The BIG Blog: A Week of Big Ten Blowouts
Not much of significance happened in BIG football last week, so join me while I try to make it seem more interesting than it actually was so you keep reading.
If you enjoy watching teams really get stomped on, well then this was your kind of week. Ohio State, Northwestern, and Indiana (?) all posted wins by 38 points or more, and Penn State would have done the same without a late swoon. If you were looking for upsets, this wasn’t your week with the top 12 in the CFP rankings all winning. The only upset in the BIG was Purdue’s surprising win at Iowa, but who can figure the Hawkeyes out anyway?
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Here’s a few of the highlights:
Wisconsin won the week’s biggest game, 24-10 over Michigan in a predictable defensive slugfest. The Badgers stuffed the Wolverines’ powerful running game, holding them to 58 yards in 37 attempts, and knocked out QB Brandon Peters to add injury to insult. Most encouraging for Wisconsin was the way they cut down mistakes, committing only one turnover and four penalties, a performance they will need to repeat to have a chance against Ohio State in the BIG Championship game in two weeks.
The Buckeyes clinched the East Division championship with a 52-14 win over Illinois that really wasn’t as close as even that lopsided score indicates. Ohio State outgained the Illini 543-105 and had a 27-5 advantage in first downs.
Penn State stayed in the hunt for a New Year’s Six bowl game with a 56-44 win over Nebraska that was nowhere near that close. The Nittany Lions led 56-24 midway through the fourth quarter when the Cornhuskers finally got rolling, accomplishing nothing except covering the point spread. Saquon Barkley got Penn State off to a quick start with a 65-yard touchdown run 57 seconds into the game, the type of explosive play that has been largely missing in recent weeks.
Rutgers had been playing better, but they reverted to the Rutgers we are more familiar with in recent seasons (God Bless ‘Em) and absorbed a 41-0 shellacking at Indiana. The Scarlet Knights mustered only 190 yards of offense. To add insult to, well, insult, they also had to endure a 1:46 lightning delay which came with the score already 34-0 late in the third quarter. That’s got to be rough, getting your butts kicked and then having to wait almost two hours to go back out and have your opponent finish kicking them. At least it was done in relative privacy-an AP report estimated only about 200 fans returned after the delay.
There were some compelling candidates for worst offensive display this week, but I’ve got to give that booby prize to Minnesota. In their 39-0 loss at Northwestern, they gained only 182 yards, completed only two passes, and committed five turnovers. Instead of rowing the boat, I think the Golden Gophers pretty much sank the boat on Saturday.
Maryland was competitive at Michigan State, losing 17-7. The game featured steady rain that turned into snow and was enhanced by wind, contributing to a nightmare for Spartans’ QB Brian Lewerke, who went 2-14 for 20 yards in the air. Michigan State’s running game more than compensated, piling up 271 yards in the process of piling over the Terps’ run defense-one of the major issues Coach Durkin needs to address in the offseason.
LET’S GO BOWLING:
Here’s how the BIG teams stand regarding their bowl possibilities:
Contending for the playoffs: Wisconsin and Ohio State. Wisconsin has a shot if they win out. If Ohio State wins the BIG, they have a remote chance which would need plenty of teams ahead of them (the Buckeyes are #9) to lose. Both teams have clinched their divisions and will meet for the BIG Championship, but a loss by either team at this point ends their playoff chances.
Contending for New Year’s bowls: Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State. Barring a shocking loss at Maryland, Penn State should be a lock. If Michigan should upset Ohio State, that might get them in. Michigan State would probably need a few higher ranked teams to lose over the next two weeks.
Contending for a high second-tier bowl: Northwestern. They will be no higher than the fifth ranked BIG team, and five BIG teams will not make the playoffs and/or New Year’s bowls.
Bowl-eligible: Iowa, and the Hawkeyes will probably play in a higher level game than their record deserves because of how many fans they will bring with them.
Contending for bowl eligibility: Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota. Indiana and Purdue play each other next week, so the elimination of the loser from bowl eligibility adds a little spice to that contest. Minnesota hosts Wisconsin, which does not bode well for the Golden Gophers continuing their season.
Eliminated from bowl consideration: Maryland, Rutgers, Nebraska, Illinois. Amazingly, only Illinois was eliminated prior to this week, a reminder that there are TOO MANY BOWL GAMES! It also amazes me to see Nebraska football on the same list with Maryland and Rutgers.
This week’s big game is Ohio State at Michigan, on Fox Sports at noon. The Buckeyes have playoff hopes on the line, while the Wolverines really need a win here to settle down an increasingly frustrated fan base.
Ohio State has scored 48 points or more seven times this season. They are third in the nation scoring 44.9 points per game and fourth in total offense with 546 yards per game. Michigan is 83rd in the nation scoring 26.3 points per game and 101st in total offense with 360 yards per game. Michigan has stayed competitive with the 11th ranked scoring defense, but Ohio State’s is not far behind at 22nd.
These are the types of numbers that usually forecast a blowout, but the Wolverines have only been really clobbered once this year, the 42-13 loss at Penn State. Michigan still has not defeated a team with a winning record this season, and stands 1-5 vs. Top 10 teams under Jim Harbaugh. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, but if your goal is to be a Top 10 team, you have to do better than that. You also need to beat your arch rival, with Harbaugh has not done in two attempts, although in fairness last year’s game got a bit weird.
I don’t see either of those trends changing, even at the Big House. I’ll go with Ohio State winning 27-13.
At this point I don’t think Saquon Barkley or J. T. Barrett, or any other BIG player for that matter, has a serious chance at the Heisman Trophy. Barkley and or Barrett might get the invite to New York for the ceremony, but the award is probably Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield’s to lose. It looks like Mayfield is trying to do just that by repeatedly acting like a jerk on the field, but his numbers will likely save him.
Barkley broke Lydell Mitchell’s Penn State record for career touchdowns with his 39th on Saturday.
Northwestern’s Justin Jackson became only the second BIG player (Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne being the first) and ninth in NCAA history to record four 1,000 yard rushing seasons.
Maryland’s men’s soccer team completed an epic and surprising collapse by getting knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Albany. The Terps managed only two goals in losing their last five games and puts Coach Sasho Cirovski in the unaccustomed position of searching for answers this offseason.
Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @The_BIGBlog and reach me by e-mail at [email protected] I also hang out on the message boards, mostly in the University of Maryland & NCAA sections You can also go there to find the Deified Dozen football national rankings by the experts (?) here at BSL.
Next week I’ll look at what went wrong for teams that did not become bowl eligible and preview the Ohio State-Wisconsin BIG Championship Game and its playoff implications (if any remain). Until then, live large and have a BIG week everyone.
Jim Johnson is a life-long Maryland Terrapins and college sports fan and a proud U of Md. alum. Jim started writing about the Terps on his own blog during the Steve Francis season of 1998-99. He then moved on to cover ACC hoops and football across the Internet, adopting the moniker "The Courtmaster" and becoming a frequent "expert" guest on Bob Haynie's old WNST show and other sports radio stations across the country. You can find some of his classic (?) work on his old blog. Jim laid down his gavel in 2007 and is returning to sportswriting after a sabbatical he spent furthering his career as a non-profit executive and senior accounting professional, becoming an ordained minister, and gnashing his teeth/sulking about Maryland joining the Big Ten. He figured the best way to scratch his sportswriting itch was to dive in head first to learn about the Big Ten, the current teams, schools, and history, and share what he learns with our readers. Jim enjoys interacting with readers, exchanging ideas, and most of all having fun. You can chat with him on the message boards or by e-mail at [email protected]