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Around the Big Ten, Week 8: The Hawkeyes stay hot

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And tOSU is back in the Big Ten Championship Game.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Every Sunday, after a Saturday full of college football, we’ll take a look at some of the top story lines around the Big Ten. We’ll follow every team throughout the bizarre eight-week season all the way up through Champions Week.

Here are the top storylines from the final week of the regular season

Ohio State...makes the Big Ten Championship?

Ironically, the biggest story of the week didn’t happen during a game. With Michigan having to cancel its game against Ohio State due to COVID cases, the Buckeyes weren’t eligible to play in the Big Ten Championship having played only five games. However, as detailed earlier this week, the conference changed the arbitrary six-game minimum following a meeting and vote by the athletic directors. The rule change is made to give Ohio State, the only undefeated team in the Big Ten and best team in the East Division, a better chance to make the College Football Playoff with a win in the conference championship.

Indiana (6-1) would have been slated to win the East. The Hoosiers responded with class.

The 2020 Big Ten Championship Game is a rematch of the 2018 game. The Buckeyes are again heavy favorites to win and then advance to the College Football Playoff.

No. 16 Iowa stomps Wisconsin 28-7

The Hawkeyes were seemingly left for dead after dropping to 0-2 but continued their winning streak with a dominant performance against the fast-dropping Badgers. While Spencer Petras had a pedestrian 211 passing yards and two touchdowns, Iowa wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette lit up Wisconsin’s secondary for two touchdowns and 140 yards on seven receptions.

Iowa led just 6-0 at halftime but took a two-touchdown at the end of the third quarter as Wisconsin began to fade. Tyler Goodson iced the game with an 80-yard touchdown run with just four minutes left in the game.

Phil Parker’s defense was locked in again, allowing only 225 yards and holding UW quarterback Graham Mertz to under 175 yards with an interception. The Badgers continue to slide after a hot start, suffering their third straight loss and ending the regular season 2-3.

Northwestern keeps the HAT

It’s six straight Land of Lincoln Trophies for NU after its 28-10 win over Illinois, who fired head coach Lovie Smith on Sunday after five years. The Wildcats rushed for 411 yards, the most for the program since 2003.

Freshman Cam Porter, his 142 rushing yards and his two touchdowns headlined the ground game. Evan Hull also got in on the fun, totaling 149 rushing yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. The ‘Cats roll into Indy 6-1.

Other Scores

Minnesota 24, Nebraska 17

In a classic Big Ten matchup that featured 79 total rushing attempts, a Minnesota team missing 33 players due to COVID and injuries dealt Scott Frost another L. The balanced Gopher offense featured over 175 yards both through the air and on the ground. Star running back Mohamed Ibrahim added two touchdowns.

Adrian Martinez started the game at quarterback for Nebraska and finished the day with just 111 passing yards and two passing touchdowns. Nebraska ends the year 2-5, and everyone can thank them for bringing back B1G football. Minnesota completes its inconsistent and eventful regular season 3-3 for a team many expected to challenge for the West.

Penn State 39, Michigan State 24

The Nits are hot after starting 0-5. QB Sean Clifford threw for 232 yards and two scores while adding a 31-yard touchdown run. Payton Thorne started under center for MSU and racked up 325 passing yards, three touchdowns and an interception. After falling down 21-10 at the half, the Nittany Lions turned it into high gear to put up 29 in the second.

For PSU it’s what could have been. James Franklin’s squad outplayed and should have beaten Indiana in Week One. If they’d come out of Bloomington on top, who knows what we’d have seen from them the rest of the way. At least they’re really sticking it out.

Rutgers 27, Maryland 24 (OT)

Without starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the Terrapin offense wasn’t the same. Maryland seemed poised to win in regulation, but Rutgers hit a 39-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime. Maryland kicker Joseph Petrino missed a 50-yard attempt in OT to hand the Scarlet Knights the victory.

Rutgers went 3-5 (nearly .500) and played its entire schedule. A tip of the cap to you, Greg Schiano.