The topsy turvy 2017 regular season has concluded for the Big Ten, and while the results are mostly expected - many pundits prognosticated an Ohio State-Wisconsin showdown for conference supremacy - the way we got here was a little unexpected. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to see what exactly led us to where we are now - and see how the masthead did picking games straight up over the course of the season.
Big Ten 2017 Season Review
To open the season, #2 Ohio State traveled to Indiana for a Thursday night game, a back-and-forth game that saw the Buckeyes pull away late, winning 49-21. Out of conference, the first week of the season went basically as expected - the conference was 10-2 in the opening set, with only Rutgers and Purdue dropping their first game. This would actually portend things to come as both teams put up unexpected fights: Rutgers lost 30-14 to #8 Washington, a signal that they had improved from 2016 (though that they still had work to do), while Purdue lost to #16 Louisville 35-28, showing that Jeff Brohm had serious plans for the Boilermakers. Perhaps the biggest shocker of week 1 was Maryland defeating #23 Texas 51-41. One has to wonder what might have been if the Terps’ quarterbacks had stayed healthy.
The first big lightning crack of the season - in their home opener, #2 Ohio State lost to #5 Oklahoma 31-16, as the Buckeyes could not handle Baker Mayfield - who emphatically planted a Sooner flag at midfield following the win. Elsewhere, #4 Penn State defeated Pitt 33-14, Nebraska lost to Oregon 42-35, and Northwestern lost to Duke 41-17. All told, the conference went 10-4 in the second week of the season.
Hurricanes played a significant part of this season, as both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Matthew had roles in rescheduling, relocating, and canceling games throughout the season. For the Big Ten, Indiana had to cancel its game against FIU this week, though it would make that game up against Charleston Southern later in the season. The biggest surprise of the week came when Nebraska lost 21-17 to Northern Illinois - the beginning of the death march for Mike Riley. The conference went 9-2 as Maryland and Michigan State had early-season bye weeks, while Indiana had their game canceled.
Big Ten action began in earnest this week, and was headlined by #4 Penn State’s visit to Iowa - a game that saw the Lions dominate every statistical category, save one: the scoreboard. After failing to put the Hawkeyes away, Iowa took a 19-15 lead with just less than 2 minutes to play in the game. Trace McSorley then led a drive for the ages, capped off by a four yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson on fourth down, with just 4 seconds left on the clock. Kinnick voodoo is a real and tangible thing. Out of conference, the league went 1-2, as Maryland lost to UCF 38-10, and Michigan State lost to Notre Dame 38-18.
There were no out of conference games this week, and the action saw the B1G East dogs feasting on lesser conference foes. #4 Penn State defeated Indiana 45-14, and #11 Ohio State beat Rutgers 56-0. In the West, #10 Wisconsin struggled with a resurgent Northwestern, defeating the Wildcats 33-24. A week after nearly defeating the #4 team in the country, Iowa lost to Michigan State 17-10.
The final non-conference game was played this week, as Indiana defeated Charleston Southern 27-0, a make-up game from earlier in the season. All told, the conference went 31-10 in out of conference games. In conference, Michigan State defeated #7 Michigan 14-10 in a sloppy game. #9 Wisconsin defeated Nebraska 38-47, and #4 Penn State took down Northwestern 31-7.
After stumbling against Michigan State, #17 Michigan got as much of a fight as possible from Indiana, defeating the Hoosiers 27-20 in overtime. Rutgers won their first Big Ten game since 2015 by upending the Illini 35-24, and #7 Wisconsin struggled to a 17-9 win over Purdue. Michigan State premiered in the rankings, checking in at #21.
In the biggest game of the week, #19 Michigan traveled to Beaver Stadium to take on #2 Penn State in a white out - and got completely brutalized by the Lions, losing 42-13. #18 Michigan State struggled with Indiana, winning 17-9, while #5 Wisconsin took down Maryland 38-13. The second-most exciting game of the week saw Purdue lose to Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers 14-12, giving the Scarlet Knights a conference win streak.
A week after defeating the Wolverines, #2 Penn State traveled to take on #6 Ohio State. The game had as much action as one could hope for, with big plays, a raucous crowd, and a come-from-behind victory - only this time it was the Lions on the losing end, as the Buckeyes won 39-38. J.T. Barrett put together an all-world performance in the fourth quarter, and the Lions had no response. Elsewhere, #16 Michigan State lost to Northwestern 39-31 in overtime, and Nebraska sneaked by Purdue 25-24.
The gigantic clash a week earlier seemed to take everything out of both Ohio State and Penn State, as the #6 Buckeyes got shellacked by Iowa 55-24, and the #7 Lions lost to #24 Michigan State 27-24. Weather undoubtedly played a factor in the Lions’ loss, as rain caused a 3.5 hour delay. In just 2 weeks, Penn State went from being a shoo-in for the playoffs to possibly missing out on a New Year’s Six bowl - by a combined four points. In the first playoff rankings, #9 Wisconsin throttled Indiana 45-17, as the Badgers seemed to turn a mid-season corner.
Buoyed by their win over Penn State, #13 Michigan State traveled to take on #12 Ohio State - and got pummeled 48-3. In a seeming pattern, both times a team defeated the Lions this year, they went on to lose by 30+ points the following week. #14 Penn State, meanwhile, finally righted the ship with a 35-6 win over Rutgers. #8 Wisconsin defeated its first ranked opponent of the season, #20 Iowa, 38-14, and Michigan toppled Maryland 35-10.
In the penultimate week of the regular season, #5 Wisconsin beat #24 Michigan 24-10, while #23 Northwestern defeated Minnesota 39-0. In one of the weirder games of the week, #10 Penn State brought down Nebraska 56-44 - a game that saw the Cornhuskers score 20 points in the fourth quarter against the backups, including two touchdowns in the final 90 seconds.
The final week of the season brought us The Game, in which Michigan stormed out to a 14-0 lead, and then a 20-14 lead in the third quarter before #9 Ohio State came back to win 31-20. #5 Wisconsin finished the regular season undefeated, defeating Minnesota 31-0. A week after a disappointing finish against Nebraska, #10 Penn State routed Maryland 66-3. #22 Northwestern defeated Illinois 42-7, and Purdue defeated Indiana 31-24 to become bowl eligible - while simultaneously eliminating the Hoosiers from bowl contention.
So there you have it. This weekend will see #4 Wisconsin take on #8 Ohio State for the conference crown, with the winner vying for a spot in the playoffs. Penn State sits at #9 in the polls, and in a good spot for a New Year’s six bowl. Michigan State and Northwestern both finished 9-3, and ranked #16 and #21, respectively. Many expected the Buckeyes to take on the Badgers for the conference, but that was thrown into jeopardy in just the second week of the season. Penn State, meanwhile, looked to be a war machine on their way to the playoffs, only to stumble in back-to-back weeks, eliminating them from national championship contention. So, given some of the crazy games throughout the year, how did the masthead do?
BSD Challenge Final Standings
As I alluded to throughout the season, the race all year was a tight one. Throughout the entirety of the season, the biggest lead enjoyed by any one writer was a paltry two games. Leads were exchanged throughout the year, but no one could break away from the pack. Clinging to a one-game lead, yours truly went 6-1 in the final stanza to claim the season crown. Your top three are:
- Chris Lucia - 82-23 (78%)
- Tim Aydin - 81-24 (77%)
- Dlando - 80-25 (76%)
DenaM, Aaron Yorke, and Jared Slanina all tied for fourth at 79-26. In total, just eight games separated first place from last place. So, until 2018, I will wear the BSD Challenge crown proudly - and hope to defend it next year!