Another interesting week of football in the Big Ten Conference. Some surprises, some expected results, but all were interesting games. A loss by Wisconsin early in the day set up greater urgency to see if Iowa could win out in Happy Valley. Of course, the Iowa loss gave Northwestern an opportunity to sit at the top of the division in the Big Ten West. Here’s how the games went this weekend...
Minnesota (4-4) 38 Indiana (4-5) 31
In the rainy Friday night contest, Minnesota and Indiana had a great game that featured not only an early see-saw score, but an improbable comeback that required a last minute score for the victory. During the first half, the lead changed hands four times until a pair of Minnesota passing touchdowns courtesy of the Golden Gopher duo of Tanner Morgan to Tyler Johnson seemed to put the game away. But, in the fourth quarter, Indiana came charging back from a 31-9 deficit to tie it up with less than four minutes remaining. The winning score for Minnesota took place with just 1:34 left in the game, courtesy of yet another Tanner Morgan touchdown.
Nebraska (2-6) 45 Bethune-Cookman (4-5) 9
In the least surprising result of the day, Nebraska walked all over Bethune-Cookman. The FCS school really didn’t stand a chance against the Cornhuskers. B-C had a field goal in the first quarter, and found the end zone as time expired at the end of the game. In between those two, Nebraska (who already led 14-3) scored an additional four touchdowns and a field goal. Move along, there’s nothing more to see here...
Michigan State (5-3) 23 Purdue (4-5) 13
Though the score may not show it, this was a great football game. Though the Spartans held a lead though most of the game, it was never out of contention until literally the final minutes of the game. The difference was Purdue quarterback David Blough did not have a good day. Though he threw for over 200 yards on the day, he had no touchdowns, and also threw three interceptions, the final one being the one that guaranteed Michigan State the victory. The story here is Spartan redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who threw for over 300 yards and had two touchdown passes.
Northwestern (5-3) 31 #20 Wisconsin (5-3) 17
The first surprise of the day was seeing the Wildcats down a ranked Badger squad in a game that Wisconsin never looked like they wanted to play. Northwestern played tough all day, and despite throwing three interceptions, quarterback Clayton Thorsen was still able to lead the team effectively. The Northwestern defense held Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor to his lowest running total all season, running for only 46 yards on the day. Badger quarterback Alex Hornibrook was out for the day due to a concussion, and Long Island native Jack Coan started for Wisconsin. Coan did not have a bad day, throwing for 158 yards and a single touchdown, but without Taylor’s running game, it was not enough.
Maryland (5-3) 63 Illinois (3-5) 33
This game ran exactly as everyone would have suspected. Maryland ran over the hapless Illini, and made it look easy in the process. Illinois did not do much on either offense or defense, and as a result, the Terps romped to an easy win. In doing so, Maryland gained over 700 yards on the day, and scored nine touchdowns.
#17 Penn State (6-2) 30 #18 Iowa (6-2) 24
This was the game that became more important as the day progressed. When Northwestern beat Wisconsin earlier in the day, suddenly the outcome of this game became critical, as an Iowa win put them in the clear driver’s seat in the Big Ten West. It was a knock-down, drag-out affair, too. Iowa took an early lead thanks to a pair of safeties and a field goal, but Penn State came back and took the halftime lead. In the second half, Iowa made several attempts to retake the lead, but was not able to pull it off. Sloppy play by the Hawkeyes all day doomed their effort.
With both Iowa and Wisconsin losing today, the big winner today is Northwestern, who now sits on top of the Big Ten West. Penn State and Michigan State both won in the East against West foes, but neither looked particularly good doing so. The two top teams in the East, Michigan and Ohio State were both on their bye week, but are back next week, so both East and West races are still up in the air with four weeks to go in the season. There are still six teams left that can easily win the division titles. In the East, it is Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. In the West, it is Northwestern, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The only head-to-head next week that will eliminate one is between Penn State and Michigan. We will see what happens. Stay tuned!