We have moved into the meat of the Big Ten schedule for 2017. Week nine has come and gone, and again, some amazing games played yesterday. Let’s take a look at them!
Wisconsin 24 Illinois 10
Wisconsin remains the only undefeated Big Ten team. This game was all Wisconsin, to no one’s surprise. Illinois’ lone touchdown occurred in the last minute of play, when the result had long been decided.
Despite sluggish play by the Badgers, they were able to demonstrate their strength against the undermanned Illini. Wisconsin gained 150 fewer yards than their average this season, but two touchdowns in the first half, and a late TD on a trick play late in the 4th quarter was more than they needed to win the day. Part of the reason for the lower yardage was New Jersey-native Jonathan Taylor missed the second half of this game with a leg injury.
Ohio State 39 Penn State 38
What. A. Game! Penn State took the early lead and led throughout. Ohio State took their first lead in the game with less than two minutes in the game, and at one point Penn State held a 21-3 lead. J.T. Barrett made his case for the Heisman with his performance, capped by a three TD 4th quarter that brought Ohio State back from a 35-20 deficit to upset the #2 team in the country. James Franklin has still not been able to beat a ranked opponent away, and now the football playoff picture is a lot murkier for the Big Ten as the committee releases their first ranking on Tuesday.
Maryland 42 Indiana 39
Another high-scoring affair, also capped by a comeback. Indiana had a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and looked like this one would be over early. Not even close! This went back-and-forth with the leading changing hands four times. In the 4th quarter, Jake Funk, who only gained 14 yards on the ground, scored a paid of touchdowns that gave Maryland the lead, and they were able to hold off Indiana, who are still winless in the Big Ten.
Northwestern 39 Michigan State 31 (3 OT)
Both quarterbacks put up amazing numbers in this one. Winning QB Clayton Thorson put up 356 yards and threw two touchdowns without an interception, while Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke passed for an incredible 445 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. This one was close throughout, tied at 10 at the half, with each team tacking on another TD in the fourth quarter. Each team scored a touchdown in the first two overtimes, and finally Northwestern scored a TD and a two-point conversion before stopping the Spartans with an interception in the end zone and take the win.
Nebraska 25 Purdue 24
Poor Purdue! They actually are a pretty good team, but this is their second week in a row to have victory snatched away from them. Last week, a last-minute 2-point conversion cost them the game. This week, a furious assault punctuated by a touchdown with 14 ticks left on the clock by the Huskers took away a game they had led throughout.
This looked like Purdue’s game. They took the lead early in the the 2nd quarter with their first TD, and led until that last touchdown broke their backs. They were unable to stop the passing attack of the Husker’s Tanner Lee. Lee threw for 431 yards and two touchdowns in this come-from-behind victory that keeps the team in the bowl hunt and Head Coach Mike Riley in his seat for another week.
Iowa 17 Minnesota 10
Iowa’s win not only kept them in possession of Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze statue of a pig (not kidding), but got them one step closer to bowl eligibility. That is not a straight line, however, as their next games are against Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively.
However, on this Saturday Iowa did not impress, but did enough to win. The initial drives by the Hawkeyes in each half produced not only about half of their offensive yardage, but their only two touchdowns on the day. However that, combined with a late 4th quarter field goal, was all they needed to best the slumping Golden Gophers. Minnesota, after sweeping their non-conference schedule, has gone 1-4 so far in the Big Ten, with games against Michigan, Nebraska, and Northwestern up on tap before finishing the year against the still-unbeaten Badgers at home.
Michigan 35 Rutgers 14
The Scarlet Knights had their two game conference win streak snapped, and Michigan used their ground game to good effect to win the “Battle for 4th Place” in the Big Ten East. Wolverine running backs Karan Higdon and Ty Issac both ran for more than 100 yards, gaining 267 yards between them. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh pulled starter John O’Korn in favor of redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, who had a impressive college football debut, going 10-14 for 124 yards and one touchdown.
Rutgers’ Janarion Grant had his first big run of 2017, breaking free for a 65-yard run for a touchdown early in the second quarter. A third quarter possession ending with a rushing touchdown by “Gus the Bus” Edwards was the only other score for Rutgers on the day.
Rutgers’ offensive woes continue, with just 94 yards rushing (65 of which was Grant’s TD run) and Gio Rescigno threw for only 101 yards on the day. Still, the margin of defeat against Michigan demonstrates progress is happening this season.
There were some incredible comebacks and furious plays to win yesterday. The conference games lived up to their reputation as smash-mouth football, and punctuated it with some amazing aerial displays as well. Four of the conferences seven games ended with come-from-behind victories, one of which took triple overtime to resolve. You really can’t ask for more excitement than that.
At this point, five of the teams are bowl-eligible with four weeks of play remaining. It is realistic to expect that eight, and possibly as many as nine teams will reach that plateau in 2017, with one of that number going to the College Football Playoff. That demonstrates the strength of Big Ten football.