Here we are in the last month of the season. Still a lot of football to be played, but it is definitely the fourth quarter of the season. Like every week this season, there were surprises and blowouts, sometimes in the same game. Here we go...
Michigan State (6-3) 24 Maryland (5-4) 3
Not surprising after the week the Terrapins have had, Michigan State held Maryland to exactly 100 yards on the day. Their usually strong run game was a mere 26 yards on 29 carries, and only gained 74 yards through the air. Those yards meant they only gained nine first downs on the entire day. The other important take from this game was that the return of Brian Lewerke following a shoulder injury was less than spectacular, and he was pulled in favor of redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi. With quarterback ineffectiveness a theme from both teams, all of the Spartan’s points were scored from their ground game.
#10 Ohio State (8-1) 36 Nebraska (2-7) 31
What was thought to be an easy game for the Buckeyes turned out to be anything but as the Cornhuskers gave Ohio State just about all they could handle. In a game rife with penalties by both sides, particularly in the first half, Ohio State still found a way to win. However, they could not shake Nebraska, and there were four lead changes until Ohio State finally took the lead for good with five minutes left in the 3rd quarter. The win wasn’t a foregone conclusion until the game ended. A close one for the Buckeyes!
Illinois (4-5) 55 Minnesota (4-5) 31
Who would have thought that this game would be a score-fest? But that’s exactly what it was. Illinois struck first, scoring on a first possession less than a minute into the game. The final score of the day was a Golden Gopher touchdown with less than two minutes left in the contest. In between the scoring just didn’t seem to stop. Well, any game that has a total of 86 points scored you know is going to be one busy afternoon for the offensive units! Minnesota never led in this game, but it was a great game for offensive excitement!
Purdue (5-4) 38 #16 Iowa (6-3) 36
The first surprise of the day was watching the Hawkeyes struggle so against the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue jumped to the lead, and kept it through the fourth quarter. At that point, Iowa took a razor-thin one point lead with just ten minutes left in the game as the result of a touchdown, but missed the two-point conversion attempt. The last ten minutes of this game was a titanic struggle, in which that missed conversion came back to haunt the Hawkeyes. With just eight seconds left in the game, the Boilermakers kicked the winning field goal, winning by two.
#5 Michigan (8-1) 42 #14 Penn State (6-3) 7
The next surprise was the ease in which Michigan rolled over the Nittany Lions. Here are some pieces that show how one-sided it was (if the score doesn’t explain that): Penn State was shut out until the final two minutes of the game, when everyone knew the result of the game; The Nittany Lions were held to only 183 yards on the day; Wolverine running back Karan Higdon ran for 132 yards; Michigan QB Shea Patterson threw for 144 yards.
The loss will probably take Penn State out of the national rankings, as they have gone 2-3 in their last five games. It will also probably put Michigan in the top four teams in the playoff hunt, as #3 LSU’s loss to #1 Alabama will likely drop them from the top four in the CFP rankings.
#4 Notre Dame (9-0) 31 Northwestern (5-4) 21
In the final out of conference match for the Big Ten in 2018, the Northwestern Wildcats hosted #4 Notre Dame. What looked early on as a blowout turned out to be nothing but a nervous evening for Fighting Irish. Notre Dame led by as much as 21-7 early in the fourth quarter, but a pair of touchdowns by the Wildcats made it 24-21 mid-way through the fourth. Notre Dame put it away running 23 yards for a touchdown to seal the game for the Irish.
Wisconsin (6-3) 31 Rutgers (1-8) 17
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor ran for well over 200 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Badger ground game killed the Scarlet Knights. Starting Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was pulled after the first half after a concern regarding a possible concussion. Hornibrook had just returned to play this week after suffering a concussion against Illinois on October 20. He was relieved by Jack Coan, who started for the Badgers in their loss to Northwestern last week.
Bright spots for the Scarlet Knights were Saquon Hampton’s stellar performance with two interceptions and was everywhere in the defensive effort, Raheem Blackshear’s 200 all-purpose yards, and quarterback Artur Sitkowski throwing for 261 yards with one touchdown against no interceptions, his second game in a row with no picks.
It will be interesting to see how the games played by Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern will impact the playoff rankings when they are released. Just squeaking by a two win Nebraska team certainly did not make Ohio State look like a CFP team. On the other hand, both Michigan’s big win and Northwestern’s close loss will have an impact upon the Playoff. Notre Dame, while winning, had a scare from Northwestern, and they may or may not drop a place in their ranking. A loss will probably not put Northwestern in the Top 25, but their first loss in five games demonstrated their strength. Finally, the Michigan Wolverines will probably break into the top four in the CFP hunt with their statement win over Penn State.
Michigan goes on the road and travels to Piscataway next Saturday to try to keep their ranking intact. Rutgers will have to bring their “A” game in order to make this a close game.