The Once And Future Kings: Ohio State
Having come through the trial by ice that was the trip to Minnesota, all that stands between the Buckeyes and Indy are two home games in which they'll be at least 20-point favorites. J.T. Barrett continues his Manziel/Winston impression as a redshirt freshman the rest of us will be glad to be rid of as soon as possible. The biggest remaining stomachache for OSU is the continuing penchant for turnovers; this week, Jalin Marshall caught the virus from the injured Dontre Wilson. There are enough sparkplug options on this team to keep trying guys until someone holds onto the ball, and hey, at least this way there's something to gripe about.
Games Remaining: Indiana, Michigan
Back In The Saddle, A Week Too Late: Michigan State
Continuing this year's theme of incomplete performances, Connor Cook took his turn at putting up a forgettable game, completing less than half his passes against a surprisingly game Terrapins defense. Still, the Spartans offense remains fairly explosive, the defense recaptured its 2013 form against a Diggs-less opponent, and the Spartans are also two eminently winnable games away from a potentially posh bowl reward, even if the conference title is all but impossible at this point. They'll send off a decorated senior class in their first conference matchup with Rutgers and then take the defense of the LAZERZ on the road to wrap the season.
Games Remaining: Rutgers, @PSU
Turtles Aren't Supposed To Run Anyway: Maryland
Also sticking to theme this year, Maryland again showed itself to be a few notches short of competing with the conference's better teams. The visit from MSU went much better than the OSU or Wisconsin games, but any game in which you rush for just 6 yards isn't likely to be a good time. An initially game blackout crowd was drowned out by the visitors for much of the second half, and C.J. Brown's ineffectiveness through the air (compounded by a few killer drops) wasted a valiant effort from the defense. Being out of the conference race and with bowl eligibility already in hand, the Terps don't have much left except jockeying for bid position; getting to 8 wins in their first B1G season would be a nice achievement.
Games Remaining: @Michigan, Rutgers
Wheeee Bowl Game!: Rutgers, Penn State
On the one hand, Rutgers allowed a one-man Hoosier team to keep it close, and gave up a hideous amount of yards to Tevin Coleman in doing so. On the other hand, its own offense played so well that Coleman joined what must be an extremely short list of guys to rush for 300 yards in a game and still lose. On the third hand, Indiana's defense is so bad that maybe you don't want to read too far into that performance. Finding a pair of interesting freshman running backs was nice, but they probably won't have the same running room in East Lansing.
Games Remaining: @MSU, @Maryland
Penn State, meanwhile, continued its reprisal of 2012 MSU with another stifling defensive performance coupled with an offense that moves at the speed of chilled molasses. Sure, they eventually opened some distance from Temple, but taking a 6-6 tie into halftime couldn't have been a great feeling. There is another opportunity to mistakenly believe this offense can run the ball left on the schedule, though. Still mad about that Beckman in the parking lot thing? /ducks OK yep they're still mad.
Games Remaining: @Illinois, MSU
Wheeeee Maybe Still A Bowl Game!: Michigan
Michigan joined Iowa in the club of B1G teams which have been thoroughly whipped by the bye. This time, it was the unpleasant business of Frank Clark being tossed from the program after his arrest on a domestic violence charge with some unsavory details. Given SBNation's participation in the It's On Us campaign against domestic violence, I don't want to glide past this issue, but more qualified commentators have weighed in elsewhere. To their credit, the school actually handled this one properly, a PR success I can't help but notice they pulled off in their first such occurrence since the departure of a certain pizza-hucking AD. Maybe it's not that hard after all.
On the field, Michigan will attempt to string together a 3-game win streak and grab a bowl berth simultaneously; if they don't get #6 against Maryland, their odds of a postseason are, um, long.
Games Remaining: Maryland, @OSU
Not much left to do now except lie down in the path of the Buckeye steamroller and then try to hold on to the Bucket. The most recent whipping came at the hands of another rather weak team. The defense still isn't. Zander Diamont finally showed some signs of progress, only for his receivers to turn into gargoyles (stone hands? Get it? Aw, shove off then you hosers). And the season's one silver lining, Tevin Coleman, had a career-defining game...except it happened on a day when Melvin Gordon had a record-defining game, and Indiana still couldn't win. That's IU football in a nutshell right now. The good news is next week's bloodbath should be over quickly. The bad news is, well, it's still going to happen.
Games Remaining: @OSU, Purdue
Claim Staked: Wisconsin (/scored again)
When you're rolling, you may as well roll in style. After that virtuoso bloodletting against what is supposedly a pretty good Nebraska team, it officially no longer matters that the Badger passing game is a plastic bag full of hot taco breath. After sportingly deciding to spot the Huskers a 14-point lead off of some lackadaisical turnovers, Wisconsin slammed its collective beer, hitched up its Carhartt and got to work to the tune of 56 unanswered points. Melvin Gordon, of course, was indescribably electric, but after the first 200ish yards, the white flag went up and from there it was Havenstein, Costigan, and the latest crew of cheese-fed dumptrucks. With 3 seniors on the OL representing the last of the Chryst/Bostad-trained guys, it'll be interesting to see if this train can keep rolling in the future, but my goodness was it looking good this week. With Minnesota falling to OSU, Bucky now has the inside track for the West's official shot at the Buckeyes.
Games Remaining: @Iowa, Minnesota
Gonna Need To Be Road Warriors: Minnesota
Jerry Kill continues to look like one of the best coaching hires of the last decade, as he was able to put a legitimate scare in the powerhouse Buckeyes despite, well, not having anything remotely like a J.T. Barrett. Nonetheless, moral victories don't show up in the standings. If Minnesota wants to make its CCG debut, it'll have to first go through an embarrassed and (I'm speculating) furious Husker team in Lincoln, and then go finish its trophy reclamation tour by taking the Axe out of Camp Randall. A tall order, but at this point betting against Kill feels like a fool's wager.
Games Remaining: @Nebraska, @Wisconsin
Big Red With Embarrassment: Nebraska
Now THAT's the Nebraska we've come to know and sigh at. The season was just a-rollickin' along, showing all possible signs of ascending beyond the limits they've known under Bo Pelini. @Northwestern? Cool. Rutgers? Under control. Purdue? No problem. @Wisconsin...here's trouble. Things started off auspiciously enough, though. It was Wisconsin making the face-palm blunders, and Nebraska capitalized early. Then that jerk with the dreads and the big muscles and the cold, merciless, dead, dead, dead Terminator eyes glanced at the remaining schedule and decided this was the best time for his Heisman moment. Except his moment was 25 moments, for an average of over 16 yards per moment. And by the time he popped his helmet off at the start of the 4th quarter and started making snow angels, there couldn't have been an unburned couch left in Lincoln.
That said, though, Nebraska's still alive, contrary to Saturday's results. If they win out and Wisconsin drops another game, they still hoist the division crown. The Quadrangle giveth, and the Quadrangle taketh away.
Games Remaining: Minnesota, @Iowa
Silently, Innocuously Waiting To Club Someone With A Tire Iron: Iowa
After having Floyd plundered away by the vile Gopher menace, Iowa did what all victimized parties want to do: find a patsy to take out your frustration on. In comes Illinois and their mouth-breathing coach (which I only say because I've never seen a picture of the man with his mouth closed). But, as is Iowa's preference, most of the first half was reserved for the systematic stubbing of toes before opening a respectable, 16-point margin that did not at all reflect Iowa's dominance of the game from scrimmage. When Good Iowa shows up, they're a force to be reckoned with; whether that team shows up in this crucial stretch is anyone's guess.
Iowa still has the schedule advantage which, in retrospect, was probably the biggest reason I expected them to come out on top. However, the Floyd loss looms large. Even if the Hawkeyes can hold serve against Wisconsin and Nebraska, they would need a Gopher loss to one of those two teams to get past the head-to-head tiebreaker with Goldy.
Games Remaining: Wisconsin, Nebraska
Bowl Games and the LOLHat: Northwestern, Illinois
Well dog my cats, the Fightin' Fitzes did it again. Not sure if you hear 400 times during the broadcast, but Pat Fitzgerald actually used to play for Northwestern, and his team beat Notre Dame in a pretty big upset at the time. The year was 19-aught-ninety-and-five. Why, I believe the President back then was William Jefferson Clinton.
Anyway, this was a season-defining win for Northwestern. Yes, they're out of the title picture and squeaking into a lower-tier bowl isn't that great of an accomplishment, but it's possibly because of that that this win's going to reverberate for a while. Brian Kelly's boneheaded decision to go for two, when an extra point would have forced Northwestern to score a touchdown on its last possession, remains one of the more indefensible strategic blunders I've ever seen. The Wildcats can keep the good vibes rolling with a pair of manageable opponents remaining and a bowl game still within reach,
Games Remaining: @Purdue, Illinois
Meanwhile, Illinois is also still alive for a bowl game thanks to that mystifying win over Minnesota, although they've let their margin of error burn down to nothing. If it weren't for all those points and yards they gave up, Illinois would have beaten Iowa, so that's something. Their best hope for the postseason is Wes Lunt returning to something resembling his early-season self; if he's able to shake off the injury rust, neither remaining opponent is all that large of a stretch for the Illini. (By the way, it's absurd that a kid can break a leg and be out there trying to escape 300-pound psychopaths roughly 6 weeks later. Man, do I miss that youthful healing capacity.)
Games Remaining: PSU, @Northwestern
Doing Prison Exercises Beneath A Poster Of The Bucket: Purdue
It's tough to guess what a team already eliminated from bowl contention does with a late-season bye. They watch all the Die Hard movies, probably. Darell Hazell strikes me as a Bruce Willis fan. But really, what is there left to do? You've shown enough progress that Hazell isn't getting fired; the very young core of the team has shown steady improvement, yet there was such a chasm to overcome that any big-picture goals have long since been relegated to 'maybe next year' status. Well, that's cool, they can just clean up the Bucket and-
Oh. Oh. That's right. Purdue doesn't have a Bucket right now. It's in Bloomington, and a 3-win Indiana team will be trying to defend it on Senior Day with essentially Tevin Coleman and a bunch of scarecrows in candystriped uniforms.
Games Remaining: Northwestern, @Indiana