Folks, we’ve made it. This season is coming to a close just as quickly as it began and once again, it was a Big Ten football season we won’t soon forget. It is bittersweet writing this, as starting today, the conference will begin to change in ways that once seemed unimaginable. Luckily, this conference blessed us one last time with classic Big Ten tradition before we enter the new age of college football. From one last winner-take-all edition of The Game, to one last hurrah from the wackiest division in all of college football, this weekend gave us everything we could have asked for in terms of both a rivalry week, and a swan song. But before we say goodbye to the Big Ten as we know it, let’s take one last look Around the Big Ten in 2023.
This year’s edition of The Game was billed as one of the biggest regular season matchups in college football history. Everything was on the line, from a Big Ten East title, to a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, and most importantly a chance to remain undefeated and on track for a College Football Playoff berth. And boy, did this one live up to the hype. No. 3 Michigan had the last laugh, winning 30-24 over No. 2 Ohio State, but the game was tight throughout. Despite Michigan never trailing in this one, the Buckeyes kept it close all game, and had a chance to win on their final drive.
Those chances were dashed by Michigan safety Rod Moore, a former four-star recruit out of Ohio, when he picked off a pass by Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord with 25 seconds remaining, sealing the win for the Wolverines in the process. Moore was one of a few standouts for the Wolverines, with running back Blake Corum and cornerback Will Johnson among the others. Their contributions, in addition to leading Michigan to victory, also helped lead the team to where it stands right now; a win over No. 17 Iowa away from a third straight playoff appearance. As for Ohio State, its chances of reaching the playoffs took a significant hit, but much to the chagrin of others, are yet to have reached zero. Wins by Georgia and Michigan, paired with losses by Florida State and Texas in their respective conference championship games, would leave the Buckeyes in prime position to earn yet another playoff berth.
For bragging rights and bowl eligibility
Three Big Ten teams, all out of the Big Ten West, went into the final week of the regular season with the chance to clinch bowl eligibility and collect wins over their rivals in the process... and all three teams failed to do so. It started on Friday, when Nebraska played host to No. 17 Iowa in “The Heroes Game” and lost 13-10. Then Illinois hosted rival Northwestern in a game they were favored in by 6.5 points and lost 45-43. Minnesota was hoping to beat the rival Badgers at home in an effort to keep possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe for at least another year and lost 28-14.
For Nebraska and Illinois, the losses end their seasons in equally discouraging fashion. The Cornhuskers had reached a massive high point earlier in the season, winning three straight games to sit at 5-3 with four games remaining, needing just one win to clinch bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, they proceeded to lose each of their last four games, all by seven points or less, to miss out on bowl season. For the Fighting Illini, they were 5-5 with two games left to clinch a bowl bid, but went on to suffer a pair of heartbreaking losses to Iowa and Northwestern by a combined four points to end the season. Brutal. As for Minnesota, the Golden Gophers lucked out, as despite the loss to Wisconsin, they will be the lone 5-7 team participating in bowl festivities, thanks to both a high Academic Progress Rate and this chaotic 51-yard field goal by Hawaii kicker Matthew Shipley, which ended Colorado State’s chances at a bowl game.
The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket
While the aforementioned rivalry games were for spots in the Big Ten Championship Game or for chances to play in bowl games, The Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket was for pure bragging rights. In a lost season for both teams, both Indiana and Purdue wanted to take home the trophy awarded to the winner of the fiercest rivalry game in all of Indiana. At the end of the day, it was Purdue who maintained possession of the Old Oaken Bucket, taking home the win in West Lafayette, 35-31.
This game was your typical, everyday, offensive shootout, as it went back and forth with no side being able to capture and then hold onto the momentum. However, it was the Hoosiers who looked like they had gained control in the second half, as they took a 28-18 lead heading into the fourth quarter. It was at that moment that Purdue quarterback Hudson Card decided to call game. Seconds into the fourth quarter, Card threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to running back Devin Mockobee to make it 28-25. Then, after the teams exchanged field goals, Card ran in the game-winning 10-yard rushing touchdown with 2:39 remaining. The Boilermakers would go on to stop the Indiana offense on 4th and 1 on their ensuing possession to clinch victory and put an exclamation point finish on an otherwise disappointing season for both teams.
Maryland 42, Rutgers 24
No. 11 Penn State 42, Michigan State 0