There are only two weeks remaining in the college football regular season, so one could assume that by now, we have a good idea of who will be playing for the Big Ten Title. As usual, however, the Big Ten defies expectations and assumptions, leaving us guessing on who will be fighting it out in Indy.
On the west side of the conference, we surprisingly do have a good idea on who will advance to Indianapolis, with the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes making a name for themselves as one of the biggest surprises in college football. On the east side of the conference, the unbeaten Ohio State Buckeyes continue their run for perfection, but with the one-loss Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines still on their schedule, who knows what could happen? Even if MSU or U-M defeats Ohio State, they will both still have to fight through an upset-minded Penn State team to reach Indy.
How did the teams fare through Week 11? Take a look!
J.T. Barrett returned from his one-game suspension, but his spotlight was taken by the Heisman-caliber running back Ezekiel Elliott, who piled in 181 yards and two touchdowns in Ohio State’s win over Illinois. Barrett was not playing his best following his arrest for driving a vehicle while intoxicated, but this shows why Ohio State is dangerous. Their ability to make plays without their offensive catalyst at his potential is a nightmare for any team.
OSU’s hopes for a perfect season survive another week, but their big test will go down against the Spartans next week with a Big Ten Championship and, with any luck, a national title on the line.
Another week, another win. Jordan Canzeri returned to action against the Minnesota Gophers, and right on time with Akrum Wadley out. Nevertheless, Canzeri did not take the full load of rushes, with LeShun Daniels rushing for nearly 200 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
It is impossible to understand the Hawkeyes. Running the football surrounds their whole offensive scheme. The Hawks have endured multiple injuries on the ground attack, yet they keep on trucking. One would think that their injuries would eventually catch up to them, but they have not. Whether Iowa loses Canzeri or Wadley, there is always someone who steps up in their place. Perhaps this is why Iowa has been arguably the most consistent team in the nation.
Week in and week out, Iowa has played solid football, almost never slipping up. They rarely have moments where they almost lose to a bad team while the whole nation holds their breath in anticipation, praying to see another unbeaten fall. It does not matter how bad their competition is.
Very few teams can say that they have played near their potential every single week, but Iowa is one of the few who can.
The Spartans achieved their first convincing win of the season against Maryland, and they did it without starting quarterback Connor Cook. While a 28-7 margin may not appear “massive,” the Spartan defense controlled the tone of the entire game, rarely allowing Maryland to gain momentum, or even move the football. Gerald Holmes also made a name for himself on the rush attack, which will be just as important as good defense next week against the Buckeyes in a key Big Ten East showdown.
Any playoff hopes Michigan State has will disappear with a loss to Ohio State. Contrary to popular MSU tradition, Spartans should root for Ohio State every game except when they play MSU.
Here is the situation: The only way Michigan State can make the College Football Playoff is if they beat an undefeated Ohio State team in Columbus, and advance to beat an undefeated Iowa team in the Big Ten Championship game. Although not impossible, it is unlikely that multiple teams from one conference will make the playoffs. This means that one conference will not be represented in the playoffs, and that conference will likely be the Pac-12, who has zero teams with less than two losses. However, with an independent one-loss Notre Dame team out there, the Irish could potentially spoil the playoffs for a second conference—possibly the Big Ten.
This is why Spartan fans should root for Ohio State, Iowa and, as painful as it may be, Michigan. Winning out does not guarantee Sparty a playoff berth, so when the playoff committee grills Michigan State for “barely beating bad teams,” they better have good wins to back themselves up.
The Wolverines survived a scare in Bloomington, where the Indiana Hoosiers failed to get their first conference win in double overtime. This game was a complete flip-flop of what we usually see from Michigan. Normally, the Wolverines love to pound the ball inside with running back De’Veon Smith, who provides the offensive firepower to U-M. They also defend the rush extremely well, ranking third in the nation in that category. However, none of this worked against Indiana; Smith ran for only 58 yards, while opposing running back, Jordan Howard, carried his team with 238 yards. This is uncharacteristic of the Wolverines, but the way they responded was fantastic.
Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock has been decent this season, but on Saturday, he carried the Wolverines further than we have ever seen. Sometimes, good quarterbacks will do this. They let the game rest on their shoulders and become the playmakers and life source of the entire team. Rudock responded to that call with 440 yards, keeping the hopes of a Big Ten Championship alive.
Did Michigan play their “A” game against the Hoosiers? No. Nevertheless, the Wolverines got what they came for. They got backhanded in the face by adversity, took it, and gave it back.
Pat Fitzgerald’s squad enjoyed a victory on senior day in Evanston. Northwestern has not always looked great this year, especially at passing the football, but they consistently get the job done.
With their 21-14 victory over Purdue, the Wildcats are in an interesting situation. Northwestern is having a solid year, but they have only played two teams who are currently ranked (Iowa and Michigan), falling to both teams in a blowout. The Wildcats will have their chance to redeem themselves next week against an underrated Wisconsin team, with a major bowl game on the line. Both teams are in the hunt for a 10-win season along with a potential New Year’s Day bowl.
Teams like Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa often cast a shadow on Northwestern, but never forget about the Wildcats. They just might surprise you.
Coming off a 31-14 victory over Rutgers, the Cornhuskers are proving to be one of the most inconsistent teams in the Big Ten. One minute, the Blackshirts are begging to bring back Bo Pelini, and the next, they are knocking off undefeated Michigan State.
The key to Nebraska’s success is their ability to move the ball through the air. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is very talented and has many targets to throw to, including one of the nation’s greatest, Jordan Westerkamp. Nebraska’s ability to throw the football is their X-factor. If defenses allow Armstrong to get in a rhythm, he is unstoppable. But many defenses have pressured Armstrong, not allowing him to get in sync. This destroys Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers have a mediocre defense and run game. The pass game is all they have. Remember when Nebraska lost to Purdue? Most people blamed the loss on the Cornhusker defense, and rightfully so, giving up 55 points. However, most people did not talk about Ryker Fyfe, who replaced the injured Tommy Armstrong. Fyfe put up 45 points, but at the cost of four interceptions and a fumble. Had Tommy Armstrong been in the game, Nebraska likely would have had fewer turnovers, preventing Purdue from scoring as much as they did.
If Armstrong rolls, then the whole team rolls with him, but when he falls, he drags everyone else down.
There are times when greatness sparks out of the Golden Gophers, as they rise on the national stage and give heart attacks to some of the top teams in the land. After losing to TCU by six points, Michigan by three, Ohio State by fourteen and now Iowa by five, the Gophers are not making anyone’s playoff hopes easy. Unfortunately, their inability to capitalize in key moments proves Minnesota unworthy to be taken as a serious threat to ranked teams.
All hope is not lost for the Gophers as they remain in bowl game contention, but unless Minnesota starts playing with a greater will to win, their season will have an untimely ending.
Illinois’ crafty offense carried the Illini to success in the non-conference season, but as they go through the meaty part of their schedule, it is clear that the “Wes Lunt Show” just finished its closing night.
With Saturday’s 28-3 loss to Ohio State, Illinois has been held under 20 points for four out of their six conference games. What Illinois lacks is depth. Lunt is the man the Illini have called on every week, and for a while, he answered that call.
Unfortunately, Illinois’ luck has run out, and it is clear that Lunt does not have enough talent around him to make plays. Still, with a 5-5 record, the Illini are in position to reach the postseason.
The Hoosiers fought bravely, trying to spoil Michigan’s Big Ten Championship hopes, but they came just short. Indiana’s high-powered offense, led by sensational running back Jordan Howard, kept Indiana in the game. Indiana’s ability to put points on the scoreboard always keeps them in close games, but not many predicted the Hoosiers to take the lead against Michigan late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Indiana could not keep the rally together in the final minutes of play, pushing the game into double overtime before they finally lost.
Although mourning another loss at the hands of the defense seems appropriate, there is still life in Bloomington. With an easy schedule for the final two games of the year, Indiana’s hopes for reaching a bowl game for the tenth time in school history stays alive.
Purdue has been impressive in their last few games. Is it because they are winning? No, they are definitely not doing that, as they come off of another loss against Northwestern. It is because the Boilermakers never give up. Darrell Hazell fought and won for his job down in West Lafayette, showing an aggressive side we have not seen from him before. The creative play calling has been incredible from Purdue; combine that with talented young quarterback David Blough, and you get a pesky Boilermaker team who refuses to go away.
While Hazell has not turned Purdue into a powerhouse, he has guaranteed himself a coaching job for another year, and prevented Purdue from being the laughingstock of the Big Ten.
On the bright side, the Scarlet Knights gave up less than 48 points for the first time in five games. On the other hand, Rutgers is still pretty bad.
Fans have shown their dissatisfaction for head coach Kyle Flood, as the Scarlet Knights fell 31-14 to Nebraska, but it goes beyond that. Fans across Big Ten country are upset and embarrassed by the Scarlet Knights’ performance on and off the field, and many believe that the newest member of the conference adds very little to the good name of the Big Ten.
Remember how Purdue was not the laughingstock of the Big Ten? That is because their spotlight was stolen by Maryland, throwing three interceptions to make 28 on the season along with a couple fumbles in their blowout loss to Michigan State. Although 28-7 does not seem like a blowout, it did not take very long to realize that Maryland’s offense was not going anywhere, proving to be unable to score a substantial amount of points.
With this loss, the Terps have become the first team of the year to lose convincingly to the Spartans. Maryland has achieved what Central Michigan, Rutgers, and Air Force could not, so the season has been disappointing for Maryland, to say the least.