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 1998 season. Click here for the other seasons.
1998 Big Ten Championship:
WEEK 1: GAME OF THE WEEK - MICHIGAN STATE 31, IOWA 23
|WEEK 1 RESULTS|
|Michigan 26, Minnesota 12|
|Penn State 33, Illinois 9|
|Ohio State 37, Purdue 5|
|Wisconsin 30, Northwestern 6|
Burke’s passing attack proves too much for Iowa in Michigan State’s 31-23 victory
In the first week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Michigan State visited Legends Division foe Iowa. Bill Burke threw for 245 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Spartans to a 31-23 victory over the Hawkeyes.
Michigan State and Iowa took the lead from one another all game long. There were five lead changes in the game before the Spartans ended up on top for good.
Michigan State operated its air game to perfection in dismantling the Hawkeyes defense. The Spartans’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched Iowa for 245 yards and four touchdowns. Burke completed 22 of 30 passes for Michigan State.
At one point, the Hawkeyes trailed by 11 points. Iowa made a run in the game’s late stages, but couldn’t complete the comeback against the Spartans.
The Hawkeyes’ Kyle McCann was good for 212 yards during the game, completing 17 of 31 passes. He threw one touchdown and two interceptions.
Iowa racked up 422 total yards. In addition to McCann’s efforts through the air, the Hawkeyes also rushed 47 times for 210 yards.
Michigan State’s offense finished the game having gained 399 yards. The Spartans complemented Burke’s passing with 154 yards rushing on 44 attempts.
WEEK 2: GAME OF THE WEEK – PURDUE 31, ILLINOIS 13
|WEEK 2 RESULTS|
|Nebraska 35, Northwestern 8|
|Ohio State 48, Iowa 4|
|Penn State 28, Minnesota 9|
|Wisconsin 30, Indiana 6|
Brees’ big day through the air overwhelms Fighting Illini as Boilermakers win 31-13
In the second week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Illinois visited Leaders Division foe Purdue. Drew Brees picked apart the Fighting Illini’s defense to the tune of 395 passing yards and three touchdowns, helping the Boilermakers to a 31-13 win.
Purdue didn’t capture the lead until the third quarter. With 2:43 to go, J.P. Crabtree ran 12 yards to paydirt to give the Boilermakers a 17-13 lead.
Purdue’s passing game looked flawless, despite the efforts of Illinois’ secondary. The Boilermakers’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched the Fighting Illini for 395 yards and three touchdowns. Brees completed 31 of 47 passes for Purdue.
The Boilermakers’ offense had a sloppy outing, as it turned the ball over four times. Purdue overcame its mistakes however, and gained 500 total yards in the victory.
Illinois’ offense finished the game having gained 284 yards, including 175 passing yards on 15 completions. The Fighting Illini’s rushing attack also contributed 109 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 34 carries.
WEEK 3: GAME OF THE WEEK – ILLINOIS 26, NORTHWESTERN 14
|WEEK 3 RESULTS|
|Michigan 31, Iowa 16|
|Michigan State 23, Minnesota 14|
|Ohio State 45, Indiana 3|
|Nebraska 24, Purdue 20|
Illinois steals lead in fourth quarter, takes home 26-14 win over Wildcats
In the third week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Northwestern of the Legends Division visited Illinois of the Leaders Division. The Fighting Illini took the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 26-14 victory over the Wildcats. With 14:55 to go, Steve Havard pounded in a 10-yard touchdown run to give Illinois a 19-14 lead.
The Fighting Illini’s Kurt Kittner went nine of 28 through the air for a total of 94 yards. Kittner finished the game with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Nick Kreinbrink kept Northwestern’s offense on track, throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns on 22 of 51 passing.
Muhammad Abdullah and Mike Gusich teamed up to lead Illinois’ defense. The Fighting Illini’s defense followed the example set by Abdullah, who compiled three interceptions and one sack. He came up big during a crucial moment in the third quarter, when he intercepted Kreinbrink on second-and-9 and returned it 63 yards.
Illinois racked up 263 total yards, including 94 yards passing while completing nine of 29 attempts. The Fighting Illini also rushed 44 times for 169 yards.
The Wildcats’ offense finished the game having gained 369 yards, including 277 passing yards on 25 completions. Northwestern’s rushing attack also contributed 92 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 42 carries.
WEEK 4: GAME OF THE WEEK – IOWA 30, MINNESOTA 26
|WEEK 4 RESULTS|
|Illinois 19, Indiana 15|
|Michigan 22, Michigan State 19|
|Ohio State 25, Wisconsin 6|
|Penn State 23, Nebraska 17|
McCann’s aerial assault too much for Minnesota as Iowa beats 30-26
In the fourth week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Iowa visited Legends Division foe Minnesota. Kyle McCann threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Hawkeyes to a 30-26 victory over the Golden Gophers.
Iowa didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 2:52 to go, McCann found Bashir Yamini open for a seven-yard touchdown pass to give the Hawkeyes a 30-26 lead.
Iowa’s passing game looked unstoppable at times against Minnesota’s defense. The Hawkeyes’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched the Golden Gophers for 383 yards and three touchdowns. McCann completed 20 of 30 passes for Iowa.
Home run plays keyed the Hawkeyes’ scoring attack. Minnesota’s defense gave up six plays of at least 20 yards. Iowa added to the highlight reel when McCann found Austin Wheatley open for a 60-yard pass with 8:19 left in the first quarter. Later in the drive, Tim Douglas drilled a 23-yard field goal, which cut the Golden Gophers’ lead to 7-6.
Minnesota’s Billy Cockerham passed for 235 yards, completing 12 of 26 throws. He tossed two touchdowns and gave up one interception. Cockerham was also a threat on the ground, as he rushed for 31 yards on 19 attempts. Luke Leverson was the player Cockerham targeted most often. He caught five passes for 141 yards and one touchdown.
Delvin Jones was perpetually in the Hawkeyes’ backfield, and he recorded two sacks. On a critical drive in the third quarter, he sacked McCann on third-and-6 for a five-yard loss.
The Golden Gophers racked up 519 total yards, including 320 yards passing while completing 17 of 35 attempts. Minnesota also rushed 44 times for 199 yards.
Eric Thigpen led Iowa’s defensive assault, as he finished with one interception and one sack. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the second quarter, when he intercepted Cockerham on third-and-13.
WEEK 5: GAME OF THE WEEK – NEBRASKA 21, MICHIGAN STATE 18
|WEEK 5 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 28, Iowa 10|
|Michigan 32, Indiana 10|
|Ohio State 45, Northwestern 2|
|Penn State 26, Purdue 14|
Nebraska wins back and forth affair against Michigan State late, 21-18
In the fifth week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Michigan State visited Legends Division foe Nebraska. No advantage was safe when the Cornhuskers and the Spartans were on the field, as they traded leads all day long. Eventually, Nebraska went up for good on Eric Crouch’s 13-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and hung on for the 21-18 win.
The Cornhuskers’ explosive offense used big plays to take down Michigan State. Nebraska had four plays of 20 yards or more on its way to victory. With 8:41 to go in the third quarter, Crouch found Sheldon Jackson open for a 38-yard pass, the Cornhuskers’ biggest gain of the game. His big play set up a seven-play drive that cut the Spartans’ lead to 9-7 after Crouch tossed a 31-yard touchdown to Tracey Wistrom.
Crouch picked apart Michigan State’s secondary, completing seven of 13 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Nebraska’s offense finished the game having gained 298 yards. The Cornhuskers’ rushing attack contributed 185 yards on 53 carries in addition to Crouch’s passing effort.
The Spartans racked up 351 total yards. In addition to Bill Burke’s efforts through the air, Michigan State also rushed 47 times for 115 yards.
WEEK 6: GAME OF THE WEEK – PENN STATE 25, MICHIGAN 21
|WEEK 6 RESULTS|
|Minnesota 21, Indiana 12|
|Nebraska 30, Illinois 11|
|Michigan State 31, Northwestern 11|
|Wisconsin 20, Purdue 13|
Big comeback sends Penn State past Michigan, 25-21
In the sixth week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Penn State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan of the Legends Division. The Wolverines fell victim to a furious Nittany Lions comeback, as Penn State pulled out a 25-21 win.
Things didn’t look good for the Nittany Lions when they trailed by 11 points in the third quarter. However, Penn State eventually battled back to take the lead with 11:36 remaining in the fourth quarter when Mike Cerimele turned a handoff into a 53-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score.
Cordell Mitchell rushed for 93 yards and one touchdown, and Cerimele picked up 76 rushing yards and one touchdown of his own, as the dynamic backfield duo led the Nittany Lions’ ground attack.
Home run plays keyed Penn State’s scoring attack. Michigan’s defense gave up four plays of at least 20 yards.
The Wolverines’ Tom Brady was good for 293 yards during the game, completing 20 of 47 passes. He threw one touchdown and four interceptions. Brady looked for Tai Streets often. He caught five passes for 139 yards and one touchdown.
Michigan’s offense finished the game having gained 500 yards. The Wolverines complemented Brady’s passing with 207 yards rushing on 44 attempts.
David Macklin showed good hands on defense for the Nittany Lions, picking off two Michigan passes. He came up big during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter, when he intercepted Brady on second-and-5.
Penn State racked up 323 total yards. Along with Kevin Thompson’s stats in the passing game, the Nittany Lions also added 221 yards rushing on 44 attempts.
WEEK 7: GAME OF THE WEEK – MICHIGAN STATE 20, INDIANA 19
|WEEK 7 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 27, Illinois 6|
|Nebraska 26, Minnesota 13|
|Michigan 36, Northwestern 9|
|Ohio State 27, Penn State 8|
|Purdue 29, Iowa 19|
Big comeback helps Spartans past Hoosiers, 20-19
In the seventh week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Indiana of the Leaders Division visited Michigan State of the Legends Division. The Spartans fell behind, but stormed back to beat the Hoosiers 20-19.
Things didn’t look good for Michigan State when it trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter. However, the Spartans eventually battled back to even the score on Bill Burke’s six-yard touchdown pass with 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Spartans then took the lead on the extra point that followed.
Burke and Plaxico Burress had a passing connection going, as Burress racked up 68 yards and one touchdown on five catches en route to a win for Michigan State.
A lone bright spot for Indiana was Antwaan Randle El, who made enough good throws to finish with 92 passing yards. He was seven for seven on pass attempts and tossed one touchdown.
Burke threw for 258 yards while completing 20 of 38 passes for the Spartans. He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions. Gari Scott was the player Burke targeted most often. He hauled in five catches for 54 yards.
Michigan State’s offense finished the game having gained 307 yards. The Spartans’ rushing attack contributed 49 yards on 32 carries in addition to Burke’s passing effort.
Justin Smith terrorized Michigan State’s line with two sacks. On a critical drive in the fourth quarter, he sacked Burke on third-and-10 for a six-yard loss.
The Hoosiers racked up 324 total yards. In addition to Randle El’s efforts through the air, Indiana also rushed 68 times for 232 yards.
WEEK 8: GAME OF THE WEEK - WISCONSIN 29, MINNESOTA 7
|WEEK 8 RESULTS|
|Ohio State 43, Illinois 3|
|Iowa 30, Northwestern 15|
|Penn State 35, Indiana 8|
|Michigan 21, Nebraska 20|
|Michigan State 22, Purdue 21|
Dayne and Unertl run all over Minnesota in Wisconsin’s 29-7 victory
In the eighth week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Wisconsin of the Leaders Division visited Minnesota of the Legends Division. A one-two punch in the backfield from Ron Dayne and Matt Unertl helped the Badgers to a 29-7 victory over the Golden Gophers.
Dayne ran for 156 yards and Unertl added 69 yards on six attempts.
Wisconsin’s defense was questionable at times, but was equal to the test when the situation really mattered. The defense limited Minnesota’s offense to a 28.6 percent efficiency rate on third downs, a stat which contributed greatly to the Badgers’ victory.
Even though the Golden Gophers racked up the yards against Wisconsin, they weren’t able to secure the victory. The Badgers was burned for 353 total yards, but their defense stiffened up when it mattered the most.
Mike Samuel threw for 89 yards while completing six of 11 passes for Wisconsin. Samuel tossed one touchdown while throwing no interceptions.
Jamar Fletcher showed good hands on defense for the Badgers, picking off two Minnesota passes. He intercepted Billy Cockerham on third-and-11 during a key drive in the third quarter.
Wisconsin’s offense finished the game having gained 347 yards. The Badgers complemented Samuel’s passing with 258 yards rushing on 66 attempts.
WEEK 9: GAME OF THE WEEK – OHIO STATE 36, MICHIGAN 33
|WEEK 9 RESULTS|
|Michigan State 28, Illinois 13|
|Purdue 28, Indiana 12|
|Nebraska 33, Iowa 16|
|Minnesota 24, Northwestern 12|
|Wisconsin 15, Penn State 14|
Ohio State rides Germaine’s arm to victory against Michigan as Buckeyes win 36-33
In the ninth week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan of the Legends Division. Joe Germaine threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes to a 36-33 victory over the Wolverines.
While both teams enjoyed big days on the offensive side of the ball, Ohio State went up in the fourth quarter and hung on for the win. Germaine hit David Boston in the end zone from 41 yards out with 2:19 to go gave the Buckeyes a 36-33 lead, which turned out to be enough of an edge to hold off Michigan.
Ohio State’s explosive offense used big plays to take down the Wolverines. The Buckeyes burned Michigan’s defense for seven plays of more than 20 yards. With 6:08 to go in the first quarter, Germaine threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Ken-Yon Rambo, Ohio State’s longest play on the day. The score gave the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead.
The Wolverines’ Tom Brady was good for 324 yards during the game, completing 23 of 30 passes. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Brady’s favorite target on the day was Jerame Tuman. He hauled in five catches for 53 yards.
Michigan racked up 598 total yards. The Wolverines’ rushing attack contributed 274 yards on 43 carries in addition to Brady’s passing effort.
Damon Moore 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 Brady on first-and-10 for a six-yard loss.
Ohio State’s offense finished the game having gained 459 yards. Along with Germaine’s stats in the passing game, the Buckeyes also added 121 yards rushing on 38 attempts.
1998 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – OHIO STATE 34, NEBRASKA 17
Big comeback leads Ohio State past Nebraska, 34-17
In the tenth week of our simulated 1998 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Nebraska of the Legends Division.
The Buckeyes managed to dig themselves out of a hole and come from behind to record a 34-17 victory over the Cornhuskers.
Things didn’t look good for Ohio State when it trailed by 14 points in the first quarter. However, the Buckeyes eventually battled back to take the lead with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter when Joe Germaine found Ken-Yon Rambo open for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
David Boston torched Nebraska’s secondary, hauling in six passes, 144 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Ohio State operated its air game to perfection in dismantling the Cornhuskers defense. The Buckeyes’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched Nebraska for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Germaine completed 22 of 33 passes for Ohio State.
Home run plays keyed the Buckeyes’ scoring attack. The Cornhuskers’ defense gave up eight plays of at least 20 yards. With 6:12 to go in the second quarter, Germaine tossed a 43-yard touchdown to Boston, Ohio State’s longest play on the day. Their long touchdown tied the score at 14-14.
Eric Crouch threw for 87 yards while going 5-12 for Nebraska. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Crouch also ran for 53 yards on 13 attempts.
Clint Finley was perpetually in the Buckeyes’ backfield, and he recorded two sacks. He came up big during a crucial moment in the first quarter, when he sacked Germaine on first-and-10 for a six-yard loss.
The Cornhuskers racked up 278 total yards. In addition to Crouch’s efforts through the air, Nebraska also rushed 60 times for 191 yards.
Ohio State’s offense finished the game having gained 453 yards. The Buckeyes complemented Germaine’s passing with 105 yards rushing on 41 attempts.