Down goes Michigan! CHAOS. CHAOS EVERYWHERE. The day of upsets that was in college football left no team or conference safe and Iowa’s stunner over the Wolverines has created a major shakeup in the Big Ten and the playoff race. After last week, there are about 1738 ways the Big Ten can play out and four conference teams have legitimate playoff hopes.
Perhaps no one is happier than the Nittany Lions whose Big Ten championship aspirations grow increasingly possible. With an eye on how it all can shake out, we break postseason possibilities down in shorthand, team by team.
Like always, individual rankings can be found in the graphic at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.
(Indicates 1st place votes) [Avg Rank]
1. Ohio State(6) [1.1] Record: 9-1 (6-1) Previous Rank: 2
The Buckeyes pounded Maryland Saturday, scoring 62 points in consecutive weeks, and watched Michigan lose their perfect season for a nightcap, so where is the celebration? Oh yeah, Michigan losing actually hurts the Buckeyes playoff chances because it more than likely keeps them out of the Big Ten title game even if they win out. Classic Michigan. On the flip side, there is a chance Ohio State could squeak in as a one-loss team despite not winning their division but the Buckeyes are certainly rooting for Penn State to falter down the stretch, which would turn The Game into a play-in for the conference championship.
2. Michigan (1) [2.0] Record: 9-1 (6-1) Previous Rank: 1
Michigan suffered their first loss of the season and if you ask around, the world is ending. Of course, that’s not true unless the Wolverines continue with the effort they gave in Iowa City including the atrocious quarterback play. I wouldn’t bet on it. The defense has also taken some flack after their showing in Iowa but as well as the Hawkeyes ran the ball, that vaunted Wolverine D still only gave up 230 total yards and 12 points. Not exactly a losing effort. Wilton Speight had likely the worst game of his entire life taking the entire offense with him and it still took a field goal as time expired for Iowa to pull the upset in front of their raucous home crowd under the lights making Michigan the third top four team to fall Saturday. Speight was injured and reports of his availability are conflicting but don’t expect a real drop off if John O’Korn becomes the Wolverines starting quarterback. Michigan will play MUCH better in every facet next week against Indiana as a tune up for The Game, which is Michigan’s entire season at this point. Win out and they’re still playoff bound.
3. Wisconsin [2.9] Record: 8-2 (5-2) Previous Rank: 3
The Badger’s ground and pound possession game, once again, was at its best. A week after not allowing Northwestern to hit the twenty-minute mark with the ball, Wisconsin limited Illinois to less than eighteen minutes of possession and a meager three points. Alex Hornibrook didn’t reach the century mark passing but he played mistake-free while watching his ground game, led by Corey Clement, rip off 363 yards and four touchdowns. The West is well within the Badger’s grasp and even the outside shot at a playoff berth if chaos ensues. After this week, nothing would come as a shock.
4. Penn State [4.0] Record: 8-2 (6-1) Previous Rank: 4
Penn State may have escaped late in Bloomington but the biggest Nittany Lion win took place in Iowa City where the Hawkeyes upset Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines. As it’s been reiterated numerous times, Penn State is now in line for a Big Ten championship game appearance if the Buckeyes hand Michigan a loss in The Shoe. When that same Michigan team embarrassed Penn State mightily to open conference play, no one envisioned the possibility of a New Year’s bowl let alone a Big Ten championship. Sitting at 2-2 with a coach potentially on the hot seat (despite refutations of the Nittany Lion AD), a bowl berth wasn’t even guaranteed. Now they just need to take care of business against two conference bottom dwellers and pray Ohio State can do what Penn State could not against Michigan. We’ll even try to forget that Saquon Barkley only managed 58 yards on 33 carries against the Hoosiers.
5. Nebraska [5.1] Record: 8-2 (5-2) Previous Rank: 5
The Cornhuskers finally slowed the bleeding and it’s no coincidence Tommy Armstrong had his best game in a long time. Two second half touchdowns from Armstrong were just enough to finish off Minnesota who was shut out in the second half but it came at the cost of ankle and hamstring injuries for Armstrong who may not play against Maryland this week. Nebraska can still sneak into the Big Ten picture if Wisconsin suffers a setback but they have to take care of their own business and a banged up quarterback walking into the ever dangerous Iowa City (just ask Wolverine fans) is not optimal.
6. Iowa [6.0] Record: 6-4 (4-3) Previous Rank: 6
You can’t give enough credit to the way Iowa played Saturday. The Hawkeyes punked Michigan in the trenches and imposed their will, something the Wolverines are not accustomed to. Akrum Wadley made plays all over the field and Iowa made just enough plays to deliver a walk-off for a juiced night crowd. It’s a shame it hasn’t been there all season but this life from Iowa is encouraging and with bowl eligibility reached, the Hawkeyes can try to play their way into a meaningful bowl game.
7. Minnesota [7.6] Record: 7-3 (4-3) Previous Rank: 7
Once again, Minnesota got away from their optimal game plan and it resulted in a loss. More Mitch Leidner and less running is bad for everyone. The Golden Gophers were shut out in the second half and let Tommy Armstrong have his best game since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Kidding (mostly).None of those are good things and they’ll have to rebound quickly while returning home to face the ever up and down Wildcats. It’s the Golden Gopher’s best shot to reach eight wins as a win in Madison to cap the season is not likely.
8. Northwestern [7.7] Record: 5-5 (4-3) Previous Rank: 9
It’s a shame Austin Carr is a senior because he is the best receiver nobody knows about. All he does is get open, averaging over a hundred yards and a touchdown a game with sometimes questionable quarterback play. Speaking of. Clayton Thorson had a career game passing but still managed to throw two interceptions, not that it mattered much against the always awful Boilermakers. Justin Jackson did his thing and did it well and the Wildcats will look to become bowl eligible this week against Minnesota. If they can’t get it done, Illinois will give them one last chance in a game Northwestern should handle without much trouble.
9. Indiana [8.6] Record: 5-5 (3-4) Previous Rank: 8
I’m sorry Hoosiers, you tried your best. Somehow Indiana was able to limit Saquon Barkley’s damage to just 58 yards on 33 carries. He did reach the end zone twice but he had by far his worst performance of the season, if not ever. Richard Lagow outplayed Trace McSorley and Devine Redding did work in the backfield. Unfortunately all the Hoosiers have to show for it is a fourteen point loss. Life can be cruel sometimes and it’s only going to get worse traveling to Ann Arbor to take on a very angry Wolverine team coming off their first loss of the season. This one could get ugly but as long as Indiana comes home and takes care of Purdue the following week, they’ll reach that coveted bowl game.
10. Maryland [10.3] Record: 5-5 (2-5) Previous Rank: 10
No team should have to play Michigan and Ohio State back to back and the Terrapins certainly didn’t come out on the good side of things. Another pounding sent Maryland to their third straight loss and there’s not much silver lining with a trip to Nebraska on the horizon. Perry Hills exited in the second quarter with another injury and they didn’t get much in relief. The Terrapins need to get healthy and regroup if they’re going to reach a bowl game under first-year head coach D.J. Durkin. Rutgers coming to town as a season capper always helps.
11. Michigan State [11.3] Record: 3-7 (1-6) Previous Rank: 12
They do exist! It’s hard to tell if the Spartans dismantling of Rutgers is a sign of life from Mark Dantonio’s squad or more of a continued indictment of how awful the Scarlet Knights are but Michigan State has their first conference win regardless, while those poor Chris Ash’s have now been outscored 127-0 by the state of Michigan. Woof. I’m going to assume the latter though Michigan State will take them when they come now, which hasn’t been often this season. Tyler O’Connor pitched a perfect game and LJ Scott led a three-headed monster in the backfield. The Spartans reward? A visit from the Buckeyes before ending the season in Happy Valley. WOOF.
12. Illinois [11.4] Record: 3-7 (2-5) Previous Rank: 11
Jeff George Jr. has not exactly looked like his father but at least Kendrick Foster looked like he belonged on a college football field. I’m not sure that can be said for many other Illini players. The Badgers took control in the first quarter and never looked back but an early field goal kept Illinois from being shutout. #silverlinings
13. Purdue [13.0] Record: 3-7 (1-6) Previous Rank: 13
Let’s ignore the game that just happened and be senselessly optimistic for a second. There’s about a 0.5% chance P.J. Fleck rows his boat to save you, Purdue. That’s the same odds the Boilermakers have of becoming relevant in the Big Ten anytime in the next decade. Good luck.
14. Rutgers [14.0] Record: 2-8 (0-7) Previous Rank: 14
127-0 deficit to the state of Michigan. I know I wrote that already but wound, meet salt. That’s just embarrassing. Scarlet Knights probably thanking the football gods they don’t have to play Western Michigan. Please leave the Big Ten for your own good.