It was an exciting weekend in the Big Ten. The preemptive favorites to break into the Big Ten Title game — Ohio State and Wisconsin — both lost, opening the way for some new blood in Indianapolis this Saturday.
Best Performance: Michigan
Listen, I’ve made my fair share of jokes about the Michigan Wolverines over the years. From the recruiting updates where I would say “the Big Ten powers, and Michigan too, are after him...” to grouping Michigan in with Rutgers and Maryland as “lower tier” Big Ten programs, I’ve rather consistently jabbed Michigan for not winning a Big Ten title since 2004. But, unfortunately for my schtick, they got the job done on Saturday, upending the Buckeyes 42-27.
Michigan fans will be insufferable, but you know what? They deserve to be. It has been a rough 15 years for them, with the last 5 specifically being extra maddening. You have your Super Bowl coaching, Michigan Man wunderkind back at the alma mater, and he still can’t get you over the Ohio State hump. I mean, Harbaugh certainly has his flaws, but when he got hired at Michigan before the 2015 season, did anyone imagine him in the position of being winless against Ohio State through the 2020 season?
I certainly won’t be confused as someone who goes out of my way to root for Michigan, but as a sports fan, I know how happy and relieved their fans must be. So congrats, Michigan fans. Just don’t make a habit out of this.
Most Nebraska Performance: Nebraska
I mean, Nebraska going up 21-6 with 5:54 left in the third quarter only to lose 28-21 to Iowa — truly unbelievable how the Cornhuskers did this every week.
Eight of Nebraska’s nine losses were by eight points or less, with the only two-score loss coming to Ohio State in a nine-point defeat. I know I mentioned this last week, but goodness, Nebraska did this every week. Some math nerd smarter than I could put it into actual perspective, but the chances of going 3-9 with every loss being a single-digit defeat is basically impossible. But yet, Scott Frost and Nebraska did it. Congrats!
Biggest Letdown: Wisconsin
The Badgers were just one win away from Big Ten West gold. But instead of punching their ticket to Indianapolis, Wisconsin will instead spend next weekend at home after it failed to defeat Minnesota.
It’s easier said than done, but the Gophers completely shutdown Wisconsin’s rushing game, holding star freshman running back Braelon Allen to just 47 yards on 17 carries. As it turns out, if you make Graham Mertz have to beat you, you will most likely win — Mertz finished 21-of-38 for just 171 yards and 1 interception.
While many Minnesota fans will look back on some questionable losses — home losses to Bowling Green and Illinois — it was a solid turnaround season for PJ Fleck, with the Gophers finishing 8-4.