Two founding members and Iowa added to their respective pages within the Big Ten’s mile-long history book this past weekend, as Michigan and Northwestern joined the Hawkeyes in celebrating landmark victories Saturday. Other teams, like Wisconsin, also picked up key victories, while one school missed out on a chance to re-establish itself as a key player in the conference moving forward. Speaking of moving forward, one other school was moving backward, as it saw its boat capsize this weekend. All that and more on this week’s edition of Around the Big Ten!
Michigan gets 1,000th win
The Wolverines keep on rolling in the midst of controversy, as they dispatched Maryland this weekend 31-24 to move to 11-0 on the season. The win marked the program’s 1,000th all-time victory, and despite a much closer win than expected, celebration ensued. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was absent from the festivities, as he was serving the second of his three-game suspension for the ongoing sign stealing scandal, but the rest of the team gathered with signs and posed for a team photo to recognize the achievement. The defense and special teams made it all possible this weekend for Michigan. Two safeties, both a direct result of the punting units, and two interceptions, both courtesy of cornerback Mike Sainristil, allowed the Wolverines to escape College Park with the win. The result came despite an off-day from J.J. McCarthy and the rest of the Michigan offense.
With the milestone in the rearview mirror, all focus for the Wolverines shifts to what lies ahead, as a matchup with No. 2 Ohio State awaits in another critical iteration of “The Game.” This year’s edition is for all the marbles, as a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and a likely spot in the CFB Playoff awaits the winner. As for who awaits the winner of the greatest rivalry game in college football when they arrive at the Big Ten Championship Game, that would be none other than…
Iowa clinches Big Ten West
Iowa! The Hawkeyes somehow did it again, as their 15-13 home victory over Illinois allowed them to clinch the Big Ten West. Having booked their ticket, a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game is in the Hawkeyes’ future no matter what happens in their regular season finale against rival Nebraska. Iowa has overcome a lot this season to get to this point, with injuries to numerous key players, and overcame adversity once again in the win over the Fighting Illini.
Running back Kaleb Johnson proved to be the hero this time, as he scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 30-yard run with just under five minutes to go in the game. The Iowa defense then proceeded to do what it has done all season, stopping the Fighting Illini offense on their ensuing possession to preserve victory. As mentioned above, Iowa now waits to see who they will play on Dec. 2, where they will do battle against the winner of “The Game.” For now, the focus remains solely on this upcoming week’s game against a Nebraska squad that is desperate for a win to keep its season alive.
Northwestern, Wisconsin clinch bowl berths; Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska do not
The Cornhuskers are desperate for a win because they blew a 14-point lead to Wisconsin, and in doing so, failed to capitalize on a chance to reach their first bowl game since 2016. The Badgers went on to win the game 24-17, as the Wisconsin defense picked off Nebraska quarterback Chubba Purdy in overtime to seal the comeback victory. The win clinched a bowl berth in head coach Luke Fickell’s first season in Madison.
Over in Evanston, Northwestern head coach David Braun was busy leading his Wildcats to victory over Purdue, securing bowl eligibility with a 23-15 win over the Boilermakers. After a controversial and program-altering offseason that resulted in the firing of longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald, Braun has led Northwestern from the 1-11 team they were last season to six wins this season, and dropped the interim tag off his title in the process.
And while first year Nebraska coach Matt Rhule failed to reach the six-win mark this weekend, a couple of more seasoned coaches failed to do the same. Bret Bielema and Illinois with their loss to Iowa, and P.J. Fleck and Minnesota, with their 37-3 loss to Ohio State, also failed to clinch a bowl berth and now go into the final week of the regular season with a bit of pressure. On the bright side, all three teams play their final games at home. Nebraska gets Iowa in Lincoln, while Illinois gets rival Northwestern in Champaign and Minnesota draws rival Wisconsin in Minneapolis. If all three home teams win, they, along with Wisconsin and Northwestern, would finish the year in a five-way tie for second in the Big Ten West. It would be a fitting way for the most fun division in all of college football to go out.
No. 12 Penn State 27, Rutgers 6
Michigan State 24, Indiana 21