Week Seven brought the remaining members of the Big Ten to the halfway point of their respective seasons, so it is time to assess the state of the conference. The Big Ten East has officially become the three team race everyone expected at the start of the season. For the Big Ten West, a similar scenario has broken out, where the two teams most pegged as the front-runners before the season began are the only two left in relative contention. This has left the bottom of the conference in utter disarray, with upsets and comebacks shaking up the standings as teams jockey for position below the respective division leaders. All that and more on this week’s edition of Around the Big Ten.
Big Ten East Race
This week, we are going to focus on the big three of the Big Ten East after one team that shall not be named outed themselves as pretenders this weekend. The trio of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State remain unbeaten in Big Ten play with Michigan sitting at 4-0 and the other two teams sitting at 3-0. Michigan remained perfect by beating Indiana 52-7 in Ann Arbor, while their rivals to the south, the Buckeyes, kept pace by beating Purdue 41-7 in West Lafayette. As all this was going on, Penn State was wrapping up their non-conference slate at home against, *checks notes*, UMass. The Nittany Lions won 63-0. I know that was a lot of information, but the point is that the puzzle that is the Big Ten East is still very much unsolved. That will not be the case for long, however, as the first piece will be put into place this upcoming weekend when Penn State travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes in a top-10 matchup. You can count on that one being the centerpiece of this segment this time next week.
Big Ten West Race
The term “race” perhaps is not the most fitting when discussing America’s favorite college football division, but alas, here we are. Whatever word you want to use to describe it, the winner of this division will be one of two teams, Iowa or Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes took the first step towards the division title this past weekend, beating the Badgers 15-6 on the road in Madison. They did so despite quarterback Deacon Hill once again completing less than 50% of his passes, finishing 6-of-14 for 37 yards. Once again, Iowa won with a dominant defense and a potent rushing attack paving the way. With the result, Iowa is in the driver’s seat to become the Big Ten West champions, and while Wisconsin is not out of it quite yet, a comeback will not come easy. The Badgers still have a game against Ohio State remaining and the tiebreaker now belongs to the Hawkeyes. To make matters worse, quarterback Tanner Mordecai is now expected to be out for the immediate future with a broken hand. For Iowa, the schedule the rest of the way is not exactly a murderer’s row, with the next four games coming at home against Minnesota, Northwestern, Rutgers and Illinois. The Hawkeyes go on to finish the year with a road game at Nebraska. Don’t look now, but an 11-1 record is not completely out of the cards for the Hawkeyes.
Piscata-wayward football leads to a crucial home win for the Scarlet Knights
Let’s not kick anybody while they’re down. Instead, let’s shine a light on this Rutgers team, who used a wacky fourth quarter to score a 27-24 win over Michigan State on Saturday. The win, in which the Scarlet Knights scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to finish the game, leaves them with a 5-2 record overall and a 2-2 record in conference play. The win was well-earned too. They recovered three Spartan fumbles and allowed the opposition to gain just 245 yards of total offense. The Scarlet Knights were also able to overcome two interceptions from quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and a fumble on a kickoff return to come out with the victory. The win was a critical one for Rutgers as it looks to reach bowl eligibility, especially considering the rigor of the upcoming schedule. There is a winnable game next weekend on the road at Indiana, but the Scarlet Knights finish with games against Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and Maryland to close out their schedule. That will prove difficult to navigate for Rutgers, but for now a bowl game is well within sight for the Scarlet Knights.
Illinois 27, Maryland 24