The train rolls on for Minnesota, and I have to think that after this weekend they are maybe, kinda, sorta the favorites to win the Big Ten West division. The Gophers looked strong, Wisconsin and Iowa looked beatable, and I may now be starting to believe in the power of the oar. Or whatever they call it up there in the Twin Cities.
No. 1 Ohio State 73-14 Maryland. This game went about as poorly as it possibly could have for the Maryland Terrapins, including having a recruit decommit during the game. The Ohio State Buckeyes took a 42-0 lead into halftime, and never looked back. Three OSU QBs combined to complete 26 of 38 passing attempts for 322 yards and four TDs, three of which came from Justin Fields. J.K. Dobbins ran for 90 yards and two TDs, Fields ran for 28 yards and one TD, and Master Teague added 111 yards on the ground. The Terps are now officially going to miss the bowl season.
No. 4 Penn State 26-31 No. 17 Minnesota. The surprise game of the weekend, the Minnesota Golden Gophers notched their first win over a Top-5 opponent since 1999—when the Gophers also beat the Penn State Nittany Lions, then ranked No. 2. Tanner Morgan was nearly perfect for Minnesota, completing 18 of 20 passing attempts for 339 yards and three TDs. For Penn State, Sean Clifford had a game to forget—completing just 23 of 43 attempts for 340 yards, one TD, and three crucial INTs. Needless to say, the result in this game shakes up the race for the Big Ten West and what had begun to look like a fairly predictable bowl pecking order for the Big Ten conference as a whole.
Purdue 24-22 Northwestern. The Purdue Boilermakers had to come from behind to win this one and keep their bowl hopes alive. The Northwestern Wildcats held a 16-7 lead at halftime, before crumbling in the second half. Purdue scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to take the lead, and then had to hit a 39-yard field FG with :08 remaining to seal the win. Aidan O’Connell completed 34 of his 50 passing attempts for 271 yards, two TDs, and two INTs for Purdue.
Illinois 37-34 Michigan State. From the category of things you just hate to see, the Michigan State Spartans blew a 28-3 lead against the Illinois Fighting Illini to lose in spectacular fashion. Trailing 31-10 after the third quarter, Lovie Smith’s Fighting Illini flipped a switch in the fourth and went off for 27 points. With :12 remaining, Brandon Peters tossed his third TD pass on the day to take the lead for good—the Illini’s first lead of the day. Peters completed 22 of 42 passing attempts for 369 yards, three TDs, and one INT, while Brian Lewerke completed 19 of 36 passing attempts for 251 yards, one TD, and three INTs. With the win, Illinois became bowl eligible while MSU needs to win at least two of their remaining three games to reach the six win plateau for this season.
No 18. Iowa 22-24 No. 13 Wisconsin. Watching this game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Wisconsin Badgers, combined with the result in the Minnesota/Penn State game, made me think that perhaps Minnesota is going to win the Big Ten West after all. Aside from Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 250 yards for Wisconsin, there wasn’t really much offense in this game. Wisconsin took a 14-6 lead into halftime, and then became stagnant in the second half. When the Badgers needed their defense the most, they surrendered long drives, chunk plays, and allowed Iowa to score 16 points to put the result in doubt late in the fourth quarter. For Minnesota to win the West, they need to beat just one of these teams down the stretch—and based on their performance against Penn State and this lackluster game, they may well beat both.