B1G Recap - Week 10

Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

Penn State - 21 at Northwestern – 23

Despite an injury to starting quarterback Clayton Thorson, the Northwestern Wildcats (7-2, 3-2) knocked off the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-2) with a late field goal from Jack Mitchell. Mitchell missed his first two attempts but he nailed a 35-yarder with under a minute remaining to seal the win after Penn State came back from a 20-7 halftime deficit.

What Stood Out?

Saquon Barkley continues to shine for the Nittany Lions. The true freshman running back carried the ball 25 times for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns came out of the “wildcat” formation which was used to great effect by the visiting Nittany Lions. However, as PSU was attempting to get one final first down that would probably have iced the game, the Barkley-led “wildcat” play was halted on 3rd and 1, Penn State punted and Northwestern eventually got into position for the game winning field goal. I can’t fault the logic behind putting the ball in Barkley’s hands though. He looks like he’ll be one of the top players in the B1G as early as next season.

What Does It All Mean?

The Wildcats have bounced back from a pair of blowouts (Michigan and Iowa) with a pair of two straight two-point victories. Northwestern isn’t going to win the West but they could very easily reach nine regular season wins and find themselves playing on New Year’s Day in a sunny locale. It would be quite an accomplishment for this program after a couple of rocky seasons. The loss has to be incredibly frustrating for Penn State fans as they continue to struggle to defeat quality opponents. Their wins this season have come against teams that will either miss bowl games or will just squeeze in with six or seven victories. Their losses have come against the three ranked opponents on the schedule. The good news is that they now have a bye week to get re-energized. The bad news is that their remaining two opponents (Michigan and Michigan State) will be the types of teams James Franklin has yet to knock off in State College.

Illinois - 48 at Purdue – 14

I guess it is safe to say that Purdue’s (2-7, 1-4) win over Nebraska was a “dead cat” bounce as the cat that is the Purdue football program under Darrell Hazell hit a tree branch and bounced a bit and then continued on the free-fall down the bottomless pit. Illinois (5-4, 2-3) didn’t turn the ball over five times and didn’t repeatedly give the ball to the Boilers inside of the red zone. As a result, the offense went back to sputtering and the defense went back to giving up a whole heap of rushing yards as the Illini steamrolled Purdue, 48-14.

What Stood Out?

Illinois, a team that was running the ball for the fewest number of yards in B1G play, churned out 382 rushing yards on 41 carries (9.3 yards per carry). Ke’Shawn Vaughn had 180 yards and Josh Ferguson returned from injury and ran for 133 yards. In total, the Illini outgained the Boilers 595 yards to 263 yards.

What Does It All Mean?

Let’s start with the positive. Despite quite a bit of offseason turmoil and the preseason firing of head coach Tim Beckman, Illinois has been able to muster a quality season. The Illini have some talent on defense and some explosive weapons on offense and they’ve cobbled together five wins with three games remaining. Their AD was just fired and the new Athletic Director will be charged with hiring the new head coach to lead the football program. Interim coach Bill Cubit could at least give him (or her) something to think about if the Illini can win one of the final three games and get to a bowl game. It won’t be easy (Ohio State, Minnesota and Northwestern) but they’re in better position than most would have imagined.

Purdue is now officially eliminated from bowl contention and the drubbing makes the victory over Nebraska seem incredibly hollow and fluky. The Boilers now travel to Northwestern and Iowa before hosting Indiana. The only thing they have left to play for is preventing the Hoosiers from winning the Old Oaken Bucket for the third straight season.

Iowa - 35 at Indiana – 27

Hoosier Huddle has all the coverage you need from another “close but no cigar” game against a Top 10 opponent for the Hoosiers.

Wisconsin - 31 at Maryland - 24

This game was not the least bit enjoyable for anyone that enjoys offense but the Wisconsin Badgers found a way to win (again). The Badgers are now 8-2 (5-1) while Maryland falls to 2-7 (0-5). Wisconsin was without running back Corey Clement as he is deals with increasing soreness following sports hernia surgery. They hope to have him back for their last two games after this week’s bye.

What Stood Out?

Neither team was able to exceed 325 yards of offense. The Terrapins outgained the Badgers, 316-305, but neither team will be pleased with the performance of the offense. Maryland still doesn’t know who their quarterback is. Perry Hills is capable of hurting opponents with his legs but he’s been stifled each of the past two weeks and he hasn’t proven capable of moving the ball consistently through the air. Caleb Rowe is the other option but I don’t think anyone (besides Maryland fans) is terrified of what he can provide. We all know the Hoosiers will almost definitely need to knock off the Terps to reach a bowl game so I’m kept an eye on Maryland’s last couple of games. One thing to watch out for is how the Maryland coaching staff is beginning to use the dangerous William Likely. Likely is a tremendous punt and kick returner but he also received three carries on Saturday. He led the team with 56 rushing yards (including a 43-yarder) and I think we may see more of it moving forward.

What Does It All Mean?

Wisconsin is now only two wins away from a highly improbable ten win season. The Badgers have a bye week and then host Northwestern and travel to Minnesota. They could certainly lose both of those games but they could also get them both and find themselves playing in something like the Outback Bowl. I know Wisconsin fans are probably used to playing in Rose Bowls but that would be a very successful campaign for a team that is so offensively-challenged. The Terrapins are simply playing out the string and it’s going to be interesting to see how mentally prepared they are in two weeks when the Hoosiers visit College Park. That game will be crucial for Indiana while Maryland will probably just be waiting on the season to end so that they can find out who their new coach is going to be. In addition, the Terrapins will have played Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State (this coming Saturday) in three straight weeks before hosting IU. Perhaps they’ll be mentally and physically beaten up? A guy can hope.

Rutgers - 16 at Michigan - 49

The Michigan Wolverines (7-2, 4-1) got off to a fast start and torched the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-6, 1-5), 49-16. After a couple of very shaky performances from the Michigan defense, the Wolverines looked much more like themselves as they shut down Rutgers for only 225 yards of offense.

What Stood Out?

I wasn’t surprised that Rutgers wasn’t able to move the ball or that Michigan blew out the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is a bad football team and it will continue to sting me that IU choked a lead away and managed to lose at home to them. I was surprised that Jake Rudock was able to complete 18 of 25 passes for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jake Butt had more than 100 yards receiving and Michigan ended up amassing 487 yards of total offense. We all know the Hoosiers have a porous defense and a very questionable secondary so I’m very concerned about the Wolverines new-found offensive explosiveness.

What Does It All Mean?

Rutgers now needs to run the table to reach a bowl game. That seems highly unlikely and I think it’s a near-guarantee that they’ll be looking for a new head coach after the on-field and off-field performance of Kyle Flood’s squad this season. The Wolverines come to Indiana before travelling to Penn State and hosting Ohio State. Michigan State’s loss to Nebraska opens the door a bit for the Wolverines to win the B1G East in Jim Harbaugh’s first season. If Michigan State loses to Ohio State and Michigan wins out (including a victory over Ohio State in what will be a truly raucous Big House on November 28), the Wolverines will head to Indianapolis as the B1G East champion.

Michigan State - 38 at Nebraska - 39

Where to start? Michigan State (8-1, 4-1) led by twelve points with less than two minutes to play and managed to lose by a point to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-6, 2-4). Connor Cook threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns but he was mostly off-target for a large part of the first half. Tommy Armstrong Jr. responded with 320 passing yards of his own including the game-winning touchdown to Brandon Reilly on a controversial play in the game’s final minute.

What Stood Out?

Put simply, the final minute stands out. Whether or not Brandon Reilly should have been called for “illegal touching” (initially, I thought it was a blown call but the B1G has said the officials got it right) is the first play to remember. The second play is the bad decision Connor Cook made and the clock management that cost MSU a chance to win the game with a field goal. Instead of throwing the ball quickly away or finding a receiver for 10-15 yards, Cook held onto the ball before ultimately chucking it out of bounds as time expired. The Spartans don’t have much confidence in their kicking game but Michael Geiger had already nailed a 46-yard FG and it would have been nice to see if he deliver more late-game heartbreak to the Huskers.

What Does It Mean?

Nebraska kept their bowl hopes alive (they must beat Rutgers and Iowa to get to six wins). More importantly, the Huskers won a close game and proved they are still a program capable of beating one of the conference’s elite. It’s been a rotten season in Lincoln but they haven’t given up on things quite yet. For Michigan State, this loss will sting for quite a while. They gave up a late lead, couldn’t stop Nebraska’s offense and left themselves with no margin for error the rest of the way. The Spartans can still win the B1G East by winning out and I imagine that would ultimately be enough to warrant a berth in the College Football Playoff if they knocked off Iowa in Indianapolis.  

Minnesota – 14 at Ohio State - 28

The Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) did enough to cruise past the Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-5, 1-4) but there was little to suggest that Cardale Jones is likely to see any more significant snaps the rest of the way as JT Barrett returns from his suspension.

What Stood Out?

The Ohio State offense struggled to find its rhythm with Jones taking the snaps. He was only 12-22 with 187 yards and one touchdown. He was able to take one 38 yards for a touchdown that put the Gophers away but this was not a game that will convince anyone that Barrett isn’t the better option. It will be very interesting to see how the offense looks against Illinois this coming Saturday with Barrett back on the field.

What Does It All Mean?

I don’t think this game meant much to be honest. Ohio State won in unimpressive fashion (again) but they don’t plan on playing with Cardale Jones as the starting quarterback at any other point this season. The “style points” don’t matter to them. If they keep winning, they’ll be in the College Football Playoff and they’ll win another B1G championship. The only problem may be that they allowed nearly 300 yards to Mitch Leidner but that’ll happen when you shut down the opponents running game and force them to throw the ball 44 times. Minnesota will now travel to another unbeaten foe as they take on Iowa. They will then host Illinois and Wisconsin and they need to win two of those final three games to reach a bowl game for new head coach Tracy Claeys.