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Big Ten Conference Corner: That’s all folks

The regular season is now behind us, and we’re on to Championship Week and the bowl season

Ohio State State v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The regular season has concluded, and Minnesota’s improbable run to the Big Ten Championship is over. Despite that fact, the Golden Gophers have still notched their best season since 2003 and only their second 10-win season in the past 100 years (yes, seriously. After 2003, you have to go back to 1903).

No. 17 Iowa 27-24 Nebraska. This game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers was a bit closer than it probably should have been, but that’s often what happens when one team (Iowa) is basically locked into their bowl position and the other (Nebraska) is still fighting for a bowl slot. In the end, Iowa was able to do just enough to squeak by—overcoming some (in my opinion) questionable calls by the replay official on their final drive and drilling the game-winning FG after some Scott Frost shenanigans with his timeouts. Just about the only offensive stand out for either team was Tyler Goodson. He ran for 119 yards and one TD for Iowa. With the loss, Nebraska will miss bowl season for the second straight year to open the Scott Frost era.

Indiana 44-41 Purdue. The Indiana Hoosiers blew an 18 point lead with 3:37 left in the third quarter, but still came out on the right side of this double-overtime thriller against the Purdue Boilermakers. Aidan O’Connell threw for 408 yards, three TDs, and one INT, and Alexander Horvath ran for 164 yards and two TDs for Purdue in the loss. Peyton Ramsey threw for 337 yards and three TDs for Indiana, and Sampson James added 118 yards and one TD. Our friends over at Banner Society project Indiana will play Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. Purdue, meanwhile, is done for the year owing to their 4-8 record.

Northwestern 29-10 Illinois. The Northwestern Wildcats notched a pretty healthy upset win over the Illinois Fighting Illini in this one. Lovie Smith’s team was favored by 8.5 points before kickoff. Northwestern had a tremendous day on the ground, with Corian Azema rushing for 123 yards and one TD, Andrew Marty rushing for 111 yards and two TDs, and Drake Anderson rushing for 87 yards. Brandon Peters did not play for Illinois in the loss, and the Fighting Illini mustered only 160 yards of total offense. Northwestern finishes the year at 3-9, while Illinois finishes the regular season at 6-6. Banner Society project Illinois to play in the Quick Lane Bowl against Boston College.

Maryland 16-19 Michigan State. The Michigan State Spartans eked out a win against the Maryland Terrapins to become bowl eligible in this close, hard-fought game. For Michigan State, Brian Lewerke completed 30 of 41 passing attempts for 342 yards, but didn’t record a single TD and threw two INTS. Lewerke was just about the entirety of the Spartans offense, scoring their only TD of the afternoon on the ground. For Maryland, Anthony McFarland was just about the only bright spot on offense. He ran for 134 yards and one TD on the day. Maryland’s season is over, and Michigan State is projected to play Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Rutgers 6-27 No. 10 Penn State. The Penn State Nittany Lions apparently received sufficient motivation from James Franklin after taking just a 7-3 lead into halftime against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights that they managed a semblance of an offense in the second half. Nearly all of Penn State’s offense came on the ground, with Journey Brown rushing for 103 yards and three TDs while Will Levis added another 108 yards. For Rutgers, Isaih Pacheco ran for 102 yards. Banner Society projects Penn State will play in the Rose Bowl, but if Wisconsin plays well against Ohio State (or if Wisconsin somehow beats Ohio State) the Nittany Lions may be bounced to the Citrus Bowl.

No. 12 Wisconsin 38-17 No. 8 Minnesota. The reason why the Wisconsin Badgers will be playing the Ohio State Buckeyes is because they denied the Cinderella ending that the Minnesota Golden Gophers had been hoping for. After Wisconsin held a narrow 10-7 lead over Minnesota at halftime, the Badgers turned on the offense in the second half to beat the Gophers by three TDs. Jack Coan threw for 280 yards and two TDs for the Badgers, while Jonathan Taylor added 76 yards rushing and two TDs. Taylor also caught two passes for 39 yards and another TD. As briefly mentioned above, Wisconsin’s bowl picture looks like the Rose Bowl (requires a narrow loss to OSU) or the Citrus Bowl (if OSU beats them convincingly). Minnesota is projected to play in the Outback Bowl against Texas A&M.