How great is B1G football? Let me count the ways...
1. Michigan State Spartans - DNP - LW: 1
The Buckeyes flattened the Illini. Even the second-string Buckeyes didn't have much trouble as the game mercifully ended. But now the Buckeyes move to the biggest and most important game of the entire Big Ten season. Next week's clash against Michigan State (which is now the destination for ESPN's College Gameday) will decide the winner of the East and likely the B1G champion. Call off sick, make an excuse, plan ahead, eat (a small amount of) Drano, just do something, because you need to watch this game.
The thought to move the Huskers down to 4th was strong this week. When Ameer Abdullah left in the first half, Nebraska didn't look near as good on offense. (Actually, they didn't look that good to begin with -- Abdullah had 6 rushes for 1 yard.) Purdue(!) outgained(!) Nebraska(!) in total yardage! The Huskers have two weeks to prepare for their next game, a trip to Wisconsin in a game that may very well decide the Western Division.
As I said above, Wisconsin was very nearly moved up in the rankings. The defense stonewalled a Rutgers team that was a Top 40 offense in the nation -- Rutgers QB Gary Nova only had 46 yards of passing. The Badger defense has become the 3rd best in the nation, allowing 270 yards a game. Melvin Gordon ran for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns further making him one of the best backs in the country. In their last two games, against Maryland and Rutgers, the combined score is 89-7. Gary Anderson's Badgers are rollin'.
Behind Nebraska and behind Wisconsin, sit the Hawkeyes a team so classically Big Ten that they haven't dominated a single stat. Like, they aren't necessarily great at anything. They run the ball ok, their defense is good enough, and they probably wouldn't start any fires with their passing attack. Nonetheless, they're in place to scoop up any trips to Indianapolis that get left laying on the floor.
For a game that was supposed to spark a rivalry, this one sure might do the trick. A pregame scuffle followed by Terps players denying handshakes at the coin-flip, and to end it all with a last-minute field goal and a 1-point decimal is something that Maryland fans have been dreaming about since the move to the Big Ten was announced.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers - DNP - LW: 5
I'm sure they're still licking their wounds, but now they prepare for Iowa
The Nittany Lions were so close to being 6-2 with a 3-2 B1G record, instead they're 4-4 and 1-4 in conference. But they're still likely to make their first bowl game in years. They play at Indiana, then home against Temple, at Illinois, and finish with the near-guaranteed loss of Michigan State. James Franklin's first season isn't exactly a soaring success, but there's still lots of room to reclaim the potential that he promised.
It was a pretty good homecoming weekend in Ann Arbor, all things considered. Michigan fans are likely happier than they've been in a long time, and they even won a football game. Fun fact (depending on what state you hail from): Indiana has not beaten Michigan since 1987. I wasn't even born!
Purdue has now guaranteed it won't have a winning season which isn't really that much of a surprise. However, Purdue fans should be proud of the advancements they've made. Last year, Purdue lost to 'Braska 44-7. So, obviously, they've improved. Math.
Believe it or not, but Rutgers came into this game ready to compete. They stopped MelGor in the backfield twice on the opening drive and looked fairly productive on offense. Then everything went sour -- a blocked punt and a blown coverage -- and Rutgers was lost to the ebbing waves of the perfect storm. Rutgers requires one single, solitary win to qualify for a bowl, and that would be a great start to their B1G careers. It's Indiana in two weeks then at Michigan State and at Maryland to end the season.
I'll be honest, I enjoyed the failures that Northwestern suffered last year. There was so much hype, so much flaunting, so much pride, all proceeding the great destruction. Now, they're failing nearly as bad, but I don't feel the same. It's like I almost forget about them each week. I'm not saying I want them to succeed just so we can soak in their pain, but I'm not going to deny that I'll enjoy it the next time it happens.
Embarrassment might be the perfect word to describe what happened on Saturday. Now we as fans have two weeks to let it fade from our memories and prepare for the Hawkeyes. Is there a possibility that Illinois wins this game? Yes, there is, and I'd argue it's not as dire as some might think. But that's a talk for another week, another post.
The Hoosiers another season looming on the brink of ending without a bowl. They'd have to run a near perfect gauntlet to make it to the postseason. Penn State, Rutgers, and Purdue (and Ohio State, hahahahaha) stand in the way. At this point, Kevin Wilson is probably closer to losing his job than Tim Beckman.