Around the Big Ten: Week 12
Matt Freiler, Joe Skinner, Pat Murphy and Alex Loughin break down all of this week's action on the gridiron across the Big Ten.
How do you bounce back from a humiliating 31-point road loss that essentially kills your playoff hopes and sucks the life out of your fanbase?
Urban Meyer has the answer. Rack up 524 yards of offense, average eight yards per rush and keep your opponent out of the end zone for 60 minutes. That’s exactly what Ohio State did in their 48-3 rebound win over Michigan State on Saturday.
Now the formula seems somewhat simple for the No. 9 Buckeyes: win out and become the first two-loss conference champion to make the College Football Playoff.
Wisconsin objects. After all, the undefeated Badgers laid the 21-point smack down on Iowa last Saturday, the same Iowa which throttled Ohio State.
Paul Chryst’s club is still getting limited respect from the CFP committee, slotting in at No. 5 despite being 10-0. However, with No. 24 Michigan re-entering the Top 25, the Badgers have a chance to bolster their resume with a win in Camp Randall Saturday.
Outside of that, this Saturday’s Big Ten slate has one more storyline. How many conference teams will go bowling?
Nebraska is 4-6 and coming off a 33-point road loss to Minnesota. That means the Huskers must win their final two games to be bowl eligible, which seems unlikely considering they visit Penn State Saturday and host Iowa next Friday. If Nebraska ends up 4-8, Mike Riley may be looking for employment this offseason.
Minnesota is 5-5, with all five losses coming in conference play. The Gophers rowed the boat to 54 points in a win over Nebraska last Saturday, meaning they need just one win to become bowl eligible in P.J. Fleck’s debut season. It won’t be easy, as the Gophers travel to No. 23 Northwestern before hosting what could be undefeated Wisconsin to end the regular season.
Rutgers visits Indiana in a battle of 4-6 teams, with the loser eliminated from bowl contention. The Hoosiers are 11-point home favorites in this one, but don’t count out Chris Ash’s Scarlet Knights. Rutgers led No. 10 Penn State 6-0 at the end of the first quarter in Beaver Stadium last Saturday. In September, Indiana trailed the Nittany Lions 28-0 through the same 15 minutes.
Even so, Indiana is likely to win their last two games and make a bowl. A season-ending bus ride to West Lafayette to face rival Purdue could decide who goes bowling between the Boilermakers and Hoosiers, unless Purdue loses at Iowa Saturday.
Rounding out the possible Big Ten bowl teams is 4-6 Maryland, who may have the lowest chance to win out. The Terps travel to Michigan State before hosting Penn State next Saturday. If D.J. Durkin’s bunch can’t pull off a big upset, they’ll end a disappointing injury-filled season 4-8. It’s a shame the bowl selection committee won’t view the Terps, who lost their top two quarterbacks in early September, the way the CFP committee views No. 2 Clemson’s “key injuries”.
All in all, the Big Ten could be just one more upset away from officially disqualifying itself from the CFP. Or will the committee suddenly change their minds on two-loss Big Ten champions?
Matt Freiler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.