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 2000 season. Click here for the other seasons.
2000 Big Ten Championship:
WEEK 1: GAME OF THE WEEK - PENN STATE 33, ILLINOIS 30
|WEEK 1 RESULTS|
|Michigan 31, Northwestern 20|
|Michigan State 25, Iowa 15|
|Ohio State 24, Minnesota 19|
|Purdue 28, Wisconsin 19|
Kittner’s big game in the pocket not enough as Illinois falls 33-30 to Penn State
In the first week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Illinois visited Leaders Division foe Penn State. Kurt Kittner put on an air show for the Fighting Illini, finishing with 292 passing yards, but Illinois fell 33-30 in overtime to the Nittany Lions.
Penn State and Illinois passed the lead back and forth all game long. The game featured six lead changes before the Nittany Lions finally pulled ahead for good.
Rashard Casey threw for 210 yards while going 18-27 for Penn State. He threw one touchdown and no interceptions. Casey also ran for 37 yards on 14 attempts.
The Nittany Lions racked up 395 total yards. Penn State complemented Casey’s passing with 185 yards rushing on 49 attempts.
The Fighting Illini’s offense finished the game having gained 439 yards. Along with Kittner’s stats in the passing game, Illinois also added 147 yards rushing on 47 attempts.
WEEK 2: GAME OF THE WEEK - MICHIGAN STATE 19, PENN STATE 16
|WEEK 2 RESULTS|
|Nebraska 35, Indiana 12|
|Michigan 28, Minnesota 23|
|Northwestern 28, Iowa 20|
|Ohio State 29, Wisconsin 13|
Spartans win 19-16 after topping Penn State in fourth quarter
In the second week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Penn State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan State of the Legends Division. The Spartans took the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 19-16 victory over the Nittany Lions.
With 4:01 to go, David Schaefer kicked a 41-yard field goal to give Michigan State a 19-16 lead.
The Spartans’ explosive offense used big plays to take down Penn State. Michigan State burned the Nittany Lions’ defense for four plays of more than 20 yards. The Spartans added to the highlight reel when Little John Flowers ran 43 yards with 12:01 left in the third quarter. His big play set up an 11-play drive that tied the score at 13-13 after Jeff Smoker tossed a 13-yard touchdown to Demont Smith.
T.J. Duckett carried the offensive load for Michigan State, piling up 97 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
Smoker threw for 157 yards while completing 14 of 26 passes for the Spartans. Smoker tossed one touchdown while throwing no interceptions.
Michigan State racked up 286 total yards. The Spartans’ rushing attack contributed 129 yards on 51 carries in addition to Smoker’s work in the passing game.
Titcus Pettigrew terrorized Michigan State’s line with two sacks. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the second quarter, when he sacked Smoker on first-and-10 for an eight-yard loss.
Penn State’s offense finished the game having gained 391 yards. The Nittany Lions complemented Rashard Casey’s passing with 133 yards rushing on 38 attempts.
WEEK 3: GAME OF THE WEEK - MINNESOTA 26, PURDUE 23
|WEEK 3 RESULTS|
|Penn State 25, Iowa 18|
|Nebraska 21, Michigan 20|
|Northwestern 35, Indiana 20|
|Wisconsin 27, Illinois 26|
Minnesota’s Redmon has big day rushing against Boilermakers in 26-23 victory
In the third week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Minnesota of the Legends Division visited Purdue of the Leaders Division. Tellis Redmon put the team on his back in the Golden Gophers’ 26-23 win over the Boilermakers, rushing for 202 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Drew Brees had a big passing day despite Purdue’s loss. He hooked up with the Boilermakers receivers on 12 of 31 pass attempts and finished with 284 yards and two touchdowns.
At one point, Purdue trailed by 14 points. The Boilermakers made a run in the game’s late stages, but couldn’t complete the comeback against Minnesota.
Purdue racked up 520 total yards. In addition to Brees’ efforts through the air, the Boilermakers also rushed 45 times for 236 yards.
Clorenzo Griffin and Dan Kwapinski turned in big performances to key the Golden Gophers’ defensive effort. Minnesota’s defense followed the example set by Griffin, who compiled two interceptions and one sack. He intercepted Brees and returned it 69 yards on first-and-10 during a key drive in the second quarter.
The Golden Gophers’ Travis Cole passed for 214 yards, completing 21 of 38 throws. He tossed two touchdowns and gave up two interceptions. Cole was also a threat on the ground, as he rushed for 24 yards on nine attempts. Jack Brewer was the player Cole targeted most often. He hauled in five catches for 50 yards.
Minnesota’s offense finished the game having gained 448 yards. Along with Cole’s stats in the passing game, the Golden Gophers also added 234 yards rushing on 41 attempts.
WEEK 4: GAME OF THE WEEK - PURDUE 25, NORTHWESTERN 23
|WEEK 4 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 32, Indiana 22|
|Michigan 26, Michigan State 18|
|Nebraska 21, Minnesota 18|
|Ohio State 33, Illinois 16|
Purdue pulls out last second victory over Northwestern
In the fourth week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Purdue of the Leaders Division visited Northwestern of the Legends Division. The game between the Boilermakers and the Wildcats came down to the final play, culminating with Travis Dorsch drilled a 35-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 25-23 victory.
The winning play came after Purdue drove 66 yards in 1:16.
Damien Anderson was a bright spot in defeat for Northwestern, as he rushed for 255 yards on 31 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Drew Brees threw for 210 yards while going 23-32 for the Boilermakers. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Brees also ran for 45 yards on 16 attempts. Brees looked for Vinny Sutherland often. He hauled in seven catches for 76 yards.
The Wildcats racked up 453 total yards. Northwestern’s rushing attack contributed 346 yards on 54 carries in addition to Zak Kustok’s work in the passing game.
Purdue’s offense finished the game having gained 341 yards. In addition to Brees’ efforts through the air, the Boilermakers also rushed 44 times for 131 yards.
WEEK 5: GAME OF THE WEEK - ILLINOIS 30, IOWA 28
|WEEK 5 RESULTS|
|Minnesota 29, Northwestern 22|
|Nebraska 22, Michigan State 14|
|Ohio State 26, Purdue 18|
|Penn State 32, Indiana 16|
Illinois stuns Iowa in waning seconds, wins 30-28
In the fifth week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Illinois of the Leaders Division visited Iowa of the Legends Division. The Fighting Illini clinched a dramatic 30-28 last-second win over the Hawkeyes, as Kurt Kittner hit Aaron Moorehead in the endzone from 52 yards out as the game clock struck zero.
Illinois marched 61 yards in three plays to set up the score. The winning drive took 22 seconds.
Despite taking the loss, Scott Mullen gave Iowa a fighting chance thanks to a big game through the air. Mullen threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns on 19-for-31 passing.
Kittner and Moorehead had a passing connection going, as Moorehead racked up 119 yards and one touchdown on five catches en route to a win for the Fighting Illini.
Home run plays keyed Illinois’ scoring attack. The Hawkeyes’ defense gave up six plays of at least 20 yards. With 20 seconds to go in the first quarter, Rocky Harvey turned a handoff into a 54-yard touchdown, the Fighting Illini’s longest play on the day. The score gave Illinois a 13-0 lead.
Iowa racked up 433 total yards. Along with Mullen’s stats in the passing game, the Hawkeyes also added 145 yards rushing on 41 attempts.
Kittner threw for 276 yards while completing 23 of 42 passes for the Fighting Illini. Kittner finished the game with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Illinois’ offense finished the game having gained 440 yards. The Fighting Illini’s rushing attack contributed 164 yards on 42 carries in addition to Kittner’s work in the passing game.
WEEK 6: GAME OF THE WEEK - OHIO STATE 23, NEBRASKA 21
|WEEK 6 RESULTS|
|Illinois 32, Indiana 26|
|Michigan 36, Iowa 17|
|Michigan State 24, Wisconsin 18|
|Purdue 25, Penn State 18|
Alexander runs all over Ohio State, not enough as Nebraska loses to Buckeyes 23-21
In the sixth week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Nebraska of the Legends Division visited Ohio State of the Leaders Division. Dan Alexander’s 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns weren’t enough to lead the Cornhuskers to victory, as Nebraska fell 23-21 to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 48 seconds to go, Dan Stultz made a 24-yard field goal to give the Buckeyes a 23-21 lead.
Ohio State’s Steve Bellisari went 14 of 26 through the air for a total of 263 yards. He threw one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Buckeyes racked up 424 total yards. Ohio State complemented Bellisari’s passing with 161 yards rushing on 50 attempts.
The Cornhuskers’ offense finished the game having gained 331 yards. Along with Eric Crouch’s stats in the passing game, Nebraska also added 280 yards rushing on 67 attempts.
WEEK 7: GAME OF THE WEEK - MICHIGAN STATE 31, INDIANA 17
|WEEK 7 RESULTS|
|Purdue 31, Iowa 18|
|Michigan 36, Illinois 21|
|Nebraska 26, Northwestern 15|
|Ohio State 27, Penn State 14|
|Minnesota 29, Wisconsin 20|
Duckett runs over Hoosiers in Spartans’ 31-17 victory
In the seventh week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Indiana of the Leaders Division visited Michigan State of the Legends Division. T.J. Duckett broke out against the Hoosiers, piling up 189 rushing yards and scoring one touchdown to lead the Spartans to a 31-17 victory.
Michigan State didn’t capture the lead until the third quarter. With 1:16 to go, Little John Flowers ran four yards to paydirt to give the Spartans a 21-17 lead.
Michigan State’s offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. Indiana’s defense gave up five plays of at least 20 yards. The Spartans added to the highlight reel when Duckett ran 51 yards with 12:27 left in the fourth quarter. The big gainer was part of a seven-play drive capped off when Dawan Moss pounded in a four-yard touchdown run. That gave Michigan State a 28-17 lead.
Jeff Smoker threw for 186 yards while going 13-24 for the Spartans. He tossed one touchdown and gave up two interceptions. Smoker also ran for 36 yards on 13 attempts.
Michigan State’s offense finished the game having gained 443 yards. Along with Smoker’s stats in the passing game, the Spartans also added 257 yards rushing on 50 attempts.
The Hoosiers’ Antwaan Randle El passed for 87 yards, completing five of 10 throws. He threw no interceptions. Randle El was also a threat on the ground, as he rushed for 45 yards on 29 attempts.
Indiana racked up 339 total yards. The Hoosiers complemented Randle El’s passing with 252 yards rushing on 64 attempts.
WEEK 8: GAME OF THE WEEK - MICHIGAN STATE 23, NORTHWESTERN 16
|WEEK 8 RESULTS|
|Purdue 31, Illinois 22|
|Minnesota 32, Iowa 17|
|Ohio State 40, Indiana 11|
|Nebraska 23, Penn State 13|
|Michigan 30, Wisconsin 17|
Anderson’s big game on the ground can’t propel Wildcats past Spartans in 23-16 defeat
In the eighth week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Michigan State visited Legends Division foe Northwestern. Damien Anderson carried the load for the Wildcats, finishing with 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but Northwestern came out on the losing end of a 23-16 game against the Spartans.
Michigan State didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 10:15 to go, Jeff Smoker tossed a 16-yard touchdown to Herb Haygood to give the Spartans a 21-16 lead.
Smoker threw for 230 yards while completing 17 of 28 passes for Michigan State. Smoker finished the game with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Zak Kustok threw for 159 yards while going 11-18 for the Wildcats. He threw no interceptions. Kustok also ran for 23 yards on 22 attempts.
Northwestern’s offense finished the game having gained 367 yards. The Wildcats complemented Kustok’s passing with 208 yards rushing on 61 attempts.
The Spartans racked up 374 total yards. Along with Smoker’s stats in the passing game, Michigan State also added 144 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
WEEK 9: GAME OF THE WEEK - OHIO STATE 27, MICHIGAN 23
|WEEK 9 RESULTS|
|Nebraska 29, Iowa 11|
|Minnesota 22, Michigan State 20|
|Northwestern 30, Illinois 24|
|Penn State 22, Wisconsin 20|
|Purdue 39, Indiana 16|
Ohio State wins back and forth affair against Michigan late, 27-23
In the ninth week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan of the Legends Division. No advantage was safe when the Buckeyes and the Wolverines were on the field, as they traded leads all day long. Eventually, Ohio State went up for good on Derek Combs’ 25-yard touchdown run in overtime and hung on for the 27-23 win.
Steve Bellisari threw for 188 yards while completing 14 of 31 passes for the Buckeyes. He threw one touchdown and one interception. Bellisari looked for Ken-Yon Rambo often. He hauled in five catches for 80 yards.
Home run plays keyed Ohio State’s scoring attack. Michigan’s defense gave up four plays of at least 20 yards. With 14:04 to go in the fourth quarter, Combs ran 49 yards, the Buckeyes’ biggest gain of the game. The big gainer was part of an eight-play drive capped off when Jonathan Wells ran one yard to paydirt. That gave Ohio State a 17-12 lead.
The Wolverines’ Drew Henson went 19 of 32 through the air for a total of 288 yards. Henson tossed two touchdowns while throwing one interception. Henson’s favorite target on the day was Dave Terrell. He hauled in five catches for 77 yards.
Michigan racked up 394 total yards. The Wolverines complemented Henson’s passing with 106 yards rushing on 52 attempts.
Joe Cooper and Donnie Nickey were each solid on the defensive side of the ball. Cooper was all over the action, terrorizing Michigan’s line for two sacks. He came up big during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter, when he sacked Henson on third-and-6 for a five-yard loss.
The Buckeyes’ offense finished the game having gained 353 yards. Along with Bellisari’s stats in the passing game, Ohio State also added 165 yards rushing on 46 attempts.
2000 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – OHIO STATE 22, NEBRASKA 20
Buckeyes win back-and-forth affair against Cornhuskers late, 22-20
In the tenth week of our simulated 2000 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Nebraska of the Legends Division. No advantage was safe when the Buckeyes and the Cornhuskers were on the field, as they traded leads all day long. Eventually, Ohio State went up for good on Dan Stultz’s 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and hung on for the 22-20 win.
The Buckeyes’ Steve Bellisari passed for 197 yards, completing 13 of 23 throws. He tossed one touchdown and gave up two interceptions. Bellisari was also a threat on the ground, as he rushed for 55 yards on 15 attempts.
Ohio State was able to secure the win thanks to a well-rounded offense that was firing on all cylinders. The Buckeyes gained 197 yards passing and 194 yards rushing as it dominated Nebraska’s defense.
Eric Crouch threw for seven yards while going 2-6 for the Cornhuskers. He threw no interceptions. Crouch also ran for 62 yards on 13 attempts.
Nebraska’s offense finished the game having gained 296 yards. The Cornhuskers’ rushing attack contributed 289 yards on 52 carries in addition to Crouch’s passing effort.