One last time, we gather as a B1G dysfunctional family to come down for our collective football high, or to lick our wounds and sink lower, or both in some rare cases.
1. Ohio State's win was probably the most costly victory in Buckeye history. At least it came against one of the worst Wolverine teams in ages, right?
2. Well, Cardale, you ain't came to play school...
3. The Gophers held Melvin Gordon to fewer yards per carry than any other B1G team.
4. I mean, you can't blame the Gophers for not thinking Stave would really beat them with his arm.
5. Northwestern's defense takes the "LOL" part seriously.
6. Illinois finally finds their QB's potential...in his last B1G game. As a senior. The niceties of life still elude them.
7. Borderline elite defense against borderline decrepit offense ends just as you'd expect.
8. $20 million.
9. After preserving Delaware's freedom, Rutgers' stadium will be renamed the Chase Credit Card Late Payment Forgiveness Field. Which is an improvement.
10. The B1G is certain to be left out of the final four now, and whether you love, hate, or tolerate Ohio State, that should make us all sad.
Michigan at Ohio State // Ohio State wins 42-28. As predicted, Brady Hoke pulled out all the stops in what now looks likely to be his last game in the B1G...and possibly his last game in the FBS. The all-constraint offense looked passably competent for much of the game. Save for Gardner's opening drive INT, he looked like a real QB for awhile. Nussmeier apparently doesn't care about beating any other teams, as his play calling was more inspired than any we'd seen all year. Once again the story of the game was J.T. Barrett, both with his legs and his arms. The Heisman hopeful was 13-of-21 for 176 yds and three all-purpose TDs through three quarters. The highlight of his efforts was undoubtedly the 25-yard scramble for a game-tying TD in the waning seconds of the first half. No doubt you've all seen his other highlight.
Michigan fell into their old habits of poor ball security in the second half, though one fumble was negated by an offsides penalty. The other fumble crushed any hope of a magical Michigan comeback. With four minutes left and needing two scores, Devin Gardner was hit in the backfield yet again, losing the ball in what became a fumble-six that sealed the game. All told, Gardner was sacked 5 times. If that alone didn't invalidate claims of a much-improved offensive line, the Wolverines only ran for a meager 121 yards on 3.2 per carry. This Buckeye win was the most pyrrhic of victories, and not even a satisfying one, given the moribund state of the Wolverines. Farewell, Brady Hoke. I'll miss the wealth of low-hanging comedic fruit you provide (just kidding...he doesn't eat fruit).
Illinois at Northwestern // Illinois wins 47-33. Tim Beckman is the king of LOLhats. He spends all season in a golf visor and then steals a tophat for his final flourish. All the credit for this one goes to Reilly O'Toole, who after years of languishing on the Illinois depth chart (stop laughing) has come into his own in the twilight of his career. Give the young man credit for symmetry, as he mustered 147 yards with his legs, and an identical 147 yards through the air. Northwestern was surprisingly potent on offense without Trevor Siemian, though it seemed at times to be in spite of Zack Oliver and his five turnovers. Perhaps with Siemian at the helm, things would've ended differently. But as it stands, the Illini are headed to bowl game (seriously...stop laughing) and the Wildcats are left to spectate, prognosticate, and prepare for next season.
The only question that remains in this "writer's" mind is how long Pat Fitzgerald can pitch losing seasons and keep his job, given that his teams have been sub-.500 for three of the past four years. Fitz's seat is hotter than ever, and while he's not going to be fired (especially now that Pelini is leaving a second B1G vacancy), big changes might finally be necessary to placate the demands of a fan base fed up with excuses and mediocrity.
Purdue at Indiana // Indiana wins 23-16. A mostly-empty bucket seems like a fitting trophy for football for in the Hoosier state this year. Indiana has had one of the toughest seasons imaginable. The win over SEC East champ Mizzou not only jump-started the B1G after a terrible showing by the conference in the early weeks but looked to set the Hoosiers on the right track after a loss to BGSU. Losing Sudfeld changed everything, and it's hard to imagine that this team couldn't have picked up two more wins and found a bowl had he remained healthy. With Diamont under center, the Hoosiers had dropped six straight and threatened to lose out to finish the season. The young man found a little magic this week, though. Truth be told, he looked pretty good against OSU, too. For their part, Purdue seemed to peak against Minnesota and then steadily regressed. Except for an 82-yard Akeem Hunt TD run, the Boilermakers looked moribund on offense for most of the day against a so-so Hoosier defense. Here's hoping Tevin Coleman gives it one more year. After riding his 130 yards to become the first Hoosier ever to eclipse 2000 yards in a single season he is beyond vital to righting the ship next season. Diamont got his first college win, and Indiana retains the bucket for a second year. Those are the few bright spots in an otherwise terrible B1G campaign.
Michigan State at Penn State // Michigan State wins 34-10. There seems little point in beating this dead horse. PSU had the season that most everyone predicted, even die-hard PSU faithful. The Spartans didn't help anyone in Happy Valley live up to their home's name. Cook, Langford, and Tippett put on their usual performance. The best play was probably the first of the game. R.J. Shelton plucked the opening kickoff out of the air on the bounce and headed 90 yards the other way. Any flames of senior day passion were doused. The almost foregone conclusion of this game was underscored by the honoring of PSU's senior players. Those young men deserve no small amount of credit for keeping up the fight under four different head coaches. Of note, Ficken broke the PSU single-season FG record with a 41-yarder that put the blue on the board in the 2nd. The Nits have one more shot to make Franklin's first season more good than bad. MSU is likely headed for a NYD bowl.
Minnesota at Wisconsin // Wisconsin wins 34-24. Paul Bunyan's axe need not pack its bags. This game was predicted by Wisconsin fans to be a blowout in the making. A cursory glance at the musings of the commentariat indicated that many Gopher fans predicted just the same. Instead, the Gophers came to play ball and it showed. Melvin Gordon was held to 64 yards in the first half, and only 151 for the game (think about the talent of a guy who gets "held" to "only 151). The Gopher rush defense sold out to stop the star running back, and were often successful. The downside of that strategy is that the weak Gopher secondary was exploited by Stave's journeyman passing skills to the tune of 215 yards and 2 TDs, the latter of which sealed the outcome.
Despite the hamstring injury he suffered last week at Nebraska, David Cobb played his heart out and looked unfazed as he racked up 118 yards against the Wisconsin defense, including a 40-yard TD burst. Leidner gave him plenty of help on the ground, amassing almost 100 himself, but was dreadful through the air, going a season low 5-of-18. The Minnesota defense couldn't get separation on Badger defenders all night. Save for Maxx Williams exploiting poor discipline by the linebackers on play action, the passing game was almost nonexistent In the end, the Badgers were too much for the Gophers to keep up with. Jerry Kill will likely need a better passing performance out of Leidner to avoid a bowl game disaster like last year's Syracuse debacle. Nonetheless, he's put together a great product in the Twin Cities and is on the short list for B1G Coach of the Year.
Rutgers at Maryland // Rutgers wins 41-38. When Ralph Friedgen comes back, he takes it to heart. The former Maryland head coach now masterminds the Rutgers offense, and Maryland can't be happy about that. Down as many as 25 points to a Maryland team that looked dominant in the first half, the Scarlet Knights outscored the Terps 24-3 in the second half. Edsall's turtles looked like two different teams, and Rutgers would not be denied. Gary Nova turned in an outrageous 347 yard performance, nailing 4 TD passes. Even more important was his lack of turnovers. Nova threw zero interceptions for the 5th time this year--a stat which directly correlates with checks in the win column for Rutgers. I'm not quite sure what happened to Maryland in the second half. Everything that seemed to work at first suddenly didn't, as the Scarlet Knight defense clamped down. The Terps watched their hopes for an 8-win season evaporate with Kyle Federico's late field goal. Despite being +2 in the turnover margin thanks to fumbles, Maryland couldn't capitalize when it mattered. Bad penalties kept the Rutgers offense on the field, and the points piled up. C.J. Brown ran for 100+ and had a good day throwing with 2 TDs and almost 200 yards, but not good enough. Thanks to a three-way tie in the Eastern Bloc, Delaware remains unclaimed. Feel free to incorporate.
Nebraska at Iowa // Nebraska wins 37-34 in OT. The story of this game isn't so much the outcome, but that the outcome still led to the sacking of Bo Pelini. The Huskers found themselves down 17 points, but never gave up the fight. Demornay Pierson-El took a note from Jalin Marshal and turned in an apology for last week's gaffes in the form of a punt return for a TD to save Nebraska's day. Rudock summoned yet another 200+ yard passing performance, with 2 TDs and an INT. Armstrong Jr. threw for slightly fewer yards, but doubled Rudock on TDs and turnovers. His game-winning strike to Kenny Bell offered a glimmer of his potential as a truly talented passer. Iowa let yet another game get away from them, and when one considers the crushing loss to B1G east power Maryland, few people in Iowa City can be happy. The Huskers finish 9-3, and head to a bowl. Iowa finishes 7-5, and probably feel as though they're really getting their money's worth.
In light of today's firing of Nebraska's head man, this line from TTFL now seems incredibly odd: "Tommy Armstrong Jr. led the Huskers on one of the best comebacks in school history -- and took some heat off of embattled coach Bo Pelini." I hope the TFFL copy writers index their retirement savings, because they're no stock pickers. Look for low expense ratios. Then again, you can't blame them for thinking a win over a quadrangle team would get the guy fired. But this is Nebraska we're talking about. Either way you feel about the firing, one thing is for sure: we'll all miss Faux Pelini.
The Badgers have been billed by some as looking "largely unbeatable" since Northwestern. That view was seemingly predicated on victories over Purdue, Illinois, and Nebraska. In the last two weeks, they've won by a combined 12 points over B1G West foes. They're a good team, for sure, but in many ways are untested. The best defense they've faced all season was LSU. The best B1G defense they've faced was Minnesota (both measured by YPG, by F/+, or by Scoring).
Lastly, the loss of J.T. Barrett almost certainly ends OSU's season. With Barrett under center, the Buckeyes looked more likely than not to beat the Badgers. Now, with a third-string QB who's only thrown 17 career passes taking snaps, there seems little reason to expect the B1G CG to be anything but a ghost of what it could have been. Some may call that an excuse, while others may think they Buckeyes still have the horsepower. I tend to think it's just a realistic assessment of what happens when a QB who trails only Marcus Mariota in performance is plucked from the depth chart. With a good-not-great (borderline elite) defense and an untested QB at the helm, the Buckeyes' dream season almost certainly ends in Indy. As they say in racing, you run what you brung. I feel like there ain't much to be brung from Columbus now. That's a terrible outcome for the B1G, given how hard the conference has fought back from the "B1G is awful" narrative early in the year.
With only one B1G game left, we must all rally behind the conference flag and hope for good bowl matchups. It's been a pleasure
writing "writing" SMCD this season. Thanks for reading and for being part of the OTE community.