I swear, these college football seasons seem to fly by quicker every year. We only have two more weeks of full-fledged B1G football action before the conference championship game in Indianapolis and after this past weekend's slate of games, we seem to have clear front-runners in both the West (Wisconsin) and East (Ohio State) divisions. Given that the transitive property doesn't apply to sports and that this is college football we're talking about, anything is possible in these next two weeks. That being said, if you're a Buckeye or Badger fan, you might want to start seriously thinking about securing a hotel room and tickets for Indy.
Enough talky-talky from me though, let's get to the games...
Iowa 30, Illinois 14
The penultimate home act of the Tim Beckman Farewell Tour saw Iowa score the game's first points in the most Iowa way imaginable with a safety. Illinois briefly led in this game 7-2 after Wes Lunt in his first game back, threw a touchdown strike to Mike Dudek. That was it for the Illini though, as far as positives are concerned. The Hawkeyes, behind Jake Rudock's solid passing (14 of 21 for 210 yards and 2 TD's) and Mark Weisman 134 rushing yards (part of 304 total rushing yards for the Hawkeyes) lit up the Illini, while their defense held Illinois to merely 235 total yards. The final home act of the farewell tour will be this upcoming weekend when Illinois hosts a Penn State team that despite a coaching change, probably still hasn't forgotten what Beckman did a few summers ago.
Ohio State 31, Minnesota 24
Coming off of a statement win at Michigan State last weekend under the lights, Ohio State is once again, beginning to make a case for consideration in the playoff. Unfortunately, that lone loss to Virginia Tech is proving to be a major turd in the punch bowl, as they currently sit at #8 behind several other one-loss teams. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, this means 'style points' are a buzz word for them, and merely beating Minnesota by a touchdown (even though the wintry conditions were a bit of a factor) isn't going to impress anyone on the selection committee, especially not considering how they blew an early 14-0 lead and allowed the Gophers to hang around for most of the game. On a positive note, J.T. Barrett made a case for inclusion in the Heisman Trophy ceremony by racking up 200 yards passing and 189 more on the ground, including an impressive 86-yard TD scamper on a QB draw.
Wisconsin 59, Nebraska 24
Unless you've spent the last 48 hours living in an eco-village, you're probably well aware of Melvin Gordon setting a new NCAA single-game rushing record of 408 yards, breaking LaDainian Tomlinson's old record by two yards, demoralizing the Huskers' vaunted 'blackshirts' defense and probably impregnating half the female crowd at Camp Randall Stadium in the process. It's also easy to forget though, that Nebraska led 17-3 early in the second quarter of this game before the bottom fell out.
Additionally, here's the mothership's Dan Rubenstein with his own #hottakes on Melgor:
Northwestern 43, Notre Dame 40 (OT)
Pat Fitzgerald now holds the dubious distinction as the only Northwestern alum to win at Notre Dame as both a player and a coach. You see, Fitz was a starting linebacker on the 1995 Northwestern squad that shocked the college football world with a 10-2 record and Rose Bowl appearance that year, including a season-opening victory in South Bend when Northwestern was a 28-point underdog. Trevor Siemian led a Wildcats offense that gave the team a fighting chance the entire way, completing 30 of 48 passes for 284 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for a TD himself, but also threw a pair of interceptions, constituting half of Northwestern's four turnovers. Luckily for Northwestern, Notre Dame was in a very giving mood, fumbling the ball away three times (including one with 1:30 to play in the game and the Irish simply needing to run out the clock to preserve the victory) and throwing a pick on top of that.
The real MVP of this game though, were Brian Kelly's math skills. After one-time PSU commit Will Fuller caught his third touchdown pass of the day to put the Irish up 40-29 with a little over ten minutes remaining in regulation, Kelly oddly opted to go for a two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point. Instead of holding a 41-29 lead midway through the fourth quarter and forcing the Wildcats to score two touchdowns to win the game, Notre Dame kept the door open for Northwestern to tie the game with just a touchdown and successful two-point conversion, followed by a field goal. And what do you know, that's exactly what Northwestern did. Wildcats kicker Jack Mitchell, who coming into this game had a career long of 29 yards and had missed two extra points in the blowout win over PSU earlier this year, nailed four out of his five attempts, including a 45-yarder to send the game to overtime and a 41-yarder in OT to win it after Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza shanked his attempt.
Also, this tweet from the mothership's Rodger Sherman was solid gold:
Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers 45, Indiana 23
Tevin Coleman put up a Melvin Gordon-lite performance, racking up 307 yards rushing and Zander Diamont had easily the best game of his short career, throwing for 179 yards a touchdown, and an interception on 15 for 31 passing. Unfortunately, Indiana's defense is still god-awful and BTPR eventually woke up in the second half after being down 13-10 at halftime. Leonte Carroo caught five Gary Nova passes for 125 yards receiving and pair of TD's to go with it while the tailback tandem of Josh Hicks and Robert Martin for 197 yards rushing and four TD's. Given that this was win number six for BTPR, they are now bowl eligible for the ninth time in the last decade.
Michigan State 37, Maryland 15
Coming off a tough home loss under the lights last weekend in East Lansing, we were all curious to see how Sparty would respond under the lights on the road at eager B1G newcomer Maryland. It took them about a quarter and a half to completely rid themselves of their hangover, after settling for three straight field goals to start the game despite getting a couple of short fields set up for them off of turnovers (of which the Terps would commit four total on the night), Sparty finally reached the end zone to take a 16-7 lead into the locker room at the half. The second half saw Sparty's defense continue to assert their will on the Maryland offense (the Terps were held to six yards total rushing) while pounding the rock with Jeremy Langford (25 carries, 138 yards and a pair of TD's).
Despite this dominating performance however, Sparty's hopes of a return to the B1G Championship game remain ultra-slim, as they will need to win out and hope that Ohio State stumbles against both Indiana and Michigan in the next two weeks. There's definitely a better chance that Lloyd Christmas ends up marrying Mary Swanson.