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Around the Big Ten, Week 13: The Wolverines reign supreme

The final week of Big Ten football was action-packed, setting up an unexpected clash in Indianapolis.

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Rivalry Week has come and gone, and the Wolverines have officially flipped the script of a rivalry that was one-sided for the better part of two decades. While they handled business in Columbus, some failed to make the most of their opportunities. Others seemed content to conclude their nightmarish seasons. It was an exciting and unexpected final week of Big Ten play, so here are the top stories from Week 13.

The Huskers play spoiler to the Hawkeyes

Although on paper this matchup is as ugly as it gets, there was quite a bit of action in this upset at Kinnick. The Cornhuskers were able to jump in front 24-0 early in the second half, courtesy of three lost fumbles by the Hawkeyes, before Iowa nearly came all the way back before falling short on its final two drives. Iowa squandered its opportunity to win the Big Ten West for a second straight year, as Alex Padilla and Spencer Petras had quarterback ratings of 10.8 and 0.5, respectively. It has been that type of year for Iowa, as it finishes the regular season 7-5 despite having one of the top defenses in the nation.

Nebraska, on the other hand, definitely finished its season on a high note, at least according to Cornhusker standards. But seriously, after starting 1-3 with losses to Georgia Southern and Northwestern, ending the season with a win in Iowa City is remarkable. Granted a 4-8 record is not a great one, but with the recent hiring of Matt Rhule, there could be some post-Scott Frost light emerging in Lincoln.

Michigan dominates in Columbus

What a turnaround the Wolverines have had over the past two seasons. They’ve gone from a 2-4 team that went to triple overtime against Rutgers to a squad that just manhandled the Buckeyes in Columbus for the first time since Y2K. Without Blake Corum (who had only two carries due to injury), they defeated No. 2 Ohio State by three scores, 45-23, with the Wolverines scoring four touchdowns that were 69 yards or longer.

After trailing early and into halftime, sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy had his best game in his biggest moment. He scored the Wolverines first four touchdowns — three with his arm and one with his legs. The other two were by fellow sophomore Donovan Edwards, who put the game on ice with two long touchdown runs on the way to a 216-yard day on the ground. The Wolverines have put themselves in position to win the Big Ten and go back to the CFP, and if Corum can get healthy they could have a real shot at going farther than they did a year ago.

As for Ohio State, this marks a disappointing conclusion to a regular season in which it won by double digits in every one of its first 11 games. Its CFP chances are now out of its hands. The Buckeyes’ prolific offense was only able to score three points in the second half, as C.J. Stroud and Co. failed to capitalize in the red zone.

The blame cannot entirely fall on the offense, though. Defensively, the Buckeyes looked outcoached and undisciplined, as demonstrated by their nine penalties for 91 yards. That being said, the OSU offense is still arguably the most dangerous in college football (especially if it can get back Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson), so if the Buckeyes could be dangerous come New Year’s if they get some help and sneak into the CFP.

Penn State quietly rolls once again

On what should be his last senior day, Sean Clifford and the Nittany Lions took down Michigan State, 35-16, to finish off an impressive regular season. With its lone losses coming at Michigan and versus Ohio State, Penn State handled business once again to cap off an undefeated November. Clifford threw for four touchdowns and 202 yards to eight different pass-catchers in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions should be a top 10 team heading into their New Year’s Six bowl and are quietly one of the hotter teams in college football, as their average margin of victory through November was over 30 points. They may not be heading to Indy or have a real statement win on their schedule, but considering they came into the year unranked, it was a heck of a year for the Nittany Lions.

The Spartans, on the other hand, are in an entirely different boat, as they will not reach a bowl game after winning 11 games a season ago. With Kenneth Walker III’s departure, it was expected that Michigan State take a bit of a step back, but this was a much worse season than MSU fans likely expected. Similar to many of their losses this season, the Spartans weren’t able to get any production on the ground and thus had to turn to Payton Thorne, who threw 43 passes on Saturday. Although Jayden Reed is reliable and Keon Coleman had a breakout year, Mel Tucker’s squad is not built to rely so heavily on its passing offense and its 5-7 record supports this. It’ll be an interesting off-season in East Lansing, as Tucker’s transfer-heavy recruiting approach wasn’t nearly as successful this season as it was a year ago.

The Boilermakers finish atop the West

After finishing September 2-2, following their two-point escape against now 5-7 Florida Atlantic, the Boilermakers took advantage of Iowa’s loss and punched their ticket to Indianapolis. On the road in Bloomington, Aidan O’Connell had yet another solid performance to give Purdue a 30-16 victory. O’Connell connected with his favorite target Charlie Jones four times for 143 yards, most notably on a 60-yard touchdown that all but sealed the game. Purdue now finds itself with a legitimate chance to knock off what’ll likely be the second-ranked team in the country in Michigan and capture its first outright Big Ten title since 1929. The Boilermakers have been up and down all season, but as they proved in their two top-five upsets from last season and at many times in 2022, they can compete with any team in the country when they play their best.

Other Scores

Minnesota 23, Wisconsin 16

Maryland 37, Rutgers 0

Illinois 41, Northwestern 3