What if Nebraska had been a Big Ten Conference member for the past 15 seasons and the 12 schools competed in two six-team divisions for a decade and a half? BTN.com partnered with WhatIfSports and Narrative Science to simulate those mythical Big Ten Conference football seasons. Below is the 1996 season. Click here for the other seasons.
1996 Big Ten Championship:
WEEK 1: GAME OF THE WEEK – PENN STATE 23, INDIANA 13
|WEEK 1 RESULTS|
|Michigan 33, Minnesota 14|
|Northwestern 33, Illinois 17|
|Ohio State 30, Michigan State 10|
|Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 14|
Fourth quarter keys Penn State to 23-13 victory over Hoosiers
In the first week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Penn State visited Leaders Division foe Indiana. The Nittany Lions took the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 23-13 victory over the Hoosiers.
With 6:52 to go, Wally Richardson hit Keith Olsommer in the endzone from five yards out to give Penn State a 20-13 lead.
The Nittany Lions’ Richardson was good for 201 yards during the game, completing 17 of 28 passes. Richardson tossed one touchdown while throwing no interceptions. Joe Jurevicius was the player Richardson targeted most often. He hauled in five catches for 70 yards.
Penn State’s explosive offense used big plays to take down Indiana. The Nittany Lions had four plays of 20 yards or more on their way to victory. With 34 seconds to go in the second quarter, Richardson ran 31 yards for Penn State’s biggest gain of the game. Despite the highlight, the Nittany Lions failed to score on that drive, which stalled at Penn State’s own 31-yard line.
Chris Dittoe threw for 138 yards while completing 11 of 25 passes for the Hoosiers. He threw one touchdown and one interception.
Indiana’s offense finished the game having gained 296 yards. In addition to Dittoe’s efforts through the air, the Hoosiers also rushed 38 times for 158 yards.
Eric Sturdifen terrorized Indiana’s line with two sacks. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the second quarter, when he sacked Dittoe on second-and-4 for a six-yard loss.
The Nittany Lions racked up 364 total yards. Penn State complemented Richardson’s passing attack with 163 yards rushing on 60 attempts.
WEEK 2: GAME OF THE WEEK – MINNESOTA 25, PURDUE 21
|WEEK 2 RESULTS|
|Indiana 29, Illinois 15|
|Iowa 23, Penn State 18|
|Michigan 24, Northwestern 13|
|Ohio State 19, Nebraska 10|
Minnesota wins back and forth affair against Purdue late, 25-21
In the second week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Minnesota of the Legends Division visited Purdue of the Leaders Division. No advantage was safe when the Golden Gophers and the Boilermakers were on the field, as they traded leads all day long. Eventually, Minnesota went up for good on Cory Sauter’s 29-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and hung on for the 25-21 win.
Minnesota’s Sauter was good for 256 yards during the game, completing 18 of 31 passes. Sauter tossed two touchdowns while throwing no interceptions. Sauter looked for Ryan Thelwell often. He caught five passes for 68 yards and one touchdown.
The Golden Gophers’ offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. Minnesota burned Purdue’s defense for four plays of more than 20 yards. With 12 seconds to go in the second quarter, Sauter found Greg Nelson open for a 33-yard pass, the Golden Gophers’ biggest gain of the game. Later in the drive, Adam Bailey drilled a 33-yard field goal, which cut Purdue’s lead to 10-9.
Rick Trefzger’s four interceptions cost the Boilermakers in defeat.
Joe Hagins terrorized Minnesota’s line with four sacks. On a critical drive in the fourth quarter, he sacked Sauter on second-and-10 for a five-yard loss.
Purdue’s offense finished the game having gained 432 yards. Along with Trefzger’s stats in the passing game, the Boilermakers also added 198 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
The Golden Gophers racked up 367 total yards. In addition to Sauter’s efforts through the air, Minnesota also rushed 46 times for 111 yards.
WEEK 3: GAME OF THE WEEK – MICHIGAN 22, MICHIGAN STATE 20
|WEEK 3 RESULTS|
|Ohio State 47, Illinois 5|
|Wisconsin 23, Indiana 20|
|Iowa 26, Northwestern 16|
|Penn State 30, Purdue 13|
Michigan’s passing attack too much for Michigan State in 22-20 victory
In the third week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Michigan visited Legends division foe Michigan State. The Spartans’ pass defense fell apart against the Wolverines’ offense, as Michigan threw for 236 yards en route to a 22-20 win.
Despite facing a 16-point deficit, Michigan State closed to within striking distance of the Wolverines late, but Michigan survived the comeback attempt and secured the win.
The Wolverines’ explosive offense used big plays to take down the Spartans. Michigan State’s defense gave up six plays of at least 20 yards. With 6:49 to go in the third quarter, Scott Dreisbach found Tai Streets open for a 57-yard pass, Michigan’s biggest gain of the game. His big play set up a 14-play drive that gave the Wolverines a 19-3 lead after Chris Howard turned a handoff into a 10-yard touchdown.
The Spartans’ hopes were crushed by the struggles of quarterback Todd Schultz, who threw three interceptions.
Michigan State’s offense finished the game having gained 494 yards. The Spartans’ rushing attack contributed 231 yards on 43 carries in addition to Schultz’s work in the passing game.
Michigan racked up 347 total yards. The Wolverines complemented Dreisbach’s passing with 111 yards rushing on 46 attempts.
WEEK 4: GAME OF THE WEEK – PURDUE 27, ILLINOIS 24
|WEEK 4 RESULTS|
|Iowa 28, Indiana 14|
|Michigan State 34, Wisconsin 21|
|Nebraska 36, Minnesota 11|
|Penn State 24, Northwestern 14|
Holcombe unstoppable on the ground, but Illinois falls 27-24 to Purdue
In the fourth week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Illinois visited Leaders division foe Purdue. Robert Holcombe’s 73 rushing yards and two touchdowns weren’t enough to lead the Fighting Illini to victory, as Illinois fell 27-24 to the Boilermakers.
Purdue didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 11:03 to go, Kendall Matthews pounded in a two-yard touchdown run to give the Boilermakers a 27-24 lead.
Rick Trefzger and Edwin Watson had a passing connection going, as Watson racked up 68 yards and one touchdown on three catches en route to a win for Purdue.
The Boilermakers’ passing game looked flawless, despite the efforts of the Fighting Illini’s secondary. Purdue’s air attack was uncontainable, as it torched Illinois for 268 yards and two touchdowns. Trefzger completed 16 of 24 passes for the Boilermakers.
Lee Johnson terrorized the Fighting Illini’s line with two sacks. He came up big during a crucial moment in the third quarter, when he sacked Scott Weaver on first-and-5 for a six-yard loss.
Purdue’s offense finished the game having gained 343 yards. Along with Trefzger’s stats in the passing game, the Boilermakers also added 75 yards rushing on 46 attempts.
Illinois racked up 307 total yards. The Fighting Illini’s rushing attack contributed 68 yards on 41 carries in addition to Weaver’s passing effort.
WEEK 5: GAME OF THE WEEK – NEBRASKA 22, MICHIGAN STATE 20
|WEEK 5 RESULTS|
|Penn State 35, Illinois 12|
|Northwestern 20, Indiana 18|
|Iowa 36, Minnesota 17|
|Michigan 32, Purdue 11|
|Ohio State 35, Wisconsin 8|
Cornhuskers win back and forth affair against Spartans late, 22-20
In the fifth week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Michigan State visited Legends division foe Nebraska. It was a back and forth affair when the Cornhuskers played the Spartans, as the teams traded the lead five times. When the dust settled, Nebraska emerged with a 22-20 win over Michigan State on Kris Brown’s 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
The Cornhuskers’ offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. Nebraska had four plays of 20 yards or more on its way to victory. The Cornhuskers added to the highlight reel when Ahman Green ran 67 yards with 12:14 left in the third quarter. Later in the drive, Brian Schuster turned a handoff into a two-yard touchdown, which gave Nebraska a 16-13 lead.
Green carried the offensive load for the Cornhuskers, piling up 135 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
Nebraska’s offense finished the game having gained 328 yards. In addition to Scott Frost’s efforts through the air, the Cornhuskers also rushed 60 times for 235 yards.
The Spartans’ Todd Schultz was good for 292 yards during the game, completing 22 of 40 passes. He threw two touchdowns and one interception. Schultz’s favorite target on the day was Derrick Mason. He hauled in five catches for 74 yards.
Michigan State racked up 446 total yards. Along with Schultz’s stats in the passing game, the Spartans also added 154 yards rushing on 42 attempts.
WEEK 6: GAME OF THE WEEK – MICHIGAN 29, IOWA 28
|WEEK 6 RESULTS|
|Ohio State 34, Indiana 5|
|Michigan State 39, Minnesota 18|
|Nebraska 26, Northwestern 9|
|Wisconsin 29, Purdue 19|
Missed extra point comes back to haunt Iowa in 29-28 loss to Michigan
In the sixth week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Michigan visited Legends division foe Iowa. The Hawkeyes lost a heartbreaker, falling just one point short in a 29-28 loss at the hands of the Wolverines. A missed extra point in the first quarter came back to haunt Iowa at the end of the game.
Michigan and Iowa passed the lead back and forth all game long. The game featured seven lead changes before the Wolverines finally pulled ahead for good.
Scott Dreisbach threw for 214 yards while completing 15 of 33 passes for Michigan. Dreisbach tossed one touchdown while throwing one interception.
Home run plays keyed the Wolverines’ scoring attack. The Hawkeyes’ defense gave up four plays of at least 20 yards. With 2:48 to go in the third quarter, Dreisbach threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Knight, Michigan’s longest play on the day. Dreisbach’s long touchdown gave the Wolverines a 26-25 lead.
Iowa’s Matt Sherman was good for 165 yards during the game, completing 13 of 28 passes. Sherman finished the game with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Hawkeyes’ offense finished the game having gained 398 yards. Iowa’s rushing attack contributed 233 yards on 43 carries in addition to Sherman’s passing effort.
Kenneth Jackson terrorized the Hawkeyes’ line with two sacks. He sacked Sherman for a five-yard loss on second-and-9 during a key drive in the fourth quarter.
Michigan racked up 372 total yards. The Wolverines complemented Dreisbach’s passing attack with 158 yards rushing on 52 attempts.
WEEK 7: GAME OF THE WEEK – WISCONSIN 35, MINNESOTA 23
|WEEK 7 RESULTS|
|Michigan 37, Illinois 9|
|Iowa 25, Michigan State 24|
|Nebraska 22, Penn State 12|
|Ohio State 40, Purdue 4|
Dayne runs all over Minnesota in Wisconsin’s 35-23 victory
In the seventh week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Wisconsin visited Minnesota. Ron Dayne broke out against the Golden Gophers, piling up 181 rushing yards and scoring three touchdowns to lead the Badgers to a 35-23 victory.
Wisconsin of the Leaders Division’s offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. Wisconsin had four plays of 20 yards or more on its way to victory. With 11:58 to go in the third quarter, Dayne ran 42 yards to paydirt, the Badgers’ longest play on the day. The touchdown gave Wisconsin a 28-6 lead.
The Badgers was able to secure the win thanks to a well-rounded offense that was firing on all cylinders. The offense for Wisconsin hummed along to the tune of 197 passing yards and 223 rushing yards.
Minnesota of the Legends Division’s offense finished the game having gained 291 yards. Along with Cory Sauter’s stats in the passing game, Minnesota also added 105 yards rushing on 38 attempts.
Mike Samuel threw for 197 yards while completing 16 of 29 passes for the Badgers. He threw two touchdowns and one interception.
Pete Monty was perpetually in the Golden Gophers’ backfield, and he recorded two sacks. On a critical drive in the fourth quarter, he sacked Sauter on third-and-8 for an eight-yard loss.
WEEK 8: GAME OF THE WEEK – NORTHWESTERN 27, MINNESOTA 22
|WEEK 8 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 35, Illinois 17|
|Michigan State 32, Indiana 17|
|Iowa 32, Purdue 13|
|Nebraska 19, Michigan 13|
|Ohio State 29, Penn State 7|
Schnur’s big day through the air overwhelms Golden Gophers as Wildcats win 27-22
In the eighth week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Minnesota visited Legends division foe Northwestern. Steve Schnur picked apart the Golden Gophers’ defense to the tune of 281 passing yards and four touchdowns, helping the Wildcats to a 27-22 win.
Northwestern’s passing game looked unstoppable at times against Minnesota’s defense. The Wildcats’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched the Golden Gophers for 281 yards and four touchdowns. Schnur completed 18 of 29 passes for Northwestern.
The Wildcats relied heavily on their rushing to churn out yards and extend their time of possession. Northwestern’s ground game was unstoppable, and the Wildcats bulled their way to 285 rushing yards. Darnell Autry led Northwestern’s ground attack with 179 yards on 27 attempts.
At one point, Minnesota trailed by 11 points, and while the Golden Gophers made a run in the game’s late stages, they couldn’t complete the comeback against the Wildcats.
Cory Sauter threw for 304 yards while completing 22 of 34 passes for Minnesota. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Sauter looked for Tutu Atwell often. He hauled in six catches for 71 yards.
The Golden Gophers’ offense finished the game having gained 426 yards. In addition to Sauter’s efforts through the air, Minnesota also rushed 37 times for 122 yards.
WEEK 9: GAME OF THE WEEK – OHIO STATE 23, MICHIGAN 9
|WEEK 9 RESULTS|
|Minnnesota 31, Illinois 22|
|Indiana 24, Purdue 18|
|Nebraska 23, Iowa 14|
|Michigan State 29, Northwestern 18|
|Penn State 25, Wisconsin 19|
Quick strike offense leads Buckeyes past Wolverines, 23-9
In the ninth week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan of the Legends Division. Big plays helped the Buckeyes’ offense break out on the way to a 23-9 victory over the Wolverines.
Even though Michigan racked up the yards against Ohio State, it wasn’t able to secure the victory. Ohio State gave up 361 total yards to Michigan, but emerged unscathed in the end.
Pepe Pearson carried the offensive load for the Buckeyes, piling up 173 rushing yards and one touchdown on 26 attempts.
Ohio State’s offense finished the game having gained 378 yards, including 169 passing yards on 14 completions. The Buckeyes’ rushing attack also contributed 209 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 47 carries.
1996 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – OHIO STATE 20, NEBRASKA 10
Ohio State captures lead in fourth quarter in 20-10 victory over Nebraska
In the tenth week of our simulated 1996 Big Ten football season, Nebraska of the Legends Division visited Ohio State of the Leaders Division. The Buckeyes took the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 20-10 victory over the Cornhuskers. With 1:01 to go, Joe Germaine tossed a nine-yard touchdown to Dimitrious Stanley to give Ohio State a 17-10 lead.
Ohio State’s passing game looked flawless, despite the efforts of Nebraska’s secondary. The Buckeyes’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched Nebraska for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Pepe Pearson carried the offensive load for Ohio State, piling up 144 rushing yards on 30 attempts.
The Buckeyes’ Stanley Jackson was good for 190 yards during the game, completing 15 of 25 passes. He threw one touchdown and no interceptions.
The Cornhuskers’ offense finished the game having gained 283 yards. Along with Scott Frost’s stats in the passing game, Nebraska also added 212 yards rushing on 57 attempts.