With a full Big Ten slate on Saturday, the Big Ten picture started to become clear, with both contenders from each division grabbing important wins.
No. 8 Wisconsin 21, Northwestern 7
Wisconsin grabbed one they needed against Northwestern, exorcising some demons along the way. The Badgers got their first win in Evanston since 1999 against a Northwestern team that has looked pretty good in the past few weeks. As expected, this was a low-scoring game where both teams had to earn every inch and every point. Northwestern couldn’t do much on offense against this Wisconsin defense, which makes two weeks in a row where the Wildcats have run into a wall against a better team.
What this means for Wisconsin: Wisconsin slate eases up a bit from here on out, so they can finally take a breath. The Badgers’ remaining schedule is made up of two teams at the bottom of the West and a rival that hasn’t won in 12 straight tries.
Up Next: Illinois
What this means for Northwestern: They looked good in wins against mediocre to bad teams, but back to back losses against the top of the conference confirms the belief that Northwestern is a solid, but nonetheless mediocre team. With games against Illinois and Purdue left, they should still make a bowl game.
Up Next: at Purdue
Indiana 33, Rutgers 27
Indiana and Rutgers found themselves in another crazy game that saw plenty of scoring in the first quarter, but simmered down significantly afterwards. Unlike the past two seasons, Indiana was finally able to beat Rutgers, but not without a fight. The kicking game for Indiana is a mess. A slew of missed field goals and and extra points, combined with multiple turnovers, allowed Rutgers to stay in the game (having a 24-13 lead at in the third quarter). Finally, the Hoosiers clamped down on defense and scored just enough to come away with the win.
What this means for Indiana: They’re still alive for a bowl game. With Purdue still on their schedule, they can reach the six-win mark in the last game of the season.
Up Next: Penn State
What this means for Rutgers: Games have not had much meaning for Rutgers since about week 3. If there is a silver lining, it’s that Rutgers has indeed played better in the past few games.
Up Next: at Michigan State
Illinois 31, Michigan State 27
This game was predicted to be a snoozer in the preseason, but it ended up being a close one because both teams are terrible. This was a classic instance of “somebody had to win,” and that’s exactly how it went down. Illinois and Michigan traded leads in the 4th quarter, and for a second it looked like the Spartans were going to pull out the win. Down 31-27, Michigan State had the ball with a little over a minute left, and drove all the way inside the Illini 20. Illinois called three straight timeouts on 4th down, and bizarrely, it worked. Michigan State failed to convert, and that was that. Let’s never speak of this game again.
What this means for Michigan State: The season is almost over. Only a few more games...
Up Next: Rutgers
What this means for Illinois: They are technically still alive for a bowl game. Who knows, maybe they have two massive upsets left in them.
Up Next: at Wisconsin
No. 3 Michigan 59, Maryland 3
Michigan went back to its blowout ways against Maryland this week. The Wolverines started fast and kept the pedal down until the last second. Michigan scored a touchdown in its first five possessions, and “slowed down” a little in the second half, when they scored a field goal in the third quarter. Michigan only had one drive where they didn’t score. As per Maryland, well, being Harbaugh’s buddy doesn’t exempt you from taking a beatdown, Mr. Durkin. Better luck next year.
What this means for Michigan: Michigan’s path to the championship game is pretty clear. Win and you’re in. With only one more challenge left, that should be easy.
Up Next: at Iowa
What this means for Maryland: They still have Rutgers left on their schedule, so reaching a bowl game is still possible. However, they need to be careful, as Rutgers has been playing better lately.
Up Next: Ohio State
Minnesota 44, Purdue 31
Another week, another wasted hot start for Purdue. The Boilermakers kept it close with Minnesota, taking a 5-point lead into the half. And like clockwork, they had a turnover that led to a Gopher score. They tried to keep pace, chipping away at the Minnesota lead, and even had an opportunity to lead late. Down 31-37 and driving, they were a fourth and inches play away from potentially grabbing the lead. In typical Purdue fashion, a botched exchange turned the ball over on downs, and that was that.
What this means for Minnesota: They are technically still in the West race. Their schedule, however, stiffens in the next three weeks. Let’s see how far they can go.
Up Next: at Nebraska
What this means for Purdue: If the Boilermakers could just get out of their own way in the second half, the’d be in a much better position right now. They are still technically in the hunt for a bowl game, but they’ll need a massive upset to make it happen, though.
Up Next: Northwestern
No. 6 Ohio State 62, No. 10 Nebraska 3
Whoo boy! This was a thorough dismantling of the number 10 team in the country, and at no point in the game did it seem like Nebraska had a chance. Nebraska started with a Tommy Armstrong pick-6, and that was pretty much all she wrote. Staying in the topic of Tommy Armstrong, I’m glad to hear that he’s doing OK and that it may only be a concussion, and not anything worse. Back to the Buckeyes, this is the angry response we were all expecting out of Ohio State after the loss to our Nittany Lions, and it took one extra week to see it. Now I can confidently say that the game on November 26 might be a lot better than expected.
What this means for Ohio State: They can realistically think of another trip to the championship game, now that they seem to have figured out their problems on offense. Only one game stands in their way.
Up Next: at Maryland
What this means for Nebraska: They have now lost the stranglehold on the West division, and will need another loss from Wisconsin in order to make it. I don’t see that happening.
Up Next: Minnesota