Around the Big Ten Football: Week 14
All eyes were on Columbus last week, as the Buckeyes clinched the Big Ten East title with their 28-17 win over the Nittany Lions. There weren’t many other major shakeups, as Iowa took care of business at home against Illinois and Michigan handily defeated Indiana. The last week of regular season play will feature a huge rivalry game between Michigan and Ohio State, and the final battle for the top spot in the West between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
No. 12 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2) at No. 8 Minnesota (10-1, 7-1)
The 128th annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe will also decide which team will represent the Big Ten West in the conference championship. Currently, the most-played rivalry in Division I history is tied with both teams winning 60 meetings (alongside eight ties).
History aside, this game will pit two explosive offenses against each other. Led by elite running back Jonathan Taylor, who has more than 1,600 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns this year, Wisconsin’s running game is a force to be reckoned with. On the other side, the Gophers counter with quarterback Tanner Morgan, who has had an amazing year on offense with nearly 2,700 passing yards. Expect this to be a close game, but Minnesota may pull this off in front of an emboldened home crowd.
No. 1 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0) at No. 13 Michigan (9-2, 6-2)
Michigan had an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot, and this game was circled on their calendar as a way to secure that top four ranking. That was before the Wolverines lost to Wisconsin and Penn State. Since those early losses, they’ve largely regained control of their season, but they’ve still been stuck in the middle of the rankings for weeks. However, an upset here would shake up the rankings and potentially give Michigan a chance at the Rose Bowl.
Realistically though, Ohio State is an excellent football team with little to no blemishes that any opponent could expose. Under quarterback Justin Fields, the Buckeyes’ offensive unit has averaged more than 530 yards per game and 9.1 yards per reception in the passing game. Michigan’s Shea Patterson has been pretty good himself, but the Wolverines offense is no match for the Buckeyes defense, which has held teams to just 10 points and 217 total yards per game on average. Ohio State will win and cover the spread.
Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) at No. 10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2)
Penn State, coming off a crushing loss to Ohio State that ended the Nittany Lions’ dreams at a CFP finish, looks to end the regular season on a high note. Actually, it’s more of just a note. This game should be a breeze, even with some uncertainty about Sean Clifford’s health and the departure of Justin Shorter. The Nittany Lions will use this game as a scrimmage game for the postseason, wherever they may end up. If Ohio State wins this week and in the championship game over Minnesota or Wisconsin, Penn State has a good shot at the Rose Bowl.
Penn State, despite a weakened offense, will walk all over the Scarlet Knights in what may be the sleepiest contest this year since the Idaho game. Expect the Nittany Lions to cover the spread.
Friday Final: No. 17 Iowa 27, Nebraska 24
This Friday night matchup proved to be more of a challenge than Iowa was expecting. The Hawkeyes hosted the Cornhuskers under the Friday night lights at Kinnick Stadium, but Nebraska was one win away from bowl eligibility and wanted it badly.
It was a particularly abysmal day for Nate Stanley, as he couldn’t get much going with the passing game, so he relied on his running backs to lift the Hawkeyes to a victory. Iowa had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, while Nebraska could only manage a field goal to make it 14-3 after one. The Hawkeyes looked like they were in control, but then Nate Stanley threw an interception that was quickly returned by Nebraska into the end zone to make it 17-10. Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to set the Hawkeyes up 24-10 as they went into the locker room. However, the Cornhuskers stormed out of the locker room with two touchdowns in the third quarter to tie it up at 24. The game remained deadlocked throughout the fourth quarter until the Hawkeyes were able to put together a long drive down the field and then sent Keith Duncan out for a 48-yard field goal to end the game.
Iowa will likely be placed in one of the better bowl games, while Nebraska will have to sit out for the third straight year.
Other Big Ten games in Week 14:
Northwestern at Illinois
Indiana at Purdue
Maryland at Michigan State
Josh Portney is a freshman studying broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.