The regular season has come to its conclusion. Now, we await the results of two things...the Big Ten Championship Game, and the teams’ bowl invitations for the post-season. Even this late in the season, there were surprises, close calls, and upsets. Let’s take a look:
Iowa (8-4) 31 Nebraska (4-8) 28
What looked like a blowout by the Hawkeyes over Nebraska on Friday night became anything but in the fourth quarter. Nebraska came roaring back to tie it up with a little more than three minutes remaining, after scoring 14 unanswered points. But after sleepwalking through most of the third and fourth quarters, Iowa was able to march down the field and win the game with a field goal as time expired.
Purdue (6-6) 28 Indiana (5-7) 21
In the battle of the “who’s getting a bowl bid,” the visiting Boilermakers came into Bloomington, and Purdue senior quarterback David Blough threw for three touchdowns, two of the to freshman Rondale Moore, who also was the recipient of almost half of Blough passing yards. Blough has now matched his season-best record of 25 touchdowns this season. He also threw for 25 touchdowns in 2016, both of which tie all-time Boilermaker great Drew Brees’ for the fifth-best in the Purdue record books. Now Purdue waits to see where they get one additional game, and Indiana faces a second straight season ending with a 5-7 record.
#22 Northwestern (8-4) 24 Illinois (4-8) 16
Illinois quarterback AJ Bush threw for 281 yards and a touchdown, and Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson only threw for 110 yards, but the Northwestern quarterback threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third and that was more than enough for Northwestern to end their season 8-4 after starting their season 1-3.
#14 Penn State (9-3) 38 Maryland (5-7) 3
The Nittany Lions made short work of the Maryland Terrapins at home, with Trace McSorley throwing for 230 yards as well as running for 64 more in what may be his final game at home. It was a relatively close game early on, with Penn State clinging to a 7-3 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. After that, however, it was all Penn State, who scored 31 unanswered points on the Terrapins. The loss means that Maryland will miss a bowl bid for their second consecutive season.
Minnesota (6-6) 37 Wisconsin (7-5) 15
Minnesota gained bowl eligibility in a surprise win over the Wisconsin Badgers. The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 17-0 lead before Wisconsin made their first score just as time expired for the first half. Minnesota came out for the second half and continued where they left off, scoring another unanswered 20 points before Wisconsin scored again with just over a minute left in the game, the outcome obvious at that point.
#10 Ohio State (11-1) 62 #4Michigan (10-2) 39
The Game certainly lived up to its billing this year. While the Buckeyes looked like the stronger team in the first half, they went into the locker room with just a five-point 24-19 lead. However, in the second half it was a different story. Ohio State just ran all over the Wolverines, setting a series record for the most points scored ever against Michigan. As a result, Ohio State will face Northwestern for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis on December 1.
Michigan State (7-5) 14 Rutgers (1-11) 10
Well, it was exciting, wasn’t it? Rutgers was in this one until the last minute. This was a game that showed the growth that Chris Ash has been claiming to see all season. Tied up until the fourth quarter, Rutgers took a lead with a field goal until Michigan State scored with four minutes left in the game. Rutgers had opportunities to score, but could not take advantage. Though a loss, it was the best showing Rutgers had all season. Gio Rescigno showed true leadership in the game, despite the loss. Even the announcers focused upon the grit of the team against Michigan State.
The most important outcome is that Ohio State not only put themselves in the Championship game next week, they also knocked Michigan out of any possible contention in the College Football Playoff. It will remain to be seen if Ohio State can win against Northwestern next week, and do it convincingly enough to persuade the CFP Committee to move the Buckeyes up six spots.
Also, we now know who is eligible for bowl bids. In the East there are only four teams bowling. Ohio State (11-1) who still plays for the Big Ten title next week, joined by conference mates Michigan (10-2), Penn State (9-3), and Michigan State (7-5). In the West, it is West Division Champ Northwestern (8-4), Iowa (8-4), Wisconsin (7-5), Purdue (6-6), and Minnesota (6-6). Nine teams of the 14 team conference are eligible for a bowl this season. This is a return trip for a bowl for eight of the teams, with Minnesota going to a bowl for the first time since 2016.