neither side of the ball got the job done, as Iowa finished 11th in the Big Ten in points scored, and were last in rushing offense and also last in passing efficiency. On defense they were last in sacks and 11th in 3rd down conversions allowed. Get the picture? Their leading rusher, Mark Weisman, had 815 yards and is a fun guy to watch, but when your best offensive weapon is a converted fullback who came in as a walk-on, there’s a talent problem in the program. James Vandenberg wasn’t protected very well, and had few receiving threats to work with...hence the 5.78 yards per attempt...but he has just not developed in line with the promise he showed as a sophomore in 2010. Team Stats

2013 Outlook: Some key players leaving are Vandenberg, center James Ferentz, cornerback Micah Hyde and receiver Keenan Davis, and the top returning offensive player is probably tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. On defense, OLB Anthony Hitchens (124 tackles) is a nice looking young player coming back, but other contributors of that caliber are few and far between. I can’t see the Hawkeyes competing for the Legends title in the foreseeable future.


Next: Leaders Division 2012 Season Recap


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