It was a surprisingly competitive week in the Big Ten. While the bottom two teams, Maryland and Purdue, turned their attentions to basketball the rest of the league had some pretty exciting games. Let's take a look back, starting with the nest game:
Michigan 48, Indiana 41 2OT
Holy crap was this a good game! Indiana is probably the nation's best 4-6 team. Sure, that doesn't get you much, but the following teams are winless in their Power Five conference right now:
That's the list. There is no question Indiana is better than those teams, but they simply cannot break through for whatever reason:
Welcome to another week in the life of Indiana football, known to the Internet over the past few years as #CHAOSTEAM. The Hoosiers had just struck fear in the hearts of the maize and blue only a couple minutes earlier, as Jordan Howard ran for 61 of 69 yards on a drive that eventually resulted in him scoring both a touchdown and a two-point conversion to give Indiana a 34-27 lead with under three minutes to go in a rollicking, back-and-forth game.
After even more chaos, with five seconds left, Michigan had a fourth-and-goal at the Indiana five yard-line. One stop and the Hoosiers win it. No problem right?
Haha, not a chance. You're in the alternate space-time continuum of #CHAOSTEAM, where nothing goes as planned for either IU or its opponent most Saturdays.
For Michigan, they stay alive for the Rose Bowl, but barely:
Michigan's defense has struggled at times on the road this year, but Saturday was flat out alarming and head scratching.
Ryan Glasgow missed Saturday's game (more on that injury shortly) and the defensive line was thin with Tom Strobel and Hank Poggi even getting reps today. Indiana's offensive tempo at times was relentless and they imposed their will in the run game. At one point, they nearly went a whole quarter without attempting a pass, it seemed like.
Ohio State 28, Illinois 3
Ohio State became the first team to win 30 straight conference regular season games ever. That's damned impressive no matter what:
Ohio State created scoring opportunities fairly easily, with 62% of their drives reaching at least the Illinois 40 yard line. But the Buckeyes averaged just 3.5 points per scoring opportunity (like they did last week as well). With two turnovers following an overturned-touchdown-turned-missed-field-goal, turnovers and penalties were devastating to the Buckeyes once they got within striking distance. Ohio State's explosive plays were typically not scoring plays themselves, so red zone inefficiency becomes even more vital.
After rolling Purdue, Illinois looked like Illinois again:
Even with Swiss Army knife Josh Ferguson in the lineup, this Illinois offense simply isn't that good. While the unit's numbers were boosted by a handful of big plays (Ferguson had a 27 yard rush and a 25 yard reception on a screen, Lunt hit Desmond Cain and Geronimo Allison for 36 and 38 yards, respectively) Ohio State's defense was really stifling. It all starts with Joey Bosa, the Buckeyes' star defensive end - any time the Buckeyes generated a pass rush, (which was often) Lunt was forced to scramble and usually threw the ball away. Lunt seemed out of sync for most of the day and there were multiple instances where he had throws to make into tight windows, only to miss the open target. Only a week ago seemingly nothing could go wrong, but this week the Illinois offense couldn't get much to go right.
Iowa 40, Minnesota 35
The Hawkeyes passed another important test, got their pig back, and now should be two easy wins away from an undefeated season. Even one more win sends them to Indianapolis:
Defensively, Minnesota made proper adjustments at halftime to slow Iowa's rush game and hold LeShun Daniels to 44 yards on 12 carries at one point for the half. That was until the above Vine happened. Iowa still finished with 510 yards of total offense including 276 yards rushing on the night. Daniels finished with 195 on 26 carries with 3TDs.
Minnesota now needs to win out to get to a bowl game and is a Purdue away from being winless in conference play:
For starters, let's just get it out of the way and make sure it is said. The Gophers didn't deserve to win with the way the defense played. The injuries have finally completely caught up to the defense and it showed. There were massive running lanes and wide open receivers all over the place. For those saying the injuries have been overblown, let this sink in for a moment. The Gophers have had 24 players combine to miss 94 games, including 14 starters who have missed a combined 55 games. It would be hard for any program to overcome that.
Michigan State 24, Maryland 7
Sparty has another dull win over a bad opponent:
MSU started the game with a starting secondary of Demetrious Cox-Grayson Miller-Montae Nicholson-Arjen Colquhoun at CB-S-S-CB but ended up playing much of the game with a Darian Hicks-Cox-Nicholson-Colquhoun configuration. I think the latter configuration probably has the highest ceiling of any remaining possible defensive backfield after the injuries to Vayante Copeland and R.J. Williamson; I have been pleasantly surprised by the competence of freshmen Grayson Miller and Khari Willis but Cox is clearly more comfortable as a safety (and Cox/Nicholson have more time practicing and playing together). If Nicholson can correct his tendency to take bad angles and give up long running plays, his athleticism could be a huge boost. Having Darian Hicks back helps tremendously.
On Maryland's side at least they now have some hope to win a Big Ten game:
The Terps are by no means guaranteed to defeat the Hoosiers, but they have to feel good about the fact that they're favored. It's been an extremely long season for Maryland and its fans, but going winless in the Big Ten would definitely make it worse. However, Indiana is no cupcake. That Michigan team Maryland lost to 28-0? The Hoosiers took those same Wolverines to overtime last week before suffering a 48-41 loss. Indiana doesn't have a Big Ten win this season either, and would become bowl-eligible with wins in its final two games, so the Hoosiers have more to play for than the Terps.
Nebraska 31, Rutgers 14
Thanks to the shock win over Michigan State the Cornhuskers can still get a bowl game if they beat Iowa, but that is a tall task:
This was a very good win for the Huskers. Not because they beat a mighty Rutgers team, but because they avoided a let down and went on the road and beat a team they were supposed to beat, something that didn't happen at Purdue. It's a very good win, because if we don't win we're sitting at 4-7 and we have to beat Iowa just to have a chance at a bowl game.
Rutgers is just bad at football and Kyle Flood is a dead coach walking:
With under a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Kyle Flood elected to try a fake punt. Nebraska was all over the play and stuffed it. It was actually comical how Nebraska knew exactly what play was being run. All 11 players were running to the same side of the field and the play went nowhere. Nebraska got the ball in Rutgers territory and kicked a field goal to give them a 31-14 lead in the 4th quarter.
Northwestern 21, Purdue 14
As we saw, the Wildcats tried to give the game away, but Purdue (and John Shoop) simply refused to take it:
This slight shift in scheme extended to the rest of the defense as well. After playing mostly base defense in the first half, Northwestern used much more of a nickel package throughout the second. This allowed the defense to have an extra defensive back on the field and for the linebackers to not get spread out as much.
After the adjustment, the defensive line then did their job in the run game. Even though they never really got pressure on the quarterback, they were able to seal holes and stop Purdue, even with only two linebackers behind them, enough to force the Boilermakers into difficult situations.
Once again, we let the cantankerous Boiled Sports have the floor:
After rolling up 55 on the Huskers two weeks ago, Purdue has seemingly forgotten how to score, totaling just 28 in the eight quarters since then. I picture John Shoop looking at his playsheet from the Nebraska game and just crumpling it up and throwing it away because he didn't like someone's posture during a timeout or something. "THIS WAS NOT PERFECT IN EVERY WAY AND THUS I DO NOT WANT TO EVER EXPERIENCE IT AGAIN."
Marshall 52, Florida International 0 - The Thundering Herd rolled on the 45th anniversary of their deadly plane crash.
Western Illinois 37, Indiana State 30 OT - The Trees drop to 4-6 with the loss.
Virginia Tech 23, Georgia Tech 21 - The Hokies are still alive for a bowl game in Frank Beamer's last season.
Bowling Green 41, Western Michigan 27 - The Falcons have now won 7 in a row and might be the best team we played outside the Big Ten. They also have more Big Ten wins this year than: Indiana, Purdue, Maryland, Rutgers, and Minnesota.