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 1997 season. Click here for the other seasons.
1997 Big Ten Championship:
WEEK 1: GAME OF THE WEEK - IOWA 31, MINNESOTA 17
|WEEK 1 RESULTS|
|Northwestern 40, Indiana 13|
|Ohio State 29, Michigan State 7|
|Penn State 46, Illinois 14|
|Nebraska 34, Wisconsin 14|
Banks runs all over Minnesota in Iowa’s 31-17 victory
In the first week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Minnesota visited Legends Division foe Iowa. Tavian Banks broke out against the Golden Gophers, piling up 127 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Hawkeyes to a 31-17 victory.
Iowa didn’t capture the lead until the third quarter. With 6:40 to go, Banks turned a handoff into a 26-yard touchdown to give the Hawkeyes a 17-10 lead.
Iowa racked up the yards against Minnesota on its way to victory. The Hawkeyes gained 238 yards passing and 207 yards rushing as it dominated the Golden Gophers’ defense.
Iowa’s offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. The Hawkeyes burned Minnesota’s defense for six plays of more than 20 yards. With 6:51 to go in the first quarter, Rob Thein ran 46 yards, Iowa’s biggest gain of the game. Later in the drive, Banks ran one yard to paydirt, which cut the Golden Gophers’ lead to 10-7.
The Hawkeyes’ Matt Sherman was good for 238 yards during the game, completing 17 of 32 passes. He threw two touchdowns and one interception.
Jason House was perpetually in Minnesota’s backfield, and he recorded two sacks. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the second quarter, when he sacked Cory Sauter on second-and-9 for a seven-yard loss.
Sauter threw for 167 yards while completing 11 of 27 passes for the Golden Gophers. Sauter tossed two touchdowns while throwing no interceptions.
Minnesota racked up 238 total yards. The Golden Gophers’ rushing attack contributed 71 yards on 46 carries in addition to Sauter’s passing effort.
WEEK 2: GAME OF THE WEEK – PENN STATE 37, NORTHWESTERN 35
|WEEK 2 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 35, Illinois 17|
|Michigan 31, Purdue 8|
|Michigan State 37, Indiana 8|
|Ohio State 24, Nebraska 14|
Enis pads his rushing stats against Northwestern in 37-35 win
In the second week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Northwestern of the Legends Division visited Penn State of the Leaders Division. Curtis Enis broke out against the Wildcats, piling up 72 rushing yards and scoring three touchdowns to lead the Nittany Lions to a 37-35 victory.
Adrian Autry was a bright spot in defeat for Northwestern, as he rushed for 145 yards on 19 carries.
The game was a shootout, with the offensive units for both teams putting up big numbers. Penn State and the Wildcats rode their powerful offenses to a combined 877 total yards.
The Nittany Lions operated their air game to perfection in dismantling the Northwestern defense. Penn State’s air attack was uncontainable, as it torched the Wildcats for 214 yards and zero touchdowns. Mike McQueary completed 13 of 25 passes for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State’s offense finished the game having gained 376 yards. The Nittany Lions complemented McQueary’s passing with 162 yards rushing on 55 attempts.
Barry Gardner, Mike Nelson Jr., and Kevin Buck turned in big performances to key Northwestern’s defensive effort. The Wildcats’ defense followed the example set by Gardner, who compiled one interception and one sack. He intercepted McQueary on third-and-9 during a key drive in the second quarter.
Tim Hughes threw for 279 yards while completing 22 of 36 passes for Northwestern. Hughes finished the game with two touchdowns and one interception. Hughes looked for Brian Musso often. He caught five passes for 70 yards and one touchdown.
The Wildcats racked up 501 total yards, including 306 yards passing while completing 25 of 43 attempts. Northwestern also rushed 32 times for 195 yards.
WEEK 3: GAME OF THE WEEK – PURDUE 35, WISCONSIN 30
|WEEK 3 RESULTS|
|Michigan 48, Illinois 3|
|Iowa 29, Michigan State 11|
|Northwestern 25, Minnesota 24|
|Ohio State 50, Indiana 4|
Dayne has huge day rushing, but not enough as Badgers fall 35-30 to Boilermakers
In the third week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Wisconsin visited Leaders Division foe Purdue. Ron Dayne carried the load for the Badgers, finishing with 277 rushing yards, but Wisconsin came out on the losing end of a 35-30 game against the Boilermakers.
Edwin Watson ran all over the Badgers to lead Purdue to the win, carrying the ball 21 times for 162 yards and scored one touchdown.
Defense was an afterthought, as both teams lit up the scoreboard. The teams went wild on the attacking side of the ball, racking up 1010 total yards combined.
The Boilermakers and Wisconsin took the lead from one another all game long. There were six lead changes in the game before Purdue ended up on top for good.
The Boilermakers’ Billy Dicken went 19 of 33 through the air for a total of 252 yards. He threw four touchdowns and one interception. Dicken’s favorite target on the day was Isaac Jones. He caught five passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
Lamar Conard showed good hands on defense for Purdue, picking off two Badgers passes. On a critical drive in the second quarter, he intercepted Mike Samuel on second-and-goal and returned it 76 yards.
The Boilermakers racked up 482 total yards. In addition to Dicken’s efforts through the air, Purdue also rushed 42 times for 230 yards.
Wisconsin’s Samuel was good for 239 yards during the game, completing 17 of 29 passes. Samuel finished the game with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
John Favret led the Badgers’ defensive assault, as he finished with one interception and one sack. He came up big during a crucial moment in the second quarter, when he intercepted Dicken on third-and-6.
Wisconsin’s offense finished the game having gained 528 yards. Along with Samuel’s stats in the passing game, the Badgers also added 289 yards rushing on 55 attempts.
WEEK 4: GAME OF THE WEEK - MINNESOTA 22, WISCONSIN 16
|WEEK 4 RESULTS|
|Michigan 25, Michigan State 5|
|Nebraska 33, Northwestern 17|
|Iowa 36, Penn State 17|
|Ohio State 36, Purdue 9|
Golden Gophers’ aerial assault too much for Badgers in 22-16 win
In the fourth week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Minnesota of the Legends Division visited Wisconsin of the Leaders Division. The Golden Gophers had a great passing day, throwing for 219 yards in a 22-16 victory over the Badgers.
Despite facing a 10-point deficit, Wisconsin closed to within striking distance of Minnesota late, but the Golden Gophers survived the comeback attempt and secured the win.
Home run plays keyed Minnesota’s scoring attack. The Golden Gophers had six plays of 20 yards or more on their way to victory. With 9:49 to go in the first quarter, Cory Sauter found Thomas Hamner open for a 63-yard pass, Minnesota’s biggest gain of the game. The big gainer was part of a nine-play drive capped off when Byron Evans turned a handoff into a five-yard touchdown. That gave the Golden Gophers a 7-3 lead.
The Badgers racked up 279 total yards. Wisconsin’s rushing attack contributed 96 yards on 49 carries in addition to Mike Samuel’s passing effort.
Minnesota’s offense finished the game having gained 362 yards. In addition to Sauter’s efforts through the air, the Golden Gophers also rushed 49 times for 143 yards.
WEEK 5: GAME OF THE WEEK – ILLINOIS 35, INDIANA 32
|WEEK 5 RESULTS|
|Iowa 40, Nortwestern 15|
|Michigan 19, Nebraska 11|
|Michigan State 28, Wisconsin 18|
|Ohio State 37, Penn State 11|
|Purdue 25, Minnesota 19|
Illinois rides Hoekstra’s arm to 35-32 victory against Indiana
In the fifth week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Indiana visited Leaders Division foe Illinois. Mark Hoekstra threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Fighting Illini to a 35-32 victory over the Hoosiers.
While both teams enjoyed big days on the offensive side of the ball, Illinois went up in the fourth quarter and hung on for the win. Hoekstra threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Matt Cushing with 6:16 to go to give the Fighting Illini a 35-32 lead, which turned out to be enough of an edge to hold off Indiana.
Illinois and Indiana passed the lead back and forth all game long. The game featured four lead changes before the Fighting Illini finally pulled ahead for good.
The Hoosiers’ defense forced the issue, causing five turnovers by Illinois’ offense. However, the Fighting Illini was able to pull out the victory in the end, helped in part by 438 total yards on offense.
Trevor Starghill showed good hands on defense for Illinois, picking off three Indiana passes. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the second quarter, when he intercepted Jeff Kirn on first-and-10.
Joey Eloms and Kywin Supernaw teamed up to lead the Hoosiers’ defense. Eloms led the unit by picking off two the Fighting Illini passes. On a critical drive in the fourth quarter, he intercepted Hoekstra on second-and-6.
Earl Haniford threw for 242 yards while completing 15 of 36 passes for Indiana. He threw one touchdown and three interceptions. Haniford looked for O.J. Conner often. He hauled in five catches for 77 yards.
The Hoosiers’ offense finished the game having gained 417 yards, including 265 passing yards on 17 completions. Indiana’s rushing attack also contributed 152 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 50 carries.
WEEK 6: GAME OF THE WEEK – NEBRASKA 28, MICHIGAN STATE 21
|WEEK 6 RESULTS|
|Ohio State 51, Illinois 4|
|Iowa 52, Indiana 6|
|Michigan 30, Minnesota 4|
|Penn State 32, Purdue 29|
Big comeback leads Nebraska past Michigan State, 28-21
In the sixth week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Nebraska visited Legends Division foe Michigan State. The Cornhuskers managed to dig themselves out of a hole and come from behind to record a 28-21 victory in overtime over the Spartans.
Things didn’t look good for Nebraska when it trailed by seven points in the fourth quarter. However, the Cornhuskers eventually battled back to take the lead when Joel Makovicka ran three yards to paydirt in overtime for the go-ahead score.
Todd Schultz led the air attack for Michigan State in a losing effort. Schultz completed 19 of 35 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
Makovicka rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and Ahman Green picked up 133 rushing yards and one touchdown of his own, as the dynamic backfield duo led Nebraska’s ground attack.
Aric Morris was perpetually in the Cornhuskers’ backfield, and he recorded two sacks. He sacked Scott Frost for a six-yard loss on third-and-7 during a key drive in the first quarter.
The Spartans racked up 404 total yards. Michigan State’s rushing attack contributed 117 yards on 55 carries in addition to Schultz’s passing effort.
Joe Walker and Eric Warfield turned in big performances to key Nebraska’s defensive effort. Walker led the unit by picking off three the Spartans passes. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the fourth quarter, when he intercepted Schultz on third-and-15.
The Cornhuskers’ offense finished the game having gained 289 yards. Nebraska complemented Frost’s passing with 249 yards rushing on 62 attempts.
WEEK 7: GAME OF THE WEEK – NEBRASKA 37, PENN STATE 26
|WEEK 7 RESULTS|
|Minnesota 34, Illinois 13|
|Michigan 37, Northwestern 8|
|Iowa 35, Purdue 14|
|Wisconsin 38, Indiana 15|
Nebraska’s Green has big day rushing against Nittany Lions in 37-26 victory
In the seventh week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Penn State of the Leaders Division visited Nebraska of the Legends Division. Ahman Green put the team on his back in the Cornhuskers’ 37-26 win over the Nittany Lions, rushing for 279 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Curtis Enis was a bright spot in defeat for Penn State, as he rushed for 117 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Nebraska’s offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. The Nittany Lions’ defense gave up seven plays of at least 20 yards. With 13:11 to go in the third quarter, Green pounded in a 52-yard touchdown run, the Cornhuskers’ longest play on the day. The touchdown gave Nebraska a 27-13 lead.
Scott Frost threw for 137 yards while going 9-10 for the Cornhuskers. He threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. Frost also ran for 34 yards on 19 attempts.
Nebraska racked up 506 total yards. Along with Frost’s stats in the passing game, the Cornhuskers also added 369 yards rushing on 67 attempts.
Mike McQueary threw for 191 yards while completing 15 of 25 passes for Penn State. He threw two touchdowns and one interception.
The Nittany Lions’ offense finished the game having gained 343 yards. In addition to McQueary’s efforts through the air, Penn State also rushed 43 times for 152 yards.
WEEK 8: GAME OF THE WEEK – MICHIGAN STATE 24, NORTHWESTERN 17
|WEEK 8 RESULTS|
|Penn State 45, Indiana 12|
|Michigan 15, Iowa 12|
|Nebraska 28, Minnesota 11|
|Ohio State 40, Wisconsin 8|
|Purdue 41, Illinois 13|
Irvin runs over Wildcats in Spartans’ 24-17 victory
In the eighth week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Northwestern visited Legends Division foe Michigan State. Sedrick Irvin broke out against the Wildcats, piling up 137 rushing yards and scoring one touchdown to lead the Spartans to a 24-17 victory.
Michigan State didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 1:13 to go, Todd Schultz hit Irvin in the endzone from 23 yards out to give the Spartans a 24-17 lead.
Michigan State’s passing game looked unstoppable at times against Northwestern’s defense. The Spartans’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched the Wildcats for 280 yards and one touchdown. Schultz completed 19 of 30 passes for Michigan State.
Sean Banks was perpetually in Northwestern’s backfield, and he recorded two sacks. On a critical drive in the second quarter, he sacked Tim Hughes on first-and-10 for a seven-yard loss.
The Spartans racked up 458 total yards. Michigan State’s rushing attack contributed 178 yards on 54 carries in addition to Schultz’s passing effort.
The Wildcats’ Hughes was good for 216 yards during the game, completing 19 of 34 passes. Hughes finished the game with one touchdown and one interception. Hughes’ favorite target on the day was Brian Musso. He hauled in five catches for 75 yards.
Barry Gardner led Northwestern’s defensive assault, as he finished with two interceptions and one sack. He intercepted Schultz on first-and-10 during a key drive in the third quarter.
The Wildcats’ offense finished the game having gained 341 yards, including 233 passing yards on 21 completions. Northwestern’s rushing attack also contributed 108 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 31 carries.
WEEK 9: GAME OF THE WEEK – MICHIGAN 14, OHIO STATE 10
|WEEK 9 RESULTS|
|Northwestern 41, Illinois 15|
|Purdue 41, Indiana 12|
|Michigan State 25, Minnesota 14|
|Iowa 24, Nebraska 19|
|Penn State 36, Wisconsin 25|
Michigan takes the lead late against Ohio State, wins back and forth affair 14-10
In the ninth week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Michigan of the Legends Division visited Ohio State of the Leaders Division. It was a back and forth affair when the Wolverines played the Buckeyes, as the teams traded the lead four times. When the dust settled, Michigan emerged with a 14-10 win over Ohio State on Kevin Bryant’s three-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines’ explosive offense used big plays to take down the Buckeyes. Michigan had four plays of 20 yards or more on its way to victory. The Wolverines added to the highlight reel when Brian Griese found Anthony Thomas open for a 27-yard pass with 14:28 remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately for Michigan, the big play went to waste, as that drive ended on the Wolverines’ own 31-yard line without a score.
Griese picked apart Ohio State’s secondary, completing 20 of 30 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Andy Katzenmoyer was perpetually in Michigan’s backfield, and he recorded two sacks. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the second quarter, when he sacked Griese on second-and-4 for a seven-yard loss.
The Buckeyes’ offense finished the game having gained 258 yards. Ohio State complemented Joe Germaine’s passing with 76 yards rushing on 43 attempts.
The Wolverines racked up 309 total yards. Along with Griese’s stats in the passing game, Michigan also added 86 yards rushing on 47 attempts.
1997 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – OHIO STATE 37, MICHIGAN 34
Ohio State pulls out last second victory over Michigan
In the tenth week of our simulated 1997 Big Ten football season, Michigan of the Legends Division visited Ohio State of the Leaders Division. The game between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines came down to the final play, culminating when Dan Stultz kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 37-34 victory.
The winning play came after Ohio State drove 42 yards in 18 seconds.
The two teams combined for 968 total yards of offense. With both offenses running wild, the Buckeyes took the lead in the fourth quarter and refused to give it back.
Joe Germaine and David Boston had a passing connection going, as Boston racked up 106 yards and two touchdowns on six catches en route to a win for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State’s passing game looked flawless, despite the efforts of Michigan’s secondary. The Buckeyes’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched the Wolverines for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Germaine completed 16 of 26 passes for Ohio State.
Michigan’s Brian Griese went 19 of 27 through the air for a total of 202 yards. Griese finished the game with one touchdown and no interceptions.
The Wolverines’ offense finished the game having gained 454 yards. Michigan’s rushing attack contributed 252 yards on 45 carries in addition to Griese’s passing effort.