[ed. Note: In their efforts to bring back everyone to their offices, my workplace decided that Thursday is the day I’m required to be in the office. This has resulted in me consistently forgetting to write these in time. Apologies for the past three weeks! ~Eli]
It all comes down to this. Iowa. Nebraska. The Big Ten West on the line. The thing about cockroaches is that, no matter how ugly they are, how useless they may seem to some, or how disgusted (or afraid, we can admit it) we may be when we see them, cockroaches survive just about anything, and will probably outlive us all. That’s Iowa football.
Left for dead at the beginning of the season, the Hawkeyes found away to have just enough offense to be the only team in control of its destiny in the last week of the season. Beat Nebraska, a task nearly trivial in nature, and they’ll represent the West for a second straight season. Since the East/West split, only Wisconsin has managed that feat, when they did it in 2016 and ‘17. The other thing they’d share with Wisconsin, were they to win, is they’d be the second team to lose by double digits to the East counterpart twice in the same season.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-8, 2-6 Big Ten) at Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten)
4:00 PM Eastern, B1G Network
The only thing standing between Iowa and another Big Ten West title is Nebraska, a team that, well, is probably glad the season is about to be over. The game will probably be close because these teams always manage to play close games, but it would take a near miracle for the Huskers to actually pull it out.
Should you watch? It’s the best game of the afternoon, unfortunately.
Prediction: Iowa 13, Nebraska 6
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-7, 1-7 Big Ten) at Maryland Terrapins (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten)
12:00 PM Eastern, B1G Network
All this for a potential 7-5 season, unless Rutgers gets frisky. Of all the teams who can’t wait for divisions to be over, and there are a lot of them to be sure, Maryland has to be the happiest. Their most promising season was derailed as soon as the Terps had to play the Big Three in the East. The unfortunate part though, no divisions means more Purdue and Wisconsin. So...
Should you watch? Eh, probably not
Prediction: Maryland 44, Rutgers 13
Illinois Fighting Illini (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) at Northwestern Wildcats (1-10, 1-7 Big Ten)
3:30 PM Eastern, TBD
Man, even the networks understand how bad this game is. Yes, that’s a TBD, because the game is not assigned a network. Even year Northwestern never took off, and Illinois, albeit in the middle of one of their best seasons since 2007, is still a massive disappointment after they had the West locked up —or so we thought, four games ago. All that said, the Fighting Illini still have to be pretty happy about a potential 9-win season.
Should you watch? Uh, you can’t.
Prediction: Illinois 34, Northwestern 10
Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) at Wisconsin Badgers (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten)
3:30 PM Eastern, ESPN
Mo Ibrahim ran for 264 yards last week, but Minnesota still managed to lose to Iowa. Think about that for a minute. An outing like that should, in theory, lead to a victory. But this is the Minnesota team that we also thought had the Big Ten West locked up earlier in the season. And that’s how you let Iowa win the West, by having six teams that do exactly the same thing, plus Purdue. And when you have someone who’s entire career relies on being good at that one thing, well, they win the division with one of the ugliest teams they’ve put on the field.
Hey at least one of these two will hold the Axe when it’s all said and done!
Should you watch? Well, for the first half an hour, at least.
Prediction: Minnesota 21, Wisconsin 17
Purdue Boilermakers (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) at Indiana Hoosiers (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten)
3:30 PM Eastern, B1G Network
The astute in the audience probably noticed that every game in the Big Ten West includes a team that with a 7-4 record. If that doesn’t showcase how the West is just a bunch of teams that are carbon copies of each other, nothing will. The one team who was not supposed to be a carbon copy, Purdue, decided to have its worst game of the season against the one team it’s consistently beaten over the years! And, once again, the West puking all over itself led to Iowa being where they are today.
Should you watch? No this is going to be a murder.
Prediction: Purdue 45, Indiana 17
Michigan State Spartans (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) at No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
4:00 PM Eastern, FS1
Penn State -19
If Penn State wins this game, then they win their bowl game, it would have won as many games in one season as it did the last two. It didn’t come with the biggest of prizes, but that’s as big a bounceback as we can hope. The best part, of course, is that the bulk of the people who made it happen will be back —many because they’re not eligible for the draft, and others because they know an extra year will do them good.
This team is going to get a lot of hype next season, and it starts with a strong finish.
Should you watch? What do you think?
Prediction: Penn State 56, Michigan State 17