The 2017 college football regular season has come to an end, with championship week coming up for those teams still in the hunt, followed by bowl invitations. This week’s games also ended the careers of some coaches as well as players in some schools. Let’s take a look at how the final week turned out for the Big Ten.
Iowa 56 Nebraska 14
As expected, the loss by the ‘Huskers yesterday not only ended their season, but also the tenure of Head Coach Mike Riley. That is not a surprise for anyone, particularly when considering that the 2017 Nebraska team ended with the fewest wins of any Cornhusker team since 1961.
The game started fairly evenly, with a tied score at the half. However, the second half was all Iowa, who scored 42 unanswered points after the break.
Purdue 31 Indiana 24
Purdue took the Old Oaken Bucket yesterday as first year head coach Jeff Brohm led the Boilermakers to their first 6-win season and a potential bowl bid since 2013. The in-state rivalry was highlighted this year because the winner of the game was also going to end their season eligible for the opportunity to play in a bowl. Indiana was hoping to play in three consecutive post-seasons for the first time in school history, but that wasn’t going to happen yesterday in West Lafayette.
Purdue never trailed in the game, and truly looked like they wanted this game more. They converted on a fake punt, scored twice on jet sweeps, and generally looked like they were having a good time.
Northwestern 42 Illinois 7
Northwestern looked like it may have a game on it’s hand as they fought for supremacy of the state against Illinois yesterday as the Illini scored first and took a 7-0 lead against the Wildcats. However, it was not to be as the team from Evanston roared back and scored 42 unanswered points to take the game and win their seventh straight game this season.
Like in this game, Northwestern started slowly this season, but picked up speed as the games rolled by, winning a school-record three consecutive games in overtime before winning their final two games by comfortable margins.
Illinois finishes the season winless in the Big Ten, their last conference win in the past two seasons coming in 2016 against first year head coach Chris Ash and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who beat the Illini as well this year. While second-year Illinois head coach Lovie Smith is not currently on the hot seat despite his record, improvement will need to be seen in order for him to remain in Champaign long-term.
Penn State 66 Maryland 3
Injury-laden Maryland’s season came to a merciful end at the hands of the Nittany Lions yesterday in College Park, in a stadium that had as much blue and white in the stands as it did the home team’s red, black and gold.
Penn State watched their opponent unravel before their eyes as they rolled over the hapless Terps, who started the season beating Texas in Austin, only to have a series of injuries to key players cause their season to implode. Maryland followed the script that is the key to beating Penn State, namely holding Saquon Barkley to the fewest yards possible. However, even though they did that, with Barkley only running for 77 yards on the day, Maryland was down 31-0 at the half, and the rout was on.
Maryland scored its sole field goal with just a minute left in the 3rd quarter to make the score 52-3 before Penn State scored another pair of TDs in the 4th quarter to get to the final score.
Wisconsin 31 Minnesota 0
Wisconsin rolled to an undefeated regular season for the first time in school history, ending the season with a resounding victory in Minneapolis. With the win Wisconsin not only won their 13th consecutive Paul Bunyan Ax trophy against the Golden Gophers, they demonstrated what may be the best defense in the nation as they prepare to play in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis on December 2 against Ohio State.
While Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck certainly is energetic enough to remake the Golden Gophers into a contender, this first year outing demonstrated the amount of work ahead of him when playing against a team that is headed to the College Football Playoff with a win next week.
Badger quarterback Alex Hornibrook had a career day against Minnesota, going 15 of 19 in the air without an interception while scoring three touchdowns.
Ohio State 31 Michigan 20
The latest installment of “The Game” was a thriller, with Michigan jumping out to a 14 point lead as they hoped to be the spoiler of the Big Ten, throwing the playoff hopes of their hated rivals to the south into the trash. However, Ohio State came roaring back, tying the score at 14 by halftime. Michigan again jumped out to a lead again in the third quarter, but Ohio State was too strong to be denied the win, and two unanswered touchdowns with a field goal to boot was too much for Michigan.
With the win, Ohio State goes into the game against Wisconsin for the Big Ten title with the winner likely getting a berth in the College Football Playoff. JT Barrett left the game in third quarter with a knee injury and backup Dwayne Haskins led the Buckeyes to the win. Barrett said after the game that he’ll be fine for the game next week against Wisconsin, although head coach Urban Meyer said his status was undetermined. The circumstances of the injury were odd and Meyer has asked for a full investigation. You can read more on it here.
Michigan State 40 Rutgers 7
At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Michigan State sideline was jumping up and down to the music blaring throughout the loudspeakers at High Point Solutions Stadium, while the Scarlet Knight players milled about. It was a perfect image to denote the enthusiasm of the two teams as they met yesterday. While still very much in the game at that point, trailing 16-7, the Scarlet Knight team looked defeated, and played the same way in the 4th quarter. In the final frame, the Spartans demonstrated their optimism by scoring three unanswered touchdowns, and ending the game, which was close well into the second half, into a blowout to end the season for Rutgers on a decidedly down note at 4-8, while the Spartans end their regular season 9-3.
With the regular season at an end, we know a couple of things. First, the Big Ten Championship next week will likely determine one of the four teams in the playoff. Thanks to losses by Miami and Alabama yesterday, who ever wins in Indianapolis between Wisconsin and Ohio State will likely end up as a playoff team.
Secondly, the conference will have eight of the conference’s 14 teams in post-season play this year. Those teams will not know where they are playing until after the playoff picture shakes out, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, and Purdue will all have one more opportunity to play this year. Stay tuned as we find out where these teams will play as the story unfolds in Indianapolis next Saturday.