1) Division title game ticket: Punched.
2) The defense bent more than usual in the first half but didn't break.
Northwestern had about 220 yards of offense at halftime. They finished the day with 319 and got intercepted three times in the second half (once by Darqueze Dennard, twice by Kurtis Drummond). It didn't hurt that Northwestern chose the conservative option repeatedly in the first half, kicking field goals inside the 10 twice and punting inside the 40 twice. As much as I like Pat Fitzgerald, you can't go that conservative against a better team.
The result? For the fourth time in conference play, Michigan State held the opponent without a touchdown.
3) The offense overcame a slow start to pull away.
Third down execution was not spectacular (4/12), but the running game mixed things up early with several varieties of misdirection - counters, draws, delays - and opened up big holes for Jeremy Langford, who finished with 150 yards and two touchdowns. Connor Cook had an excellent game, going 16 for 23 for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including this 87-yard catch and run for Bennie Fowler:
4) The targeting rule rears its ugly head.
Part of Northwestern's first-half success in moving the ball may have had something to do with Isaiah Lewis getting the gate for this hit on Kain Colter:
Colter did not return, and obviously we all hope it's nothing serious.
For what it's worth, my opinion of the play: Lewis led with the helmet, and by the letter of the rule that's going to get you tossed. But I don't see what he's supposed to do on this play, frankly. If Colter isn't stumbling and on his way down already thanks to bobbling the catch, that becomes a perfect form tackle with the shoulder at the hips. Lewis didn't launch and his helmet is in front of Colter's body. An unfortunate play all around, and I think there has to be some change to the targeting rule (or at least to referee's interpretations of it) to account for the fact that this sort of contact is not always avoidable by the defender.
5) Special teams was not so special.
Mike Sadler had something of an off day, averaging 41 yards a kick and only getting one inside the 20, but the wind may have had a lot to do with that. Of more concern is Michael Geiger's second blocked PAT in three games. Fortunately, neither has been in a game that ended remotely close.
6) Go Gophers, for this afternoon only.
Eliminating Wisconsin from BCS contention and boosting our strength of schedule would be nice.
7) Bring on Minnesota and Ohio State.
Win the latter and it's New Year's in Pasadena. Win the former and a good chance of a BCS game awaits.