Ohio State 28 Minnesota 14
For the second straight week, Minnesota was within a score of upsetting their opponent in the final 15 minutes. Granted, they entered the fourth quarter down 21-0 against the Buckeyes (as opposed to being up 23-21 at the same time against Michigan), but they still closed the gap before ultimately falling short. With J.T. Barrett suspended due to an OVI charge, Cardale Jones resumed the starting role for the Buckeyes and did nothing to prove he deserves to stay there. His stat line - 12/22 for 187 yards and one touchdown, 12 carries for 65 yards and one touchdown - is solid, yet underwhelming, and it doesn't look like he's going to find last year's magic anytime soon. Luckily for OSU, they have a talented workhorse in Ezekiel Elliott who continues to be a constant source of production as he rushed for 114 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.
It should be noted that this game was dead even, with arguably a slight edge to the Gophers, until the latter half of the second quarter. To that point, only one drive between both teams traveled more than 30 yards and ended in a missed field goal for Minnesota. Then, Vonn Bell grabbed an errant Mitch Leidner pass and returned it 16 yards to open the scoring and put the Buckeyes up 7-0. After a three-and-out by the Gophers, OSU traveled 77 yards in seven plays to go up 14-0 before halftime.
OSU added another touchdown in the third to go up 21-0 and held the Gophers to negative 12 yards before Mitch Leidner did his best Joey "Captain Comeback" Harrington impression by leading Minnesota to a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to narrow their deficit to one score. He provided all of Minnesota's offense on the day, finishing 27/44 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. However, the Gophers couldn't corral the onside kick, and Jones gouged Minnesota's defense for a 38-yard score to seal victory for OSU. For Minnesota, it was too little, too late. That final touchdown summarizes the game well as it was a tale of two ground games: the Gophers finished with a 33 net yards and zero touchdowns on 26 carries while the Buckeyes finished with 189 net yards and two touchdowns on 44 carries.
Iowa 35 Indiana 27
This year's Indiana squad loves hanging around with good teams before falling short at the end. The Hoosiers never let Iowa's lead extend bigger than two scores, and for most of the game, they kept it within one. Each team relied on stout rushing attacks to put up points. Iowa's backs combined for 234 yards and four touchdowns on 44 carries with Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. leading the way, while Indiana's totaled 227 yards and two scores on 39 carries. The difference came at quarterback as C.J. Beathard outplayed Nate Sudfield. Beathard tallied 233 yards and a touchdown on 19 of 31 passing, which, on the surface, isn't much better than Sudfield's 180 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 16 of 37 passing. However, that interception proved costly as it came near midfield with the Hoosiers trailing 35-20 and a little over five minutes left in the game.
It was a back-and-forth affair through three quarters, and the Hawkeyes entered the final frame with a narrow 21-17 lead. After the Hoosiers kicked a field goal early in the fourth, Iowa scored back-to-back touchdowns to almost put the game out of reach. Both took a little over three minutes off the clock and featured a healthy mixture of C.J. Beathard passes and short runs. The Sudfield interception came on the drive after Iowa's second fourth quarter touchdown and essentially ended the game even though Indiana forced a three-and-out, scored, and had a chance at an onside kick.
Northwestern 23 Penn State 21
This game looked like it would end with a score around 3-0 after the first nine drives of the game featured seven punts, a Penn State fumble, and a Northwestern missed field goal. Furthermore, the Wildcats lost their starting quarterback, Clayton Thorson, to injury late in the first quarter after he threw for 58 yards on 5 of 8 passing, and Hackenberg looked lost for the Nittany Lions. But Northwestern was the first to find offense, tallying two touchdowns in the first half of the second quarter behind stellar play by running back Justin Jackson. Jackson failed to score any points on the day, but setup both of the aforementioned scores as well as grinding out the clock before the Wildcats kicked the game-winning field goal. On the day, he rushed for 186 yards on 28 carries and caught one pass for nine yards.
Down 13-0 (the Wildcats missed an extra point), Penn State decided to join Northwestern on the scoreboard, and Hackenberg partnered with Saquon Barkley to narrow the deficit to 13-7 with 2:18 left in the half. However, Solomon Vault restored the Wildcats lead with a 96-kickoff return, giving Northwestern a commanding 20-7 lead at halftime. The third quarter started with four straight punts and a missed Wildcats field goal before Penn State scored on a trick play that watched wideout Geno Lewis throw a 32-yard touchdown to DaeSean Hamilton. Following the touchdown, it was more of the same - i.e. punts - until Barkley and Hackenberg combined again to lead Penn State to their third touchdown. Barkley performed better than Hackenberg on the day, rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while Hackenberg failed to find the endzone on 21 of 40 passing for 205 yards and one interception.
The ending was a story of redemption as Northwestern kicker Jack Mitchell booted a 35-yarder through the uprights after missing two field goals and an extra point earlier in the game.
Illinois 48 Purdue 14
Ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game at 67.2 in conference play, Illinois decided they'd beat Purdue by running the ball. And it worked in spades. Josh Ferguson returned from injury to rush for 133 yards on 12 carries, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn added 180 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Wes Lunt also had his way with the Boilermakers secondary, accumulating three touchdowns in the first half and finishing 19 of 33 for 169 yards without any interceptions. On the other side of the ball, the Illini defense stifled the Boilermakers until the game was well out of reach, surrendering only one drive over 18 yards before being up 41-7.
This game wouldn't be that surprising save for the fact that Purdue's offense lit up the Cornhuskers for 55 points and 457 total yards last week. Against Illinois, they finished with just 263 yards and scored once with the game still in reach. David Blough accounted for both Purdue scores, finishing with an ugly line of 29 of 47 for 174 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions as well as a rushing touchdown.
Oh, and apparently they play for a canon. I never knew. The more you know:
The hat and the cannon. They're friends and they live here now. pic.twitter.com/TjmCbZ5Crn— Illinois Football EQ (@ILLequipment) November 8, 2015
Wisconsin 31 Maryland 24
The first sentence of ESPN's recap encapsulates this game without fault in less than 20 words:
At halftime, Wisconsin's leading rusher was a linebacker and Joel Stave had 20 yards passing along with an interception.
Going into the third quarter, this game sat tied at 17 with seven of Wisconsin's points coming off a 98-yard kickoff return by Natrell Jamerson and seven more coming one play after a 57-yard fake punt rush by Joe Schubert. Joe Schubert is the aforementioned leading rusher/linebacker. Needless to say, the Terps had the Badgers on the ropes.
That didn't change much in the second half either. Stave improved a bit for the Badgers - finishing with 188 yards, one touchdown, and one pick on 15 of 24 passing - and they scored a touchdown in each of the final two quarters. The Terps struggled behind Perry Hills - 6/16 for 107 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and 11 carries for -14 yards - leading to Caleb Rowe entering the game a couple minutes into the fourth quarter. He proceeded to throw an interception on his second drive before leading Maryland to their last score and narrowing the deficit to 31-24. In less than one quarter, Rowe managed to match Hills through the air, tallying 97 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 7 of 18 passing.
So down 31-24 with 2:39, Maryland attempts an onside kick, executes it perfectly, recovers it on the run, and looks like they're about to score an improbable, game-tying touchdown. Until the refs blow the play dead due to an offside penalty on a Maryland player nowhere near the play. If you root for Maryland, you're probably still going over the possible outcomes if your overzealous player stays back just a bit:
Nebraska 39 Michigan State 38
Neb > Mich St > Ore > Wash > USC > Utah > Cal > Texas > Okla > Tennessee > UGA > S Car > UNC > Duke > VT > Purdue > Nebraska. Good night.— Ryan Nanni (@celebrityhottub) November 8, 2015
By now, all of you have probably read multiple articles about the ending to this game. I'm not going to rehash whether this was a valid call or not. Every fanbase thinks their team get screwed by the refs more than every other team. Every fanbase has members that like to break out the tinfoil hat now and then. Good or bad call, Michigan State let a horrible Nebraska team hang around for far too long, and it bit them in the behind. Their secondary disintegrated completely, and they made many boneheaded decisions late in the game that left many MSU fans questioning the intelligence of their coaching staff.
Connor Cook looked as good as ever against the Cornhuskers: 23/37 for 335 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Also, Gerald Holmes had a solid game with 117 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. Here's the three plays that MSU ran up 38-33 with 1:47 remaining: Holmes one-yard rush, Holmes one-yard rush, Jamal Lyles rush for no gain. Jamal Lyles is a backup tight end for the Spartans, and they ran an end around to him on third-and-long while trying to run out the clock. All I can say is "What?" I understand running the ball to get rid of Nebraska's timeouts, but after two failed runs by their leading back, 1) perhaps you put the ball in your best player's hands, i.e. Cook and 2) why an end around to a backup tight end? If MSU doesn't win out, this one will sting for a while.
Before ending, I should give credit to Nebraska for taking advantage of MSU's mistakes and hanging in there. In an ugly season full of heartbreak, the Cornhuskers finally dished out some pain of their own. The oft-maligned Tommy Armstrong Jr. hit multiple critical throws late in the game and finished with 320 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions on 19 of 33 passing. He also rushed seven times for 19 yards and two touchdowns.
Ohio State at Illinois
As much as non-Buckeyes fans want to see an upset here, there's little chance of it happening this week barring some serious misfortune and/or luck. I don't even see Illinois hanging around in this one; it'll probably be over in the first half. The only way the Illini have a chance is if they repeat their rushing performance from last week at Purdue. That's not going to happen. J.T. Barrett likely stomps all over Illinois en route to facing the no-longer-undefeated Spartans next week.
Maryland at Michigan State
Copy above and change team names. Even though their undefeated season dissipated in the final seconds last week, the Spartans still control their own destiny. Heck, if they win out, they're likely in the CFP. I don't see the Spartans sliding down even further following the Nebraska loss and dropping one to a badbadbad Maryland team.
Purdue at Northwestern
The battle of two teams that edged out Nebraska. After an ugly performance last week, I don't see how Purdue takes this one unless the Wildcats collapse. Which is possible. This will be a good test to see if Northwestern has truly rebounded from the pair of blowouts it suffered at the hands of Michigan and Iowa. Can they return to early season form or will they struggle against an inferior opponent?
Nebraska at Rutgers
The Cornhuskers probably take this one following their stunning upset of Michigan State last week. It'll keep their bowl hopes alive, albeit unlikely as they face Iowa to finish the season. For Rutgers, they could still go bowling as well, and this will probably be their toughest test to end the season (they have Army and Maryland coming up). If Leonte Carroo returns - he's currently listed as probable - I think the Scarlet Knights have a decent shot to win at home.
Minnesota at Iowa
Can Minnesota beat a ranked opponent? Will no-longer-interim head coach Tracy Claeys earn his first victory as leader of Gophers football? Not this week. Not on the road against an undefeated, punishing Iowa squad. Claeys first win will come next week against Illinois, and the Gophers should have another shot at a ranked opponent (and bowl berth) against Wisconsin to finish the season. For Iowa, this kicks off a rather pleasant end to the season for them, with probably the "hardest" remaining game at Nebraska in the final week.