Around the Big Ten: Week 11
Matt Freiler, Jacob Ross, Joe Skinner and Will Bodycot break down all of this week's action on the gridiron across the Big Ten, headlined by the de facto Big Ten East championship game in Columbus between Ohio State and Michigan State.
Last week in the Big Ten, the unthinkable happened. The extremely peculiar events all started around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, when lightning struck East Lansing early in the second quarter of Penn State-Michigan State.
The result was a three-hour delay that proved to be the demise of the Nittany Lions’ playoff hopes. Almost seven hours after the original kickoff, No. 24 Michigan State knocked off No. 7 Penn State on a last-second field goal, 27-24
The day could not have gone better for Spartan fans. 500 miles to the west in Iowa City, the unranked Hawkeyes had college football fans pinching themselves with a 55-24 drubbing of No. 6 Ohio State. The 31-point loss surely haunts Urban Meyer, as he lost by the same amount in last year’s playoff semifinal against Clemson.
When the dust settled and this strange Saturday came to an end, there was one conclusion. The lone remaining hope for the Big Ten to make the College Football Playoff is the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin moved up one spot to No. 8 in the new CFP Top 25, but was leap-frogged by unbeaten Miami. The Badgers find themselves behind four one-loss teams, but home games remain against No. 20 Iowa and Michigan to strengthen their resume before the Big Ten Championship.
The Big Ten led all conferences with six teams in the new CFP rankings. Iowa debuted at No. 20 and Northwestern snuck in at No. 25. Michigan State completed the largest jump in CFP ranking history, moving from No. 24 to No. 12 after their win over Penn State. The Nittany Lions fell to No. 14.
This week will feature a de facto Big Ten East division title game, as Michigan State visits Ohio State. Barring more chaos, the winner will likely head to Indianapolis to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship.
In the West division, Iowa attempts to silence the “bad road team” narrative as they visit Wisconsin. The Badgers’ injury woes continue, as leading receiver Quintez Cephus was ruled out for the season with a leg injury.
If the Hawkeyes carry their momentum into Camp Randall and leave with a win, it would be the nail in the coffin for the Big Ten’s playoff hopes.
Elsewhere in the conference, striding Rutgers makes the trip to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. The Scarlet Knights were underdogs in each of their last four games, but won three. Chris Ash has started to turn the program around, proving to many including myself that Rutgers belongs in the conference.
The Nittany Lions head back home after two straight losses that reek of missed opportunity and disappointment.
Northwestern has won four straight games, and will be favored in their last three. Pat Fitzgerald’s club will host Purdue this week with their sights set on a 10-win season.
Purdue will need a miracle to become bowl eligible, having to win two of their last three against Northwestern, Iowa and Indiana.
Even unlikelier to make a bowl game is Maryland. After a season opening a win at Texas, the future looked bright for the Terps. That all changed when quarterbacks Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill both tore ACL’s. Maryland will host Michigan this weekend, the start of a brutal three game stretch that rounds out with Michigan State and Penn State.
The Wolverines will need to gain some momentum on the road this week, as their last two will feature a road trip to Wisconsin and “The Game” against the Buckeyes in the Big House.
Rounding out conference action is Nebraska at Minnesota and Indiana at Illinois. Surprisingly, the team with a best chance to become bowl eligible out of these four are the Hoosiers.
Although Indiana finds themselves 0-6 in conference play, five of those six losses are to Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan. Tom Allen’s crimson and cream will most likely be favored in their last three, and will need to win them all to go bowling.
Nebraska and Minnesota both face tough season-ending schedules, and the winner of Saturday’s game will need to pull a big upset to go bowling. Illinois is already eliminated from bowl contention at 2-7. Even if the Big Ten is left out the CFP, the conference could have up to eight teams in bowls.
Matt Freiler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.