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Posts Tagged ‘Ohio State’

Five-Spot Challenge 2014: Final Results

Monday, December 15th, 2014


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Congratulations to JustJeepGear.com for winning the final Five-Spot Challenge of the season. JJG’s deviation of 135 was 40 points better than runner-up boggie. JJG was the closest to correctly predicting Devin Gardner’s total yards, just four away from his total of 254. JJG also tied for the closest to the game’s longest touchdown, which was Ezekiel Elliott’s 44-yard run on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter. MichiganMack and Maizenblu62 were also only one away from that one. JJG wins the final $20 M Den gift card of the season.

Boggie was closest to Michigan’s total yards (372) with his prediction of 374. Kashkaav‘s prediction of 36 yards was the closest to the yards gained on Ohio State’s first possession (41). Kfarmer16 was exactly right with his prediction of 89 rushing yards for Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, although had Barrett not gotten injured on the first play of the fourth quarter, that total likely would have changed. Freezer566 was just one away from Dennis Norfleet’s longest return (29) with his prediction of 30, while GrizzlyJFB was just one away from Jalin Marshall’s longest return (23) with his prediction of 22. Finally, no one predicted that neither team would make a field goal.

Congratulations is also in order for kfarmer16, who won the season-long prize, a pair of tickets to next year’s home opener against Oregon State. While this season was a huge letdown, next season’s home opener should come full of hope, especially if Michigan is able to lure Jim Harbaugh away from the NFL. Freezer566 came in second, just seven points behind kfarmer16, while Hazel Parker finished third despite missing two of the 10 weeks.

No one correctly predicted the final score, though Hazel Parker was the closest with his prediction of Ohio State 38 – Michigan 28. Four of the 16 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average of two points, and the average score prediction among all of the contestants was Ohio State 38 – Michigan 18.

I will be in touch with each winner via email this week regarding your M Den gift cards and the grand prize tickets. I hope they can make for some nice Christmas gifts. Thanks for playing this season’s Five-Spot Challenge. We may hold some random challenges during basketball season, so stay tuned for those. Otherwise, the challenge will return next football season!

The weekly results and final overall standings have been updated.

The end: Ohio State 42 – Michigan 28

Sunday, November 30th, 2014


Garnder sportsmanship(Greg Bartram, USA Today Sports)

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was tackled behind the line of scrimmage by a trio of Michigan defenders. They all got up, but he didn’t. As he laid on the Ohio Stadium turf, surrounded by medical personnel, senior Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner trotted across the field to console him. The photo gained national attention as a grand gesture of sportsmanship amid a heated rivalry, but the act itself signaled a perfect representation of Michigan’s season.

UM-OhioState-small-final-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Ohio State
Score 28 42
Record 5-7, 3-5 11-1, 8-0
Total Yards 372 416
Net Rushing Yards 121 233
Net Passing Yards 251 183
First Downs 27 20
Turnovers 2 0
Penalties-Yards 4-38 9-84
Punts-Yards 4-165 4-196
Time of Possession 34:05 25:55
Third Down Conversions 6-of-11 7-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 0-0 5-41
Field Goals 0-for-0 0-for-0
PATs 4-for-4 6-for-6
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-of-4 3-of-3
Full Box Score

In his final game as a Michigan quarterback, Gardner completed 22-of-32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and gained 41 more yards on the ground. But his turnovers, the only two of the game for either team, both led to Ohio State touchdowns, which ultimately provided Michigan’s margin of defeat.

Gardner is a textbook example of the type of athlete Michigan — or any school — wants representing its program. His regular visits to Mott Children’s Hospital, his early graduation and soon to be Master’s degree, his selfless switching of positions twice in the same season, his sticking it out through two head coaches and three offensive coordinators, and finally, his display of sportsmanship in the final quarter of the final game of his career say more about the man and the future he will have than any on-field success could.

But fair or not, his performance on the field, which regressed from the point he took over for an injured Denard Robinson midway through the 2012 season through Saturday’s season-ending loss to Ohio State, will define his career in the eyes of most Michigan fans.

Michigan put a scare into the sixth-ranked Buckeyes, rebounding from a quick 7-0 Ohio State lead to score back-to-back touchdowns before Ohio State tied the game just before halftime. And after Ohio State took a 21-14 lead to start the third quarter, Gardner led Michigan right down the field for the game-tying touchdown. Ohio State took the lead for good late in the third quarter, but Michigan stayed within striking distance far longer than anyone thought they would.

The loss was Michigan’s seventh of the season, resulting in a third losing season in seven years, and effectively ending the tenure of head coach Brady Hoke. While Ohio State will face Wisconsin in next Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game and hope to gain a spot in the College Football Playoff, Michigan will turn its attention to a likely coaching search.

Gardner will hope to be selected in the NFL Draft next spring, but if he isn’t, he’ll have a Master’s of social work to carry him into his next profession. And he’ll have several single-game school records, the best offensive performance in Michigan-Ohio State history, and what is sure to be one of The Game’s most enduring moments to carry on his legacy.

M&GB staff predictions: Ohio State

Friday, November 28th, 2014


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Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win of the season against Maryland last Saturday, leaving the Wolverines in need of a win in Columbus for the first time in 14 years to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. Ohio State is in the hunt for a College Football Playoff berth, so it won’t take Michigan lightly. Can Michigan shock the Buckeyes, or will Ohio State continue its dominance? Here are our picks.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Ohio State
Justin 13 50
Sam 11 41
Derick 16 38
Josh 14 50
Joe 17 48
M&GB Average 14 45

Justin: Brady Hoke beat Ohio State in 2011, his first season as Michigan’s coach, but has lost the last two. Both losses were much closer than they should have been, which suggests that, even though Ohio State is the better team, Hoke has been able to get his team ready for The Game.

But no matter how ready Michigan is, it won’t be enough tomorrow. Ohio State can’t afford a narrow win since it needs to jump two teams in the next two weeks to get into the playoff.

Michigan’s defense ranks ninth nationally, but even if it contains Ohio State’s offense, the Wolverines’ offense won’t be able to score enough to win. Michigan has scored fewer than 20 points in seven of 11 games this season. Ohio State hasn’t been held below 21 yet and averages more than twice that.

Michigan will hang around in the first half, but Ohio State will blow the game wide open in the second and won’t let up. Quarterback J.T. Barrett will beat the Michigan secondary deep for a couple of big plays and Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott will wear down the front seven on the ground.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Sam: Ohio State 41 – Michigan 11

Derick:  Michigan unfortunately missed its chance to lock down a bowl game last weekend when it hosted a bad Maryland team on senior night. Now, it’ll take a mammoth upset against Ohio State, who is looking to qualify for the College Football Playoff with another undefeated Big Ten season.

The near-upset in last year’s game should be enough to keep the Buckeyes from sleeping on even this Michigan team. Ohio State needs to put up style points after trialing Indiana in the third quarter at home last week, so I think Urban Meyer will try to run up the score and pound his greatest rival.

Michigan’s defense has kept games close for most of the season, but this J.T. Barrett-led OSU attack is the best they’ll face this season. Is there a chance? The Buckeyes have faced just two defenses ranked better than Michigan’s in points allowed: A loss to Virginia Tech and an overtime win over Penn State.

Unfortunately, Michigan’s strength is not in the secondary, so Barrett can carve up Greg Mattison’s crew through the air. OSU will roll to a 38-16 win.

Ohio State 38 – Michigan 16

Josh: Oh, how I hate Ohio State. If there’s anything I hate more than Ohio State it’s Ohio State fans. Unfortunately, this century has not been very good to Michigan and aside from 2006 and 2011 Michigan hasn’t come into the game with much hope of beating a good OSU team in over a decade. This year will be no different. Yes, we can throw away the records when these two teams meet. Yes, there have been epic upsets by Michigan over highly ranked OSU teams. Yes, Penn State, Minnesota and even Indiana gave this Buckeye team a run for their money this year. And yes, Michigan almost ended Urbs’ 23 game win streak last year. But this Michigan team is, well I don’t know what this Michigan team is other than “not Michigan.”

J.T. Barrett is having one of the best seasons for a Big Ten quarterback ever. He is a redshirt freshman who was named the starter just weeks before the season. Coming into this season I didn’t think Michigan had a chance to win in Columbus, and that was when I thought we’d see marked improvement in player development and a competent offense. Now, I’m not so sure Michigan can score double digits.

This game is gonna get ugly and the rabid fans in Columbus are going to eat it up. They don’t care that Michigan is having a down decade (even though they used the “Luke Fickell isn’t a real coach” excuse when we beat them in 2011). Michigan won’t roll over and die, these kids will fight with all their hearts from start to finish. Sadly, they don’t have as much talent on the field and they definitely can’t compete with the coaching staff on the other sideline.

I feel bad for the seniors and I feel bad for Brady Hoke. Ending your Michigan career with a blowout loss to a hated rival is no way to go out. But the reality is OSU is the far better team, with a far better coaching staff and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach the entire game. But hey, maybe we’ll get lucky and 2014 will be like 1968 and we’ll get Bo 2.0 (Jim Harbaugh) after a blowout loss. I can dream, right?

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 14

Joe: The biggest game of the year is finally here and I’m thinking “UPSET”. Ya, I said it. “UPSET”. Unfortunately, I’m referring to the way my stomach feels during these games. This one will get ugly and out of hand by halftime. The guys will battle hard for Hoke and try to keep things close but won’t be able to contain Barrett. I think he runs wild in this one and will also hits some receivers on deep routes. As much as I want to predict a close one, I just can’t do it. The Offense has been horrible for a few months now and I can’t see things getting right this week. Not against a fired up group of Buckeyes.

Ohio State 48 – Michigan 17

Michigan-Ohio State game preview

Friday, November 28th, 2014


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For many years, Michigan and Ohio State ended the regular season with a clash that decided the Big Ten title. When the two rivals meet tomorrow afternoon in Columbus, they’ll both have something to play for beyond just bragging rights, but their goals couldn’t be more different.

Michigan missed an opportunity to gain bowl eligibility with a 23-16 loss to Maryland last Saturday, which means the Wolverines will have to beat the Buckeyes to extend their season. Ohio State, on the other hand, is still vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Quick Facts
Ohio Stadium – 12 p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Urban Meyer (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 138-26 (34-3 at Ohio State)
Offensive Coordinator: Tom Herman (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinators: Chris Ash (1st season)
Luke Fickell (9th season)
Returning 2013 Starters: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 12-2 (8-0 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: OSU 42 – UM 41 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 58-46-6
Record in Columbus: Michigan leads 27-25-2
Record in Ohio Stadium: Ohio State leads 24-21-1
Brady Hoke vs OSU: 1-2
Last Michigan win: 2011 (40-34)
Last UM win at OSU: 2000 (38-26)
Current Streak: Ohio State 2

Ohio State already has the Big Ten East division wrapped up, but trails Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Mississippi State, and TCU in the rankings. Only the top four will get in. Ohio State will get a chance for another big win in next week’s Big Ten Championship game, but if they struggle with a 5-6 Michigan squad at home, it would be hard to make a case for moving the Buckeyes ahead of any of those other teams unless they lose.

TCU took care of business on Thursday night with a 48-10 win over Texas, and only has Iowa State remaining. Mississippi State visits in-state rival Ole Miss tomorrow, but the Rebels have lost three of their last four after opening the season 7-0. Unless Alabama loses to Auburn tomorrow, MSU won’t reach the SEC Championship game. If the Crimson Tide can top Auburn, they’ll face Missouri or Georgia next week for the SEC title. Oregon, like Ohio State, faces a 5-6 team, Oregon State, and then the Pac-12 Championship game. That leaves Florida State, the reigning national champion and the only unbeaten team.

A lot can happen this week and next, but in order to avoid getting left out, Ohio State has to beat Michigan and look good doing it. Playoff committee chair Jeff Long started a controversy when releasing this week’s rankings by describing the committee’s use of “game control” as an evaluation metric, which is essentially rewarding teams for running up the score. A 42-41 win over Michigan like last year will not win Ohio State any points in that category, so Urban Meyer will look to keep his foot on the gas pedal and send Brady Hoke packing.

As fans on both sides are fully aware, anything can happen in a rivalry of this magnitude. Because of this, OSU fans are approaching tomorrow’s matchup with caution, despite having won 11 of the last 13. Michigan fans, meanwhile, have already set their sights on Jim Harbaugh and can’t wait until the game is over to close the book on yet another lost season.

Does Michigan have a chance to knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus for the first time since 2000? Or will Ohio State simply take care of the inevitable, ensuring Michigan a third losing season in the last seven years? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Ohio State offense: When Ohio State has the ball

Although they lost running back Carlos Hyde, Ohio State entered the season with high hopes offensively, mostly because of senior quarterback Braxton Miller who would be entering his fourth season as a starter. The two-time defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was near the top of most preseason Heisman trophy watch lists. But after re-injuring his throwing shoulder in fall camp, Miller was forced to spend the season on the sidelines.

Enter J.T. Barrett.

The redshirt freshman, who hadn’t seen the field since his junior year of high school thanks to a senior-year injury of his own, was thrust into action much earlier than expected. And while there were some early-season hiccups that resulted in a loss to Virginia Tech — which could ultimately cost the Buckeyes a shot at the national title — he has had one of the most impressive seasons in the country. The Wichita Falls, Texas native has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,658 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, and has rushed for 849 yards and nine scores. Two more solid performances and he will likely earn an invitation to New York at season’s end.

Barrett ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, first in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. He may not match Miller’s 2012 rushing total of 1,271 yards, but he has far and away surpassed Miller’s best numbers.

But it hasn’t been a one man show in Columbus. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott picked up right where Hyde left off with 1,061 yards through 11 games. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rushing with 96.5 yards per game and fifth with 5.9 yards per carry. He has topped 100 yards in five of the last eight games, including a 23-carry, 154-yard, two-touchdown performance against Michigan State.

Ohio State doesn’t have a receiver that ranks in the top ten in the conference in yards or receptions, but the Buckeyes have a group of very solid receivers. Senior Devin Smith is the big-play receiver, leading team with 610 yards on just 25 receptions. Sophomore Michael Thomas has 12 more catches, but five fewer yards. Both have eight touchdowns. Freshman Jalin Marshall has emerged as a threat as the season has gone on. He caught just six passes for 39 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games, but has 18 for 308 yards and four scores in the last six. Elliott has actually caught the second-most passes on the team (25) for 201 yards. Tight end Jeff Heuerman, who caught a touchdown against Michigan last season, doesn’t have nearly the production he had a year ago but is still a threat with 16 catches and two touchdowns.

The offensive line was a major question mark entering the season, but has progressed pretty well throughout and has had the luxury of starting the same group all 11 games. After giving up eight sacks in the first two games — seven in the Virginia Tech loss alone — the Bucks have allowed just 15 in the last nine games. Some of that has to do with the progression of Barrett, but the line has done its part. Left tackle Taylor Decker is the anchor alongside redshirt freshman Billy Price, junior center Jacoby Boren, redshirt sophomore guard Pat Elflein, and fifth-year senior right tackle Darryl Baldwin.

Michigan offense vs Ohio State defense: When Michigan has the ball

Last season, Ohio State’s defense didn’t do much to help its offense, but new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has helped shore it up. While it’s still not where Meyer wants it to be, it ranks 30th nationally in scoring defense (22.5 points per game), 41st against the run (147.8 yards per game), 15th against the pass (182.5 yards per game), and 19th overall (330.4 yards per game). It also ranks 18th in sacks (32).

It all starts up front for the Buckeyes with one of the best defensive lines in the nation. The group took a hit when last year’s sack leader, defensive end Noah Spence, was suspended for failing a drug test after last season’s Big Ten Championship game. Slated to miss the first two games of the season, he failed another test and was summarily suspended for the entire season. The other end, sophomore Joey Bosa, has been an absolute star, leading the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Spence’s replacement, senior Steve Miller has recorded six tackles for loss and one sack.

In the middle, Ohio State is led by senior Michael Bennett and junior Adolphus Washington. Bennett finished fourth in the Big Ten with 15 tackles for loss in 2013, but has fallen off that pace this season with 7.5 so far and three sacks. Washington has seven and 2.5.

The linebacking corps had to deal with the loss of Ryan Shazier to the NFL, but has developed great cohesion with the same three players picking up 32 of the possible 33 starts. Junior weak side linebacker Joshua Perry leads the team with 99 tackles to go along with 8.5 for loss, three sacks, an interception, and two passes defended. Redshirt freshman strong side linebacker Darron Lee ranks fourth on the team with 50 tackles but second with 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, and also has two interceptions. Senior middle linebacker Curtis Grant has 47 tackles, three for loss, and one sack.

The secondary was the unit that got torched over and over again last season, but has fared much better this year. Cincinnati and Michigan State both passed for over 350 yards on Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have held five of 11 opponents below 150 yards through the air. Redshirt freshman Eli Apple and senior Doran Grant are the starting corners and have five interceptions and 18 passes defended between them. Sophomore safety Vonn Bell is the team’s second-leading tackler with 68 and also has three picks, while the other safety, redshirt sophomore Tyvis Powell, ranks third with 57 and also has three takeaways.

Special Teams: The other third

True freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger has made just 10 of his 16 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 49 yards. Interestingly, he has yet to attempt a field goal between 30 and 39 yards or over 50 yards all season. He is 5-of-6 from 20-29 yards and 5-of-10 from 40-49 yards. Punter Cameron Johnston, on the other hand, ranks third in the Big Ten with an average of 43.6 yards per punt. He has downed 19 of his 31 punts inside the 20-yards line and booted nine of them over 50 yards with just three going into the end zone.

The Buckeyes rank 18th nationally in punt returns and 19th in kick returns. Marhsall ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 13.6 yards per punt return and has taken one to the end zone. Dontre Wilson ranks fourth in the conference with 24 yards per kick return — 0.1 more than Dennis Norfleet — but a broken foot suffered against Michigan State has sidelined him for the rest of the regular season.

Prediction

There are two likely scenarios for Michigan on Saturday. Either the team plays with nothing to lose, inspired by its soon to be former head coach and gives Ohio State a run for its money, or it packs it in at the first sign of distress and gets pushed around for 60 minutes resulting in the worst defeat in the history of the rivalry.

Michigan had no business nearly beating Ohio State last season, but came within a failed two-point conversion from doing just that. But heading into that game there was at least an indication that Michigan’s offense could outscore the Buckeyes. This year, however, Michigan’s offense has been stuck in neutral, failing to score 20 points in seven of 11 games. Ohio State hasn’t scored fewer than 21 points in a game all season and averages more than twice that.

The only hope Michigan has is if its defense plays its best game of the season, contains Barrett’s legs, and pressures him into mistakes that he — like any first year starter and freshman — can be prone to make. But that’s certainly no easy task and one that even Michigan State’s defense couldn’t do. And even if the defense can do that, Michigan will have to avoid costly turnovers that have plagued the offense all year. And even if both of those things happen, Michigan will need Dennis Norfleet to break a return that doesn’t get called back. In other words, Michigan needs a perfect storm.

Michigan has allowed just nine first half points in its last three games combined, and will hang with Ohio State early on. But Michigan won’t be able to keep the Bucks at bay for long, and if they can’t find the end zone themselves, will see the game slip away in a hurry. Expect a fairly close game at halftime that Ohio State blows wide open in the second half with a couple of deep balls to Smith or Thomas and the running combo of Elliott and Barrett wearing the defense down. Meyer goes for two at the end to get to 50 and earn style points with the playoff committee, Hoke is fired shortly after, and Jim Harbaugh comes home to reignite the rivalry.

Ohio State 50 – Michigan 13

Big Ten power rankings: Week 13

Thursday, November 27th, 2014


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East Division
1. Ohio State (10-1, 7-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 42-27 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (5-6, 3-4), 12pm, ABC

The Buckeyes got a real scare Saturday against Indiana, as the Hoosiers held a lead in the third quarter. OSU posted a late charge to win by 15, but the seemingly unbeatable OSU team from the last month looked vulnerable against the last-place Hoosiers. Ohio State is just a win over Michigan away from another undefeated conference season.

2. Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 45-3 This Week: Sat at Penn State (6-5, 2-5), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Michigan State kept rolling after the bounce-back win over Maryland last weekend with a 45-3 drubbing of Rutgers. The Spartans will finish the season in Penn State.

3. Maryland (7-4, 4-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Michigan 23-16 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (6-5, 2-5), 3:30pm, ESPNU

It wasn’t pretty, and they needed help from some mindless Wolverines penalties, but the Terrapins pulled out an upset win in the Big House to spoil Michigan’s senior day Saturday.

4. Michigan (5-6, 3-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 16-23 This Week: Sat at #6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1), 12pm, ABC

Michigan had a golden opportunity to salvage a bowl game from a crumbling 2014 season Saturday, but blew it with two penalties that called back a touchdown and kept a Maryland drive alive. Now a likely beat down in Columbus will cap off a losing season for Michigan.

5. Penn State (6-5, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 14-16 This Week: Sat vs #10 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Penn State falls in at No. 5, demonstrating just how weak the East has been this season. Penn State scored just 14 points and lost to an awful Illinois team on the road Saturday.

6. Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #11 Michigan State 3-45 This Week: Sat at Maryland (7-4, 4-3), 3:30pm, ESPNU

The Big Ten season can’t end soon enough for Rutgers, who suffered another enormous beating, this time at the hands of Michigan State, on Saturday. The regular season will end with a trip to Maryland.

7. Indiana (3-8, 0-7) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #6 Ohio State 27-42 This Week: Sat vs Purdue (3-8, 1-6), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Indiana almost did the unthinkable and pulled off the road upset in Columbus Saturday, but a late-fourth quarter collapse erased that opportunity and left the Hoosiers with just one last chance at a conference win: Purdue.

B1G East Week 13

West Division
1. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Iowa 26-24 This Week: Sat vs #18 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

The Badgers faced a tough challenge Saturday in traveling to Iowa City to face a desperate Hawkeyes team. With the lead in the West Division on the line, Wisconsin held off Iowa for the 26-24 win. Now a matchup with Minnesota will determine the West title.

2. Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat #23 Nebraska 28-24 This Week: Sat at #14 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Minnesota hung around all season in the West race, but on Saturday they made their first real move that turned heads by upsetting Nebraska on the road. Now Minnesota has given itself a chance to win the division with a game in Madison, Wisconsin on the horizon.

3. Iowa (7-4, 4-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #16 Wisconsin 24-26 This Week: Sat vs Nebraska (8-3, 4-3), 12pm, ABC

Iowa needed to win its final two games to win the West Division, and fell just two points short of keeping those hopes alive against Wisconsin Saturday. Now the season finale is a battle for third place with the Cornhuskers.

4. Nebraska (8-3, 4-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #25 Minnesota 24-28 This Week: Sat vs Iowa (7-4, 4-3), 12pm, ABC

Nebraska’s season did a complete U-turn in the last two weeks, as it saw Big Ten championship aspirations crumble after loses to both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Now the Cornhuskers have to avoid a third straight loss against Iowa to finish in the top three in the West.

5. Northwestern (5-6, 3-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 38-14 This Week: Sat vs Illinois (5-6, 2-5), 12pm, ESPNU

This final two-game stretch for Northwestern is one of the quietest stories that should be a big deal in the Big Ten. With a 3-6 record heading into a game against nationally-ranked Notre Dame, the Wildcats’ bowl chances looked almost laughable. Now, after a second straight win, only 2-5 Illinois stands in the way of Northwestern’s postseason aspirations.

6. Illinois (5-6, 2-5) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 16-14 This Week: Sat at Northwestern (5-6, 3-4), 12pm, ESPNU

Illinois kept Penn State’s nightmare season going Saturday by holding the Nittany Lions to 14 points for its second Big Ten win. Now the Illini can qualify for a bowl game with a win over Northwestern this weekend.

7. Purdue (3-8, 1-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Northwestern 14-38 This Week: Sat at Indiana (3-8, 0-7), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Since losing by just one in Minnesota five weeks ago, Purdue has lost three straight games by at least 18 points. The season ends with a rivalry game against Indiana, the Big Ten’s other last-place team.

B1G West Week 13

Five-Spot Challenge: Ohio State

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014


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Sorry for the delay in getting this week’s Five-Spot Challenge posted. Two basketball games to start the week got us behind. But congratulations to Bigboyblue for picking up his second win of the season with a deviation of 136.5, topping Jaeschke by four. Bigboyblue was the closest to Michigan’s longest pass (23 yards) with his prediction of 22. He wins a $20 gift card to The M Den.

Last week’s winner, Freezer566, was the closest to correctly predicting Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown’s total yards. His prediction of 250 was just two away. He was also the closest to correctly predicting the minutes until Michigan’s first touchdown. Michigan scored at the 10:25 mark in the third quarter (34.5 minutes into the game). Freezer566 predicted 35. Four contestants — MichiganMack, Hazel Parker, chris12qb, and Jaeschke — correctly predicted that Devin Gardner would score Michigan’s first touchdown. Four others predicted a touchdown pass from Gardner to Devin Funchess, and thus, were just one away. Finally, first time contestant Ray Weatherford was the closest to the total combined made field goals by both teams. His prediction of 167 was just 14 away from the actual total of 181.

Seventeen of the 18 contestants picked Michigan to win by an average score of Michigan 24 – Maryland 16, which was almost the exact reverse of the actual score of Maryland 23 – Michigan 16. MichiganMack and kashkaav each were correct in their predictions that Michigan would score 16 points, but neither tabbed Maryland’s score correctly.

The weekly results and overall standings have been updated. Unless Michigan beats Ohio State and gains bowl eligibility this will be the final Five-Spot Challenge of the season. All M Den gift cards will be sent out next week to those who have not received them yet.

Here are this week’s picks. As is our custom, we have added a couple more questions for The Game. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

First Look: Ohio State

Monday, November 24th, 2014


FirstLook-OhioState

Michigan was unable to pick up its sixth win on Saturday, falling to Maryland 23-16. That leaves one final chance to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a losing season. Unfortunately, that game is in Columbus where Michigan hasn’t won since 2000. Normally, the week of the Michigan-Ohio State game is an exciting one that fans on both sides look forward to all week. But it has never felt so hollow than it does now. Let’s take a look at how the teams compare.

Ohio State Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Ohio State | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 44.3 | 20.3 5 | 111
22.5 | 20.6 30 | 21
Rushing Yards 2,856 | 1,833 1,626 | 1,179
Rush Avg. Per Game 259.6 | 166.6 13 | 61
147.8 | 107.2 41 | 9
Avg. Per Rush 5.6 | 4.7
4.1 | 2.9
Passing Yards 2,769 | 1,791 2,008 | 2,141
Pass Avg. Per Game 251.7 | 162.8 48 | 113 182.5 | 194.6 15 | 23
Total Offense 5,625 | 3,624 3,634 | 3,320
Total Off Avg. Per Game 511.4 | 329.5 10 | 114 330.4 | 301.8 19 | 9
Kick Return Average 23.7 | 19.9 18 | 82 17.8 | 21.7 15 | 81
Punt Return Average 12.0 | 6.8 19 | 85 6.0 | 12.8 44 | 116
Avg. Time of Possession 31:59 | 30:35 20 | 46
28:01 | 29:25
3rd Down Conversion Pct 53.0% | 38.0% 3 | 81
36.7% | 37.0% 40 | 42
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 23-156 | 20-130
T68 | T54
32-219 | 29-248
T18 | T30
Touchdowns Scored 65 | 25
32 | 25
Field Goals-Attempts 10-16 | 15-21
8-13 | 18-22
Red Zone Scores (47-57)82%|(29-33)88% T67 | T30
(27-33)82%|(31-38)82% T56 | 51
Red Zone Touchdowns (40-57)70%|(20-33)61% (22-33)67%|(18-38)47%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .542 | -.241
11 | 94
-.435 | -.295 18 | 35

Ohio State clinched the Big Ten East division with a 42-27 win over Indiana on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes can afford to take this week lightly. Aside from it being The Game, Ohio State still has a chance to make the College Football Playoff. Currently ranked sixth, and with only one team — Florida State — undefeated, the Buckeyes need all the style points they can get. Despite winning by 15 this past Saturday, the fact that they trailed Indiana — the Big Ten’s only winless team — until late in the third quarter, didn’t win them any style points. The Bucks have just two games remaining — Michigan and the Big Ten title game — to jump at least two of Alabama, Oregon, Mississippi State, and TCU and fend off Baylor.

Ohio State’s offense will be the best Michigan has faced this season. Only Baylor (50.0), TCU (45.9), Oregon (45.8), and Marshall (44.9) average more points per game than the Buckeyes (44.3). In fact, they’ve been held below 30 just once and below 40 just three times. The fewest points they’ve scored all season came in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2. Michigan has scored fewer than that in seven of 11 games. Following the Week 2 loss, Ohio State averaged 51.3 points over the next seven games.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 at Navy W 34-17
Sept. 6 Virginia Tech L 21-35
Sept. 13 Kent State W 66-0
Sept. 27 Cincinnati W 50-28
Oct. 4 at Maryland W 52-24
Oct. 18 Rutgers W 56-17
Oct. 25 at Penn State W 31-24 2OT
Nov. 1 Illinois W 55-14
Nov. 8 at #8 Michigan State W 49-37
Nov. 15 at #25 Minnesota W 31-24
Nov. 22 Indiana W 42-27
Nov. 29 Michigan

The catalyst has been redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who ranks 12th nationally in total offense (318.8 yards per game) — one spot ahead of Florida State quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The combination of Barrett’s rushing ability and running back Ezekiel Elliott has Ohio State’s run game ranked 13th nationally. Elliott is already over 1,000 yards and Barrett is 151 yards away.

The OSU passing game is slightly less potent — 48th nationally — but has two very talented receivers in Michael Thomas and Devin Smith, a rising star in Jalin Marshall, and a solid tight end in Jeff Heuerman. And despite being a first-year starter, Barrett has 33 touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions.

Put together, Ohio State’s offense ranks 10th nationally in yards per game (511.4). Michigan’s ranks 114th, or 12th-to-last. The Buckeyes convert 53 percent of their third downs, which ranks third nationally.

Defensively, Ohio State is slightly worse than Michigan, but not nearly as bad as last season. The 22.5 points allowed per game are two more than Michigan and rank 30th nationally. Michigan State put up 37 points, which is the OSU has allowed. Only one — Kent State — was held to single digits and only four have been held below 20.

Ohio State’s rush defense ranks 41st, allowing 147.8 yards per game, about 40 more than Michigan allows. Some of that is a result of playing Navy’s triple-option attack that racked up 370 rushing yards in Week 1, but Indiana rushed for 281 last week.

The pass defense is better, ranking 15th nationally with 182.5 yards allowed per game. Again, some of that is a result of playing Navy, which attempted just four passes for 20 yards. But Michigan State passed for 358 and Cincinnati for 352, so the Buckeyes can be vulnerable through the air.

Altogether, Ohio State’s defense ranks 19th nationally. Michigan’s ranks ninth. Despite a defensive line that most considered the best in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country this season, OSU has just three more sacks than Michigan through 11 games. In addition, OSU isn’t as good at keeping opponents out of the end zone once they reach the red zone. The Bucks allow 67 percent of red zone trips to result in touchdowns, compared to 47 percent allowed by Michigan.

Special teams is a big strength of Ohio State as they rank 18th nationally in kick returns and 19th in punt returns. Comparatively, Michigan ranks 82nd and 85th. OSU also ranks 15th in kick return defense and 44th in punt return defense compared to Michigan’s 81st and 116th.

Everything about this game suggests a Buckeye blowout. The way the season has gone many Michigan fans would be okay with that being the final nail in Brady Hoke’s coaching coffin. But perhaps Hoke can rally the troops to make one final stand the way they nearly did a year ago. It’s unlikely, but that’s why they play the game.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
J.T. Barrett 190-293 2,658 33 10 241.6
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Ezekiel Elliott 180 1,061 8 65 5.9
J.T. Barrett (QB) 156 849 9 86 5.4
Curtis Samuel 51 354 4 34 6.9
Cardale Jones (QB) 24 188 0 21 7.8
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Michael Thomas 37 605 8 79 55.0
Devin Smith 25 610 8 80 55.5
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) 25 201 0 22 18.3
Jalin Marshall 24 347 6 57 31.5
Jeff Heuerman (TE) 16 194 2 32 19.4
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
Joshua Perry 58 41 99 8.5-31 3.0-18 (1 INT)
Vonn Bell 38 24 62 1.0-2 0-0 (3 INT, 8 PD)
Darron Lee 33 17 50 11.5-48 4.5-34 (2 INT)
Joey Bosa (DE) 27 16 43 18.0-102 11.5-84
Adolphus Washington 18 18 36 7.0-23 2.5-13
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Sean Neurnberger 10 16 49 65 65
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Cameron Johnston 31 1,351 43.6 19 9
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Ohio State in the coming days.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (9-1, 6-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat #25 Minnesota 31-24 This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-7, 0-6), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Ohio State maintained the inside track to the Big Ten title game by outlasting a scrappy Minnesota team in the snowy conditions of Minneapolis. The Buckeyes have their eyes on a Big Ten championship and a spot in the first college football playoff.

2. Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Maryland 37-15 This Week: Sat vs Rutgers (6-4, 2-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

A night game on the road after a disappointing loss could have turned into a disaster for the Spartans, but they took care of Maryland with ease and kept their slim hopes at a title alive.

3. Michigan (5-5, 3-3) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Maryland (6-4, 3-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

During the bye week, Michigan watched its in-state rival draw up a perfect script for beating Maryland. If the Wolverines can take care of the Terps on Senior Day, it’ll mean a trip to a bowl game next month.

4. Maryland (6-4, 3-3) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #12 Michigan State 15-37 This Week: Sat at Michigan (5-5, 3-3), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland blew its final chance to pick up a statement win Saturday, when they were handled by the Spartans during a black out in their own stadium. Now third place in the East is up for grabs in Ann Arbor.

5. Penn State (6-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Temple 30-13 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-6, 1-5), 12pm, ESPN2

Penn State finally qualified for a bowl game with a second straight win Saturday, beating Temple to move to 6-4. The Nittany Lions will count on their defense to assure themselves a winning record against Illinois this weekend.

6. Rutgers (6-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 45-23 This Week: Sat at #11 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Fans of the Scarlett Knights were starting to get a little uncomfortable after the team’s three-game losing streak put their bowl chances in jeopardy. But a win over Indiana but those worries at bay as Rutgers draws the unenviable Week 13 task of traveling to East Lansing.

7. Indiana (3-7, 0-6) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Rutgers 23-45 This Week: Sat at #6 Ohio State (9-1, 6-0), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Everyone knew it was going to happen, but a loss on Saturday made it official: Indiana will not go bowling this year. Injuries to their top two quarterback options have sunk a Hoosiers’ offense that carried the team through the first half of the season.

B1G East Week 12

West Division
1. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat #16 Nebraska 59-24 This Week: Sat at Iowa (7-3, 4-2), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Wisconsin made a huge statement Saturday when it welcomed Nebraska to town and waxed the Cornhuskers 59-24. Melvin Gordon stole the show, rushing for an NCAA record 408 yards en route to four scores.

2. Minnesota (7-3, 4-2) – Even
Last Week: Lost to #8 Ohio State 24-31 This Week: Sat at #23 Nebraska (8-2, 4-2), 12pm, ESPN

Minnesota hung with the only undefeated team in the Big Ten all game Saturday, but just couldn’t conjure up enough offense to pull the upset. The Gophers still control their own destiny in the West, as trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin loom.

3. Iowa (7-3, 4-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Illinois 30-14 This Week: Sat vs #16 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1), 3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2

Iowa bounced back from a loss to Minnesota by beating up on the Illini 30-14. Now, if Iowa can beat Wisconsin and Nebraska at home to finish the season, it’ll be just a Gophers loss away from winning the West.

4. Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) – Down 3
Last Week: Lost to #20 Wisconsin 24-59 This Week: Sat vs #25 Minnesota (7-3, 4-2), 12pm, ESPN

The whole country saw Nebraska play punching bag for the Badgers Saturday. The Cornhuskers were exposed as pretenders in the Big Ten and still have no quality wins to beef up their resume.

5. Northwestern (4-6, 2-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #18 Notre Dame 43-40 OT This Week: Sat at Purdue (3-7, 1-5), 12pm, ESPNU

Just when it looked like Northwestern had hit rock bottom after a 10-9 home loss to Michigan, the Wildcats came out of nowhere to upset a ranked Notre Dame team. Now only games against Purdue and Illinois, the two worst teams in the West, stand between Northwestern and the postseason.

6. Illinois (4-6, 1-5) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 14-30 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (6-4, 2-4), 12pm, ESPN2

Illinois got pounded again Saturday, this time at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Now Penn State visits the Illini for Senior Night.

7. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) – Down 2
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Northwestern (4-6, 2-4), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue took another bye week this weekend to think about its current four-game losing streak. Last time the Boilermakers came out of a bye they got crushed by 21 points on the road.

B1G West Week 12

Big Ten power rankings: Week 11

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Ohio State (8-1, 5-0) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat #8 Michigan State 49-37 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (7-2, 4-1), 12pm, ABC

J.T. Barrett’s improvement over the course of the regular season is a real testament to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff. The freshman looked lost in the spread offense early in the season, but has now led the Buckeyes to 49 or more points in six of their last seven games. With the win over Michigan State, Ohio State will likely represent the East Division in Indianapolis, barring an implosion in its final three games.

2. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #14 Ohio State 37-49 This Week: Sat at Maryland (6-3, 3-2), 8pm, Big Ten Network

Does the loss to Ohio State make this season a failure for Mark Dantonio’s squad? The Spartans came into 2014 with the goals of winning the Big Ten and participating in the first college football playoff. Now, with losses to its top two opponents, Michigan State has only one impressive win: Against Nebraska.

3. Michigan (5-5, 3-3) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 10-9 This Week: Bye (11/22 vs Maryland)

If there’s ever such a thing as an ugly win, Michigan mastered the art in Evanston Saturday. The Wolverines needed a missed field goal, three turnovers and two fourth down stops to stay in the game, and then Trevor Siemian fell backwards on the game-deciding two-point conversion. But at the end of the day, Michigan has its first two-game winning streak of the year and a real chance to gain bowl eligibility after the bye week.

4. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #8 Michigan State (7-2, 4-1), 8pm, Big Ten Network

Maryland had a bye week to prepare for Michigan State’s trip to Byrd Stadium, and the Spartan loss won’t do the Terps any favors. An angry Spartan team will be visiting Maryland Saturday night as Maryland looked to take over second place in the East.

5. Penn State (5-4, 2-4) – Even
Last Week: Beat Indiana 13-7 This Week: Sat vs Temple (5-4, 3-3), 12pm, ESPN2

Saturday was the perfect remedy for Penn State’s four-game losing streak: A matchup with Big Ten bottom-feeder Indiana. The Nittany Lions struggled to move the ball, putting up just 13 points on Indiana’s atrocious defense, but allowed just one touchdown to pull out the 13-7 win. Penn State will need a win against Temple or Illinois to become bowl eligible.

6. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Indiana (3-6, 0-5), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

There wasn’t a team in the Big Ten that needed a bye week as badly as Rutgers did this weekend. The Scarlett Knights raced out to a 5-1 start this season before hitting their first Big Ten gauntlet stretch. Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin combined to outscore Rutgers by a total score of 135-41. Now Indiana visits in a game Rutgers absolutely needs to win.

7. Indiana (3-6, 0-5) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Penn State 7-13 This Week: Sat at Rutgers (5-4, 1-4), 3:30pm, Big Ten Network

Will Indiana pick up a conference win this season? It’s tough to say, as its best chance came at home against a reeling Penn State team Saturday. With a two-game road stretch upcoming, Indiana can look at the finale against Purdue as an opportunity.

B1G East Week 11

West Division
1. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat at #25 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

The biggest road trip of the season is coming up for Nebraska, as a win in Madison would all but clinch the West Division crown. The Cornhuskers’ best win on the season is against a solid Miami team at home, so this weekend will go a long way in determining if they’re the real deal.

2. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Iowa 51-14 This Week: Sat vs #14 Ohio State (8-1, 5-0), 12pm, ABC

Is there any question that Jerry Kill did his job during a bye week? After Minnesota dropped the ball in Illinois, it came back and rocked Iowa’s world at home. The Gophers put up a season-high 51 points on one of the stronger defenses in the conference to improve to 4-1 in the Big Ten. Now Minnesota gets a real test as it catches OSU off a huge win in what could really bring Kill’s team into the national spotlight.

3. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Beat Purdue 34-16 This Week: Sat vs #13 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), 3:30pm, ABC

Wisconsin cruised through a potential trap game Saturday, pounding Purdue 34-16 in West Lafayette with the matchup against Nebraska looming. This weekend’s matchup will decide the inside track for the ticket to Indy.

4. Iowa (6-3, 3-2) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Minnesota 14-51 This Week: Sat at Illinois (4-5, 1-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

The bottom of the West Division is so bad that the Hawkeyes get the nod at No. 4 simply for being bowl eligible. A 37-point loss to Minnesota didn’t technically change Iowa’s goal of winning the Big Ten, but there’s no doubt the Hawkeyes simply don’t have it this season.

5. Illinois (3-6, 1-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Iowa (6-3, 3-2), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Illinois had a bye week after being pounded by the Buckeyes in Columbus. The reeling Hawkeyes come to town next.

6. Northwestern (3-6, 2-4) – Up 1
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 9-10 This Week: Sat at #10 Notre Dame (7-2), 3:30pm, NBC

Northwestern played one of the ugliest games of the season Saturday, scoring just nine points and handing the game to Michigan by failing on a predictable two-point conversion. Now a trip to Notre Dame will likely be loss No. 5 in a row.

7. Purdue (3-7, 1-5) – Down 2
Last Week: Lost to #25 Wisconsin 16-34 This Week: Bye (11/22 vs Northwestern)

Purdue posted almost identical losses to start November, falling by 21 to Nebraska and 18 to Wisconsin. Now Northwestern will visit for what promises to be an unglamorous sixty minutes.

B1G West Week 11

Big Ten power rankings: Week 10

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014


Power Rankings_header

East Division
1. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs #14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

Since the start of the Big Ten season, the Spartans have been the favorite to represent the East Division in Indianapolis. The biggest hurdle in front of that goal comes this weekend against the Buckeyes.

2. Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) – Even
Last Week: Beat Illinois 55-14 This Week: Sat at #8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0), 8pm, ABC

While Ohio State didn’t technically have a bye week to prepare for this weekend’s College Gameday matchup like MSU did, a 55-14 waxing of Illinois took about the same effort. The Buckeyes bounced back from a close time in Happy Valley to score at least 50 points and win by at least 20 for the fifth time in six weeks.

3. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) – Even
Last Week: Beat Penn State 20-19 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs #8 Michigan State)

If the Terrapins wanted to make enemies, they got what they wanted in State College last Saturday. After refusing to shake hands before the coin toss, Maryland edged out a 20-19 win against their rivals to improve their record to 2-35-1. The Terps are now 3-2 in their first Big Ten campaign.

4. Michigan (4-5, 2-3) – Up 2
Last Week: Beat Indiana 34-10 This Week: Sat at Northwestern (3-5, 2-3), 3:30pm, ESPN2

Michigan has arguably over-performed in four straight weeks since getting blown out at home against Minnesota. A win over Indiana during homecoming kept Brady Hoke’s bowl aspirations alive, but the Wolverines will need wins in the next two weeks before heading to Columbus.

5. Penn State (4-4, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Maryland 19-20 This Week: Sat at Indiana (3-5, 0-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Remember when Penn State was 4-0? Don’t worry, not many do, because Saturday gave the Nittany Lions a fourth straight loss, three of which came at home. Now if PSU doesn’t make a bowl game, it won’t be due to sanctions, but an epic collapse. If the Nittany Lions don’t win their next three games, fans in Happy Valley will be calling for change once again.

6. Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 0-37 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs Indiana)

On one hand, Rutgers has been outscored 135-41 during its current three-game losing streak. But on the other hand, the Scarlet Knights have played three of the best four teams in the conference, and nobody expected them to contend, anyways. After the bye week Rutgers will face off with Indiana, a game that will decide its bowl fate.

7. Indiana (3-5, 0-4) – Even
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 10-34 This Week: Sat vs Penn State (4-4, 1-4), 12pm, Big Ten Network

Last year Indiana was terrible on defense but treated fans to an impressive offensive showing each week. Now, injuries and turnovers have taken even that away, and the Hoosiers are reeling.

BIG East Week 10

West Division
1. Nebraska (8-1, 4-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Purdue 35-14 This Week: Bye (11/15 at Wisconsin)

How good is Nebraska? Nobody really knows, yet. The Cornhuskers are 8-1, but their best win is over an unranked Miami (Fl) team. A fourth-quarter charge made the game against MSU look respectable, but Nebraska really hasn’t passed any tests this season, only several pop quizzes. After the bye week Wisconsin will welcome Nebraska to Madison for a potential Big Ten Championship play-in game.

2. Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) – Even
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 37-0 This Week: Sat at Purdue (3-6, 1-4), 12pm, ESPNU

On the surface, a 37-0 road win looks like a definite sign that Wisconsin has returned to form, but upon closer examination of the team’s schedule, there’s much left to prove. The Badgers’ best win is a toss-up between Maryland and Bowling Green, but both are greatly overshadowed by an Oct. 4 loss to Northwestern. Wisconsin should cruise past Purdue this weekend before the showdown with Nebraska.

3. Iowa (6-2, 3-1) – Up 1
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 48-7 This Week: Sat at Minnesota (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN2

Iowa is the only team that has a chance to make the Big Ten West race truly interesting. The Hawkeyes bounced back from a tough loss at Maryland by sand-blasting Northwestern 48-7 in Iowa City. If Iowa can beat Minnesota and Illinois on the road over the next two weeks, it will set up home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska to finish the season. In other words, Iowa’s Big Ten destiny lies in those final two Saturdays in Kinnick.

4. Minnesota (6-2, 3-1) – Down 1
Last Week: Bye This Week: Sat vs Iowa (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPN2

The bye week would have been much more fun in Minneapolis if the Gophers hadn’t surrendered their division lead by losing to last-place Illinois to finish October. Now, Minnesota faces a gauntlet down the stretch: Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. If they want to shock the Big Ten world, the Golden Gophers will have to earn it.

5. Purdue (3-6, 1-4) – Up 2
Last Week: Lost to #15 Nebraska 14-35 This Week: Sat vs #25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1), 12pm, ESPNU

Purdue fans have to be dying for their team to finally complete an upset bid. Two fourth-quarter pushes fell short before a 35-14 loss to Nebraska this weekend, and now the Badgers will travel to West Lafayette. On the bright side, Northwestern and Indiana round out the season.

6. Illinois (4-5, 1-4) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to #16 Ohio State 14-55 This Week: Bye (11/15 vs Iowa)

Illinois went back to playing Big Ten punching bag Saturday, losing by 41 in Columbus. The Illini’s last chance to play spoiler comes next weekend against Iowa.

7. Northwestern (3-5, 2-3) – Down 1
Last Week: Lost to Iowa 7-48 This Week: Sat vs Michigan (4-5, 2-3), 3:30pm, ESPN2

A three-game losing streak immediately followed Northwestern’s three-game winning streak that included an upset win over Wisconsin. Now the Wildcats will host their rival Wolverines Saturday in the kick-gate sequel that handed Chicago’s Big Ten team a triple-overtime loss.

BIG West Week 10