Every Sunday, after an entire Saturday (and Friday, in this case) worth of college football, we’ll take a look around the Big Ten. As the conference as a whole fights for respectability in the non-conference, or as its power dynamics shift on a week-to-week basis this fall, we’ll follow every team and try to piece together the puzzle that is the 14-week-long season all the way up until Indianapolis.
Here are the top storylines from the regular season’s final slate of matchups:
Ohio State obliterates Michigan 56-27
There was much anticipation for this year’s iteration of “The Game.” Many analysts predicted that this would be the Buckeyes’ toughest test of the season.
Long story short: it wasn’t.
In fact, it was quite the contrary. Ohio State fell behind early but followed up with a quick score of their own on a 5-yard rush by J.K. Dobbins. After the first quarter, the Buckeyes led 14-13, and from there, they never looked back.
The duo of Dobbins and Justin Fields, both certainly Heisman candidates, led the way for OSU. Dobbins piled on four rushing touchdowns for Ohio State, as well as 211 rushing yards on 31 carries and 49 receiving yards on two receptions. Meanwhile, Fields threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 completions.
At least the Wolverines were able to stop Chase Young! (He recorded just two QB hurries. That was it. Seriously.)
Wisconsin sinks Minnesota 38-17
Just two weeks ago, the Golden Gophers looked primed and ready for their first Big Ten Championship appearance.
Now, they’ll have to wait at least another year, as the Badgers simply outplayed them in a battle for both Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the Big Ten West title.
It was a strange game all around. The Gophers’ running game was completely shut down. As a team, Minnesota rushed for a mere 76 yards. Meanwhile, Jonathan Taylor, the man Wisconsin has leaned so heavily on this year, rushed for just 76 yards as well (he also scored three total touchdowns).
Minnesota’s star WR duo of Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson both performed to expectations. Bateman recorded six catches for 149 yards and one touchdown while Johnson recorded eight catches for 89 yards and one touchdown.
For Wisconsin, Jack Coan played what was arguably his best game of the year, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns on 15 completions.
With this win, the Badgers reclaim the Big Ten West title. Wisconsin will head to Indianapolis next weekend in an attempt to redeem their 31-point loss to the Buckeyes earlier this year.
Iowa skirts by Nebraska 27-24
A flat-out strange game took place Friday afternoon, and it’s somewhat difficult to comprehend.
Let’s start with the basics. Both teams threw for a combined 199 yards. Nate Stanley completed just 11 passes on 24 attempts for 99 yards. He failed to throw for a touchdown and even had an interception (more on that soon). Meanwhile, Adrian Martinez threw for just 50 (!) yards on 10 completions, while also throwing one interception. Two additional quarterbacks saw the field for the Cornhuskers, Luke McCaffrey and Noah Vedral. McCaffrey threw for 39 yards while Vedral completed just one pass for 11.
Continuing on, just one touchdown came from inside the redzone for either team. The Hawkeyes recorded two long rushing touchdowns in the first quarter alone, with Ihmir Smith-Marsette (on some trickery) and Tyler Goodson going 45 and 55 yards to the house, respectively.
Defense and special teams also played a big role, even doing so on back-to-back plays. In the second quarter, Cam Taylor-Britt picked off Stanley’s pass and returned it 38 yards to the house. The very next play, Smith-Marsette took the kickoff back 95 yards for another score.
This game came down to the wire, with the Hawkeyes’ Keith Duncan nailing a 48-yard field goal with one second left to defeat the Cornhuskers. With that kick, Nebraska dropped to 5-7 on the year and was eliminated from bowl contention.
Penn State 27, Rutgers 6
Unsurprisingly, the Nittany Lions took care of business against the Scarlet Knights in a fairly uneventful game. Rutgers failed to score a touchdown, kicking two field goals in the first and fourth quarter. Penn State quarterback Will Levis, starting in place of the injured Sean Clifford, threw for a mere 81 yards but also led the team with 108 rushing yards. With the win, Penn State improves to 10-2, while Rutgers falls to 2-10.
Indiana 44, Purdue 41 (2OT)
In a thriller of a game, Indiana avoided an upset and knocked off Purdue 44-41 in double overtime. Both teams dominated in the passing department, with Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell throwing for 408 yards and three touchdowns and Indiana’s Peyton Ramsey throwing for 337 yards and three touchdowns of his own. Indiana improves to 8-4 while earning the Old Oaken Bucket for the fifth time in seven years and awaits their bowl bid, while Purdue falls to 4-8 in a disappointing season.
Michigan State 19, Maryland 16
In another sloppy game, Michigan State squeaked by Maryland 19-16. The Spartans scored just one touchdown throughout, on a QB sneak by Brian Lewerke, with the rest of their scoring coming from field goals. Meanwhile, Maryland capitalized on big plays, with their two scores coming on a 44-yard pass from Josh Jackson to Dontay Demus Jr. and a 63-yard scamper by Anthony McFarland Jr. With the win, Michigan State becomes the ninth bowl-eligible Big Ten team.