Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
Each of these game recaps will be relatively quick and to-the-point because the larger importance lies in what each result means. So, each game will be recapped followed by a “What it Means” section that attempts to contextualize the results.
Iowa - 28 at Nebraska - 20
Nebraska had more than 36 minutes of possession and outgained the Iowa Hawkeyes 433 yards to 250 yards. The Hawkeyes were a stunning 0-9 on third downs. However, four Tommy Armstrong interceptions wrecked Nebraska’s chances and kept Iowa’s undefeated season alive. Jordan Canzeri was the tailback of choice for Iowa as he carried the ball 17 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
What it Means: Iowa finishes the regular season at 12-0 (8-0) and they will play in this Saturday’s B1G Championship game with a chance to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. Despite the impressive yardage totals, Nebraska’s mistakes (as has been the case all season) proved fatal and the Huskers lost their fourth game at home and fell short of bowl eligibility. Mike Riley’s first season in charge in Lincoln ended at 5-7 (3-5).
Ohio State – 42 at Michigan – 13
I expected Ohio State to play well and come away from the Big House with a victory but I certainly didn’t expect the blowout we ended up seeing. The Buckeyes outrushed the Wolverines 369-57 as they pulled away with a 28-3 second half. J.T. Barrett ran for 139 yards and three touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott backed up his comments about getting the ball more as he carried it 30 times for 214 yards and two scores. Jake Rudock threw for 263 yards before leaving the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury.
What it Means: The first round of Meyer-Harbaugh was a “knock-out” for Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes were able to pound their way to the blowout win and they finish the regular season at 11-1 (7-1) and in sole possession of second-place in the B1G East. It seems highly likely that the Buckeyes will be selected as an at-large team for one of the New Year’s Six bowl games (my guess is the Rose Bowl would love to have Ohio State).This season won’t end in a repeat national title but there’s still a chance to win 12 games and that is nothing to scoff at. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh’s first season in charge of the Maize and Blue won’t end quite as well as many had hoped about a month ago but Michigan is still 9-3 (6-2) and they’ll be playing in a New Year’s Day bowl (Outback or Citrus appear likely). This regular season has done nothing but amplify the hype that will surround the Jim Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor.
Indiana - 54 at Purdue 36
The Indiana Hoosiers (6-6, 2-6) controlled the game throughout and captured the Old Oaken Bucket for the third straight season. Purdue (2-10, 1-7) responded to the defeat by firing both coordinators as they head into their offseason. The Hoosiers are heading to a bowl game and Hoosier Huddle will have extensive coverage!
Maryland - 46 at Rutgers - 41
The game didn’t really mean anything to anyone other than the players on the field but at least the game was entertaining. Maryland’s Brandon Ross erupted for an 80-yard touchdown run to complete a 21-point comeback and secure the victory for the Maryland Terrapins.
What it Means: I imagine the fate of (now former) Rutgers coach Kyle Flood was already decided but if it wasn’t, Saturday’s loss sealed the deal. Flood and Rutgers AD Julie Hermann were both fired on Sunday and the search for their replacements has begun. I’d expect for them to hire an AD before making a move on the head coach. One possible candidate to keep an eye on, former Miami head coach Al Golden. Maryland had already fired Randy Edsall so Saturday was just about notching their first B1G win of the season. The Terrapins are actively searching for a head coach and I’d expect an announcement on their new hire to come sometime soon.
Penn State - 16 at Michigan State - 55
Connor Cook returned from injury and helped lead the Michigan State Spartans to a blowout victory and the B1G East Championship. The Spartans scored 35 points in the second half to pull away for the victory. PSU was without Carl Nassib and Garrett Sickels but this was still an impressive performance from Cook and the MSU offense as they racked up 436 yards and went 8-11 on third down. Cook was 19/26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns while Christian Hackenberg went 22/39 for 257 yards and two touchdowns (he also threw two interceptions).
What it Means: We’ll start off with the obvious, Michigan State has won 11 games (again) and they will represent the B1G East for the third time in five years. For all the talk about Ohio State and Michigan, the Spartans currently rule this division. This Saturday’s battle between the Spartans and the Iowa Hawkeyes acts as both the B1G Championship and a de-facto College Football Playoff quarterfinal. I, for one, think that is really cool.
Penn State (7-5, 4-4) continues to search for their first signature victory under head coach James Franklin. They fired offensive coordinator John Donovan on Sunday and they’ll hope to make a hire that will spark some life into the offense in 2016. They are a very clear fourth in the B1G East pecking order and it’s unclear what can be done to shake that order up.
Wisconsin - 31 at Minnesota - 21
The Wisconsin Badgers only passed for 79 yards but they were able to get their ground attack going (to the tune of 257 yards) and hoist Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Shannon Brooks was limited to only eight rushing yards on five carries. The Gophers turned the ball over five times and only had eleven first downs on the day.
What it Means: The Wisconsin Badgers finish the regular season at 9-3 (6-2) and in third-place in the B1G West. Despite season-long injury problems for Corey Clement and an offensive line that never really found its footing, the Badgers have a shot to win ten games if they can win another bowl game (they appear to be heading for a bowl game in the “Holiday Bowl” tier). The Badgers are far from overwhelming but this is a really good program and winning nine games appears to be the floor. The Golden Gophers finish off a rocky season with a loss that drops them to a disappointing 5-7 (2-6). Minnesota was never able to establish the run as they would like and their defense had too many injuries to ever reach its potential. On Sunday, Tracy Claeys opted to fire OC/OL coach Matt Limegrover and passing game coordinator/QB coach Jim Zebrowski.
Northwestern - 24 at Illinois – 14
The Northwestern Wildcats jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead and held on for a 24-14 victory at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Wildcats were led by Justin Jackson’s 172 rushing yards and one touchdown as Northwestern outgained Illinois 204-78 on the ground.
What it Means: The Northwestern Wildcats (10-2, 6-2) finish the season as perhaps the second-biggest surprise in the conference. The Cats aren’t even remotely good on offense but they are physical and, at times, dominant on defense. Actually, they are basically Iowa-lite. The main difference between the two is that CJ Beathard is a much more capable playmaker than Clayton Thorson at the moment. Still, this has been an excellent season for the Wildcats and they appear destined for a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida (think Outback bowl against someone like Tennessee). Meanwhile, Illinois finishes on a three-game losing streak and falls short of bowl eligibility (although they still may play in a bowl game) at 5-7 (2-6). The Fighting Illini surprised me a bit by removing the interim tag from head coach Bill Cubit. They only gave him a two-year deal and it will be quite difficult to recruit with such a short-term contract but he’ll have a chance to improve on this 5-7 season in 2016.
Bowl Games: The B1G entered the weekend with several schools at 5-6. The Nebraska Cornhuskers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Illinois Fighting Illini all fell short of their sixth win. The Indiana Hoosiers were the only team to get a W and reach bowl eligibility. That leaves Indiana as one of 8 teams with at least six wins (5 in the East, three in the West).