In our weekly column, we check in on some of Penn State's past football opponents and what’s going on with the teams the Nittany Lions have already faced.
Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)
Beat Wisconsin, Big Ten Conference Champions, Going Bowling
The big news is that the now-ranked No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes beat the previously undefeated Wisconsin Badgers 27-21 and took home the Buckeyes’ 36th Big Ten Conference Championship trophy. Congratulations, Buckeyes!
J. T. Barrett returned just a week after aggravating a season-long knee injury (after being bumped by a cameraman on the sideline of their last regular season game) – and after minor surgery to that knee.
Ohio State scored first with an 84 yard pass to Terry McLaurin for a 7-0 lead, their longest of the season. Wisconsin responded with a touchdown off an Andrew Van Ginkel interception. But the Buckeyes built a 21-7 lead by the second and held the Badgers to a field goal to make the score 21-10 at the half.
In the third, both teams could only muster up field goals, but OSU still led 24-13 going into the fourth. After a Buckeye turnover, the Badger offense got another touchdown. But before Troy Fumagalli could snag the two point conversion, there was a 10 minute game delay to repair buckled turf seams separating in the end zone. After that score, it seemed like the Badgers still had a chance, only down 24-21, but Buckeye kicker Sean Nuernberger hit a field goal, putting OSU up 27-21 for the eventual win.
Ohio State gained 449 yards on Wisconsin and slowed them to 60 yards on the ground.
For the Buckeyes, linebacker Jerome Baker made 16 stops, and Barrett was 12-of-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins had 17 receptions for 174 yards.
Wisconsin dropped to No. 6 but they’re playing in the Orange Bowl against the No. 10 Miami Hurricanes.
OSU’s many talented players also garnered several awards, including J.T. Barrett as Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, center Billy Price as Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, and Nick Bosa as Big Ten Defensive lineman of the year. Price is also up for the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center, and Barrett is a finalist for the O'Brien National quarterback award.
A total of 23 Ohio State players were recognized with All-Big Ten honors, with seven named to the All Big-Ten and Associated Press All-Big Ten first team.
Ohio State did not make it into the top four of the CFP (Penn State knows how that feels, Buckeye fans) but are slated to play the No. 8 USC Trojans in the Cotton Bowl. Good luck, Buckeyes.
Up Next: USC Trojans (11-2), Cotton Bowl
Akron Zips (7-6)
Lost to Toledo, but Going Bowling
The Akron Zips lost to the Toledo Rockets 45-28 in the MAC Conference championship game, mainly due Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside, who threw five touchdowns, and the Rockets building a 31-0 lead by the third quarter.
In the third, Akron finally got on the scoreboard thanks to running back Manny Morgan. The Zips opened the fourth with an interception, setting up a score on the next play, but Toledo still led 38-14. Akron forced a fumble, but fumbled on the next play, returning the ball to the Rockets, who scored again for a 45-14 lead. Akron finished the game with two more scores, but it wasn’t enough for the victory.
For the Zips, quarterback Kato Nelson went 8-of-18 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Thomas Woodson was 5-of-14 for 35 yards.
Although it was a tough loss, the good news is that Akron is going bowling and next plays the Florida Atlantic University Owls in the Boca Raton Bowl on December 19. Akron also had four Zips players named as All-MAC honorees, led by Ulysees Gilbert who was named to the first team.
Up Next: Florida Atlantic Owls (10-3), Boca Raton Bowl
Georgia State Panthers (6-5)
Lost to Idaho, but Going Bowling
The Georgia State Panthers lost to the now 4-8 Idaho Vandals 24-10. Even though they outgained Idaho in the air and on the ground, Georgia State had four turnovers, and played without some starters for most of the game due to injury, including Penny Hart. Hart did have three catches before leaving, enough to break the school record for catches with 73.
The Panthers' only lead was when Glenn Smith ran it in for a 7-0 score, but the Vandals tied then scored in the second for a 14-7 lead and stayed on top the rest of the game.
Conner Manning finished 27 of 44 for 271 yards and Glenn Smith rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown, topping the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career, making him just one of just three active FBS players with 1,000 yards in rushing, receiving and returns.
At least these Panthers are bowl eligible, and next play the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Cure Bowl on December 16. And Panther cornerback Chandon Sullivan was honored as one of 13 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy or the “Academic Heisman” that recognizes the best football scholar-athlete in the nation. Sullivan is a senior journalism major with a 3.84 GPA. Congratulations!
Up Next: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-6), Cure Bowl
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5)
Linebacker Josey Jewell won the 2017 Jack Lambert Award as the best linebacker in the nation and was named the AP Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. No surprise, as Jewell leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally in tackles (125 total). He is also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Senior CLASS Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy and was a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus Awards.
Hawkeye defensive back Josh Jackson was named the recipient of the 2017 Jack Tatum Award as the best defensive back, and is one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, also given to the top d-back.
Jewell and Jackson are All-Big Ten and AP All-Big Ten first-team members, and were recipients of three Big Ten Individual Awards, with Jewell earning the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player and the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year. Jackson was named the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year.
Guard Sean Welsh has been named first-team All-Big Ten offense. Defensive end Anthony Nelson, running back Akrum Wadley and tight end Noah Fant were named third-team All-Big Ten.
Up Next: Boston College Eagles (7-5), Pinstripe Bowl
Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)
The No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats had quite a run this year, winning their last seven games, losing only to Penn State, Wisconsin and Duke.
Several Wildcat players were recognized on the All-Big Ten and AP All-Big Ten second teams, including running back Justin Jackson, linebacker Paddy Fisher and safety Godwin Igwebuike. Jackson was also named as one of the finalists for the Campbell Trophy, with a 3.23 GPA in economics. Northwestern also earned a total of 94 fall academic All Big Ten honors, with 40 football players earning accolades.
Up next, it’s a Wildcat matchup as the Northwestern Wildcats take on the Kentucky Wildcats and will probably run the wildcat in the December 29 Music City Bowl. Meow.
Up Next: Kentucky Wildcats (7-5), Music City Bowl
Michigan Wolverines (8-4)
It’s not the season the Michigan Wolverines wanted, with four losses and ending the regular season unranked, but it’s a winning record and they’re playing in the Outback Bowl in Florida against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Maurice Hurst was named to the All-Big Ten and Associated Press All-Big Ten first team. 20 total Wolverines earned All-Big Ten honors. Congratulations, Wolverines!
Up Next: South Carolina Gamecocks (8-4), Outback Bowl
Michigan State Spartans (9-3)
The Michigan State Spartans ended the season with a winning record, a defeat of Big Brother Michigan, a No. 16 ranking and an invitation to the December 28 Holiday Bowl in San Diego to play the No. 18 Washington State Cougars.
Plus seven Spartans earned All-Big Ten honors on offense and 11 earned All-Big Ten honors on defense and special teams, with safety David Dowell listed as a first team member. Center Brian Allen (second team All-Big Ten) was also a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy with a 3.24 GPA in economics.
Up Next: Washington State Cougars (9-3), Holiday Bowl
Indiana Hoosiers (5-7)
End of Season, Not Bowl Eligible
Although it was a rough year, some good news for the Indiana Hoosiers is that several players were recognized this season, including kicker Griffin Oakes, named the Big Ten’s Kicker of the year. Oakes led the Big Ten and was second nationally in field goal percentage (94.1%), named the Big Ten's Kicker of the Year. Oakes was also one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award.
The Hoosiers also had 13 football players named to All-Big Ten Teams, led by first-team selections Oakes, linebacker Tegray Scales and wide receiver Simmie Cobbs (also AP All-Big Ten first-team). Congratulations!
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-8)
End of Season, Not Bowl Eligible
Although the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are not going bowling, several Rutgers players were honored with All-Big Ten recognition. Senior punter Ryan Anderson earned All-Big Ten first team honors with seven others garnering honorable mention standing, and Sebastian Joseph named as the team’s recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. Well done, Scarlet Knights
Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-8)
End of Season, Not Bowl Eligible, but New Coach!
Coming off one of their worst seasons, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are not bowl eligible, fired head coach Mike Riley, and launched their fourth coaching search since 2003. The Cornhuskers quickly found their man in former player Scott Frost, former head coach at UCF, who led the UCF Knights to a 12-0 season in 2017, and an 18-7 record in two seasons in Orlando, and the ACC title last week.
More good news: five Huskers were named to All-Big Ten and AP All-Big Ten Honorable mention teams in addition to linebacker Chris Weber, Nebraska’s winner of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, receiver Stanley Morgan earning second-team honors, and receiver JD Spielman receiving third team honors.
Things are looking up for Nebraska football.
Maryland Terrapins (4-8)
End of Season, Not Bowl Eligible
The season wasn't so great for the Maryland Terrapins, but one bright spot is that receiver DJ Moore was named to the AP All Big-Ten and All-Big Ten first team offense, along with being named the Big Ten Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year. Moore ranked seventh nationally in total receptions. Four additional Terrapins received All-Big Ten and AP All-Big Ten honorable mention honors.
Pitt Panthers (5-7)
End of Season, Not Bowl Eligible
Although they're not going bowling, the Pitt Panthers can continue to enjoy their takedown of the (then) No. 2 Miami Hurricanes in November that had even Penn State fans cheering, and they get to keep Pat Narduzzi for another seven years, after he signed a contract extension with Pittsburgh.
Plus four Panthers earned All-ACC honors, including offensive tackle Brian O’Neill and punter Ryan Winslow on the first team, wide receiver Quadree Henderson on the second team, with cornerback Avonte Maddox on the third team. Five other Panthers received Honorable Mention All-ACC.