Northwestern owns the West, but the East will be decided in Columbus this weekend. Last weekend, both Ohio State and Michigan avoided scares to set up “The Game.”
Meanwhile, there are four Big Ten teams playing for bowl eligibility this week. Minnesota will take on Wisconsin, Maryland travels to Penn State, and Indiana and Purdue will matchup for a spot in a bowl game.
Here are how things stack up with one week to go…
14. Rutgers (1-10, 0-8)
Last week: 20-7 LOSS vs No. 14 Penn State
This week: at Michigan State (4:00 FOX)
The Rutgers defense was solid and Raheem Blackshear ran for 102 yards and a touchdown, but the quarterback position once again held the Scarlet Knights back. Artur Sitkowski went 3-for-7 for 18 yards and two interceptions, while Giovanni Rescigno came in and went 2-for-8 for 28 yards. The quarterback position continues to be the biggest issue for Rutgers.
Previous Ranking: 14
13. Illinois (4-7, 2-6)
Last week: 63-0 LOSS vs Iowa
This week: at No. 19 Northwestern (3:30 BTN)
Not a great look for Illinois. I’ve thought all season this team was improving from some dismal seasons lately. However, this game sets them right back to square one.
Their two quarterbacks combined for 12-for-30, 82 yards and three picks. They allowed Iowa to run all over them defensively.
In the win column, it’s an improvement for Illinois, but after a 63-0 loss, a lot of that progress is lost in the minds of Illini fans.
Previous Ranking: T12
12. Minnesota (5-6, 2-6)
Last week: 24-14 LOSS vs No. 22 Northwestern
This week: at Wisconsin (3:30 ESPN2)
Minnesota was competitive, but just didn’t have enough against a very good Northwestern team. Defensively, they struggled to stop Clayton Thorson. Offensively, Tanner Morgan was good but not great, with two costly interceptions.
Now the focus for the Golden Gophers is on Wisconsin and a possible bowl game with a big win in their final game of the season.
Previous Ranking: T12
11. Maryland (5-6, 3-5)
Last week: 52-51 (OT) LOSS vs No. 10 Ohio State
This week: at No. 12 Penn State (3:30 ABC)
So close. One play away from a huge upset in College Park. With that being said, Tyrrell Pigrome was solid when asked to throw, but the big impact was on the ground.
Freshman Anthony McFarland was phenomenal. He ran the ball 21 times for 298 yards and two giant runs for touchdowns. Ohio State had no answer to Maryland’s run game.
Even if they don’t pull the upset in Happy Valley this weekend, the fact that this team has stuck together this season through everything has been impressive. Maryland has been through a lot, a bowl game would be an incredible end to a tumultuous year.
Previous Ranking: 11
10. Indiana (5-6, 2-6)
Last week: 31-20 LOSS at No. 4 Michigan
This week: vs Purdue (12:00 ESPN2)
Indiana did its usual thing, contending with top-ranked teams but not having what it takes to finish the game. A lot of people, including myself, were surprised it was even this close.
Stevie Scott had a surprisingly great game against the No. 1 rush defense in the country, rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown. However, the defense couldn’t stop Patterson and Higdon when they needed to, and ultimately the Hoosiers couldn’t finish a game that they were in all the way until the fourth quarter. Now it’s down to the Bucket Game to see who goes bowling.
Previous Ranking: 10
9. Nebraska (4-7, 3-5)
Last week: 9-6 WIN vs Michigan State
This week: at Iowa (Friday, 12:00 FOX)
If you don’t like offense, you didn’t miss anything in this game. However, Nebraska proved they can win a game with their defense. This Nebraska team has gotten so much better in the past few weeks, winners of four of their last five. The one issue for Nebraska was third down conversions, going 4-for-14.
Nebraska’s defense forced two turnovers and only six points allowed and won the game for a team that has won for most of the season by outscoring opponents in shootouts. There’s a lot to be excited about in Lincoln.
Previous Ranking: 9
8. Purdue (5-6, 4-4)
Last week: 47-44 (3OT) LOSS vs Wisconsin
This week: at Indiana (12:00 ESPN2)
Just as Purdue looked like it was turning their season around, they’ve lost three of four and are facing the possibility of missing a bowl game and bookending their season on three-game losing streaks.
Purdue had this game under control, with a 27-13 lead. However, they couldn’t stop Jonathan Taylor, who ran for over 300 yards, and they lost in a thrilling three-overtime classic.
David Blough was great, throwing for 386 yards and four touchdowns, but Purdue was too one-dimensional to get the job done.
Previous Ranking: 7
7. Michigan State (6-5, 4-4)
Last week: 9-6 LOSS at Nebraska
This week: vs Rutgers (4:00 FOX)
This has been a similar type of season to what happened two years ago. They had a lot of preseason hype but have fallen flat on their faces. While they will still get to a bowl game, the Gator Bowl, or whatever bowl they play in, was not in the expectations of any Spartan fan at the beginning of the season.
The Spartans had 289 total yards against Nebraska, but only mustered up two field goals. That won’t get it done against any team, let alone an improving Nebraska team.
Previous Ranking: 6
6. Wisconsin (7-4, 5-3)
Last week: 47-44 (3OT) WIN at Purdue
This week: vs Minnesota (3:30 ESPN2)
Wisconsin’s wheels were falling off, but Jonathan Taylor was there to save the day in West Lafayette. Taylor had 33 carries for 321 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yard sprint to the end zone.
Another team similar to Iowa and Penn State that doesn’t have anything to play for really. They are playing for a spot in the Outback bowl or the Capital One bowl or something like that. They do have a rivalry matchup with Minnesota this week, and a win would keep the Gophers out of a bowl game.
Previous Ranking: 8
5. Iowa (7-4, 4-4)
Last week: 63-0 WIN at Illinois
This week: vs Nebraska (Friday, 12:00 FOX)
What do you say about a team that won 63-0? Nate Stanley was solid, the running game was effective, and the defense forced four turnovers.
Iowa had a disappointing middle of the season, but they can finish strong with this thumping and a win over a much-improved Nebraska squad on Friday.
Previous Ranking: 5
4. Penn State (8-3, 5-3)
Last week: 20-7 WIN at Rutgers
This week: vs Maryland (3:30 ABC)
It wasn’t pretty, but at this point, there isn’t much for Penn State to play for. They have an incredibly outside chance of a New Year’s Six bowl but are more likely to be in a top-tier regular bowl game. So, you can understand a sleepy game in Piscataway for Penn State.
McSorley became the all-time winningest quarterback in Penn State history, a well-deserved honor for a fantastic football player.
Now they have to be ready for Maryland’s best shot as the Terrapins are looking for their sixth win of the season.
Previous Ranking: 4
3. Northwestern (7-4, 7-1)
Last week: 24-14 WIN at Minnesota
This week: vs Illinois (3:30 BTN)
Northwestern was disrespected this past week by being an underdog at Minnesota. Pat Fitzgerald was upset after the game about it, but they took care of business and that’s all that matters. Clayton Thorson threw for 230 yards while Isaiah Bowser ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns. The defense was also solid, holding Minnesota, a team that has proved they can score, to just 14 points.
Previous Ranking: 3
2. Ohio State (10-1, 7-1)
Last week: 52-51 (OT) WIN at Maryland
This week: vs No. 4 Michigan (12:00 FOX)
Ohio State has had several close calls this season, but none like this one this past Saturday. They trailed throughout the majority of this game and never seemed to have control of the game. They allowed 339 rushing yards and 51 points.
However, when he needed to, Dwayne Haskins stepped up, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns. J.K. Dobbins was also spectacular, rushing for 203 yards and a touchdown.
They have to fix the defense though if they want to win this week. The explosive plays could be what keeps Ohio State from the Big Ten Championship and the Playoff.
Previous Ranking: 2
1. Michigan (10-1, 8-0)
Last week: 31-20 WIN vs Indiana
This week: at No. 10 Ohio State (12:00 FOX)
It wasn’t pretty, but Michigan got the job done. Shea Patterson threw for 250 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 68 yards. Karan Higdon ran 21 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. However, Michigan was only 1-for-8 scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The defense also allowed Stevie Scott to run for 134 yards. They will need to fix that quickly with Dobbins and Ohio State coming up next.
Previous Ranking: 1