Oh what a fun season it’s been. In the beginning of the season, not many people would have told you that both Wisconsin and Penn State would be the representatives of their own divisions in the Big Ten. Those that did, however, are probably swimming in money right now. That said, let’s take a look at how the weekend went and where you can expect each team to place.
Iowa 40, No. 16 Nebraska 10
The Iowa everyone expected at the beginning of the season is back, and they’re looking eerily similar to their 2008 selves. After knocking off the number 3 team in the country at the time (and soon to no longer be No. 3), The Hawkeyes have taken care of business against everyone else. This time, it was against a Nebraska team that got a lot of hype by beating the garbage teams (sans Wyoming) on the first part of the schedule, but failed to beat a single one of the top teams it faced. In fairness to the Huskers, Tommy Armstrong was still bothered by his hamstring injury, so there weren’t too many heroics on his side of the ball. Their defense, however, didn’t do Nebraska any favors.
Likely bowl destination for Iowa: Holiday Bowl
Likely bowl destination for Nebraska: Outback Bowl
No. 2 Ohio State 30, No. 3 Michigan 27 (2OT)
“The Game” actually backed up the hype this time around. Unlike last year, where Urban Meyer’s team wiped the figurative floor with Jim Harbaugh’s, this game featured strong defense from both teams, and inept offense at times (mostly on Ohio State’s part). Both teams, however, turned it on when it mattered. As it’s common knowledge by now, Harbaugh wasn’t all too thrilled with the officiating in this game, but the reality of the matter is that when you gift the opponent 14 points in the form of two interceptions on your own side of the ball (one returned for six), then fail to score on one of your drives to to your [still injured]* quarterback fumbling the ball at the one-yard line, you don’t get to complain about refereeing. Ohio State missed two field goals in this game, and still had an opportunity to tie the game at the end, and win it in overtime. The Buckeyes capitalized on Wolverine mistakes. Harbaugh’s team did not.
Likely bowl destination for Ohio State: College Football Playoff
Likely bowl destination for Michigan: Orange Bowl**
Indiana 26, Purdue 24
As cliché as it sounds, you definitely throw out the records when it comes to rivalry games. Unlike previous contests, Purdue didn’t falter in the second half of this game. They actually led in the fourth quarter, 22-20. Indiana, however found just enough offense in them to take the go ahead score with a little under five minutes left in the game. A Purdue interception late pretty much sealed their fate, as Zander Diamont pulled an Iowa and opted for a Safety in the closing seconds of the game instead of punting.
Likely bowl destination for Indiana: Quick Lane Bowl
What this means for Purdue: They can finally start (or end) their coaching search in peace.
Northwestern 42, Illinois 21
This game actually seemed interesting in the first half, as the Illini were only down seven at halftime. Northwestern, however, quickly answered with two touchdown drives in the third quarter, and Illinois did not have enough in them to keep it closer than 21. The end.
Likely bowl destination for Northwestern: Foster Farms Bowl (to get housed by Stanford)
What this means for Illinois: Not exactly the season Lovie Smith had in mind when he took the job, but now he can regroup, recruit his type of players, and build on what he has. That is, of course, if he doesn’t bolt for the NFL in the offseason (unlikely).
Maryland 31, Rutgers 13
First things first, Rutgers actually scored, and they scored more than seven points. That alone is cause for celebration. Secondly, Caleb Rowe proposed to his girlfriend after the game, which is pretty cool. Third —wait, you guys actually expected me to talk about this game? No thanks.
Likely bowl destination for Maryland: Pinstripe Bowl
What this means for Rutgers: Mercifully, their worst season in at least 20 years is now over. Chris Ash did manage to salvage some of the recruiting class of 2016, and he has a decent enough class in 2017 (ranked 31st right now). If he can sell recruits on immediate playing time and being the guys to “restore” Rutgers to its mid-2000s “glory,” he might be able to forget about this dreadful season soon enough.
No. 6 Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 17
This game was 17-7 in favor of Minnesota at halftime. The Badgers scored the rest of the points in the game in the second half. You have to feel bad for Minnesota fans, as they’ve now seen four halftime leads evaporate in each of the Gophers’ four losses. Here’s to hoping Tracy Claeys can figure out his second half woes, because this team could have easily been the West representative had they held on to just two of those leads. As per Wisconsin, Alex Hornibrook went out in the game with concussion-like symptoms, so there’s a good chance he won’t be able to go on Saturday. If that’s the case, they’ll need to make do with Bart Houston, the preseason starter who lost his job to Hornibrook.
What this means for Wisconsin: They get to play for a spot in the Rose Bowl. Many pundits have tried to paint the College Football Playoff picture for Wisconsin, but unlike Penn State, the Badgers already have a loss against Ohio State (and Michigan). While the Badgers boast many “at the time” wins***, it’s hard to justify a win against Penn State, their only win against a top conference team, as enough to surpass both Ohio State’s resume and a loss to the Buckeyes, even as Big Ten champions.
Up Next: Big Ten Championship Game
Likely bowl destination for Minnesota: Music City
BONUS: No. 7 Penn State 45, Michigan State 12
I’m only putting this here to discuss the championship game picture. Everything that needed to be said about this game was said in the recaps, so there’s o point in repeating ourselves here. Penn State was the better team, and they showed it. The end.
What this means for Penn State: Unlike Wisconsin, they have a better argument for a playoff bid with a win this weekend. A win would give Penn State two wins over currently top ten opponents (and a loss will most likely keep Wisconsin in the top 10 still), a Big Ten championship, and a win over Ohio State. Even if they miss out on the playoff, the conversation will be much more heated in the committee room if Penn State wins the conference. A Rose Bowl bid isn’t a bad consolation price, however.
Up Next: Big Ten Championship Game
What this means for Michigan State: They need to find a quarterback in the offseason. Connor Cook left a huge void on the team, and they seemed to be unable to fill it with any of their options until Brian Lewerke showed promise. And then he broke his leg. Hopefully Lewerke is the answer for the Spartans, because otherwise they may not return to the top of the conference next season. The other silver lining for them is having played so many young people this year due to injury (sounds familiar?) can only help with depth and experience moving forward.
*What is it with coaches playing injured quarterbacks?
**Michigan is almost locked into the Orange Bowl. They’re likely to remain ahead of the championship game loser, but locked out of the Rose by virtue of the auto-bid. Their only feasible path to the Rose at the moment is the championship game winner getting into the playoff, and Michigan being ahead of the loser.
***Wisconsin, while a good team, only has one win against currently ranked teams. They do have, however, wins against then-No. 5 LSU (currently unranked), then-No. 8 Michigan State (losing season), and then-No. 7 Nebraska (currently No. 16, but probably dropping out of the rankings as of Tuesday night). While those are cool talking points, they won’t mean much to the committee.