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 2002 season. Click here for the other seasons.
2002 Big Ten Championship:
WEEK 1: GAME OF THE WEEK - PENN STATE 30, ILLINOIS 24
|WEEK 1 RESULTS|
|Iowa 37, Wisconsin 12|
|Michigan 36, Northwestern 14|
|Minnesota 36, Indiana 23|
|Ohio State 25, Purdue 13|
Penn State’s Johnson has big day rushing against Fighting Illini in 30-24 victory
In the first week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Illinois visited Leaders Division foe Penn State. Larry Johnson broke out against the Fighting Illini, piling up 171 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Nittany Lions to a 30-24 victory.
Penn State didn’t capture the lead until the third quarter. With 4:08 to go, Johnson pounded in a 43-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 20-17 lead.
Penn State’s passing game looked flawless, despite the efforts of Illinois’ secondary. The Nittany Lions’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched the Fighting Illini for 206 yards and one touchdown. Zack Mills completed 13 of 21 passes for Penn State.
At one point, Illinois trailed by 13 points, and while the Fighting Illini made a run in the game’s late stages, they couldn’t complete the comeback against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State racked up 416 total yards. The Nittany Lions’ rushing attack contributed 210 yards on 46 carries in addition to Mills’ passing effort.
Illinois’ Jon Beutjer was good for 321 yards during the game, completing 30 of 39 passes. He threw two touchdowns and one interception. Beutjer looked for Brandon Lloyd often. He caught seven passes for 87 yards and one touchdown.
Brian Brosnan was perpetually in Penn State’s backfield, and he recorded two sacks. He came up big during a crucial moment in the third quarter, when he sacked Mills on first-and-10 for a six-yard loss.
The Fighting Illini’s offense finished the game having gained 424 yards. In addition to Beutjer’s efforts through the air, Illinois also rushed 38 times for 103 yards.
WEEK 2: GAME OF THE WEEK - NEBRASKA 52, ILLINOIS 49
|WEEK 2 RESULTS|
|Michigan 35, Indiana 16|
|Michigan State 35, Northwestern 24|
|Penn State 33, Minnesota 19|
|Purdue 25, Wisconsin 19|
Nebraska defeats Illinois in overtime 52-49
In the second week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Nebraska of the Legends Division visited Illinois of the Leaders Division. The Cornhuskers needed five overtimes to knock off the Fighting Illini, outlasting Illinois 52-49.
After the Fighting Illini turned the ball over on their drive to start the fifth overtime, Nebraska scored on Josh Brown’s 18-yard field goal to capture the victory.
Antoineo Harris was a bright spot in defeat for Illinois, as he rushed for 171 yards on 39 carries and scored five touchdowns.
Jammal Lord ran all over the Fighting Illini to lead the Cornhuskers to the win. He carried the ball 29 times for 204 yards and scored three touchdowns.
The two teams combined for 995 total yards of offense. With both offenses running wild, Nebraska took the lead in overtime and refused to give it back. The key score came in overtime, when the Cornhuskers scored on Brown’s field goal, allowing Nebraska to take the lead, 52-49.
Jon Beutjer threw for 317 yards while completing 24 of 42 passes for Illinois. He also threw three interceptions. Beutjer’s favorite target on the day was Walter Young. He hauled in seven catches for 114 yards.
The Fighting Illini’s offense finished the game having gained 526 yards. Along with Beutjer’s stats in the passing game, Illinois also added 209 yards rushing on 63 attempts.
DeJuan Groce showed good hands on defense for the Cornhuskers, picking off two Illinois passes. He came up big during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter, when he intercepted Beutjer on third-and-3 and returned it 20 yards.
Nebraska racked up 469 total yards. The Cornhuskers’ rushing attack contributed 471 yards on 81 carries in addition to Lord’s passing effort.
Nebraska’s Lord went one of seven through the air for a total of -2 yards. He also threw one interception.
WEEK 3: GAME OF THE WEEK - MINNESOTA 33, MICHIGAN STATE 31
|WEEK 3 RESULTS|
|Iowa 30, Michigan 13|
|Ohio State 43, Northwestern 10|
|Purdue 22, Nebraska 20|
|Illinois 29, Wisconsin 25|
Late heroics boost Golden Gophers over Spartans, 33-31
In the third week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Minnesota visited Legends Division foe Michigan State. The game between the Golden Gophers and the Spartans came down to the final play, culminating when Dan Nystrom kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 33-31 victory.
Minnesota marched 76 yards in 15 plays to set up the score. The winning drive took 2:30.
Asad Abdul-Khaliq mounted the Golden Gophers’ unstoppable air attack, finishing with 349 passing yards and three touchdowns on 22 completions.
The game was a shootout, with the offensive units for both teams putting up big numbers. The teams went wild on the attacking side of the ball, racking up 983 total yards combined.
Jeff Smoker threw for 313 yards while completing 18 of 26 passes for Michigan State. He also threw one interception. Charles Rogers was the player Smoker targeted most often. He hauled in six catches for 142 yards.
The Spartans’ offense finished the game having gained 431 yards. Along with Smoker’s stats in the passing game, Michigan State also added 118 yards rushing on 35 attempts.
Justin Fraley was perpetually in the Spartans’ backfield, and he recorded two sacks. On a critical drive in the first quarter, he sacked Smoker on first-and-10 for a six-yard loss.
Minnesota racked up 552 total yards. The Golden Gophers’ rushing attack contributed 203 yards on 51 carries in addition to Abdul-Khaliq’s passing effort.
WEEK 4: GAME OF THE WEEK - NEBRASKA 37, NORTHWESTERN 26
|WEEK 4 RESULTS|
|Illinois 41, Indiana 22|
|Iowa 41, Minnesota 13|
|Purdue 31, Michigan State 19|
|Ohio State 25, Penn State 19|
Lord runs all over Northwestern in Nebraska’s 37-26 victory
In the fourth week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Northwestern visited Legends Division foe Nebraska. Jammal Lord broke out against the Wildcats, piling up 163 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Cornhuskers to a 37-26 victory.
Jason Wright was a bright spot in defeat for Northwestern, as he rushed for 169 yards on 24 carries.
Things looked grim for Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers stormed back to clinch the victory. Nebraska climbed back from a 17-point deficit to pull off the comeback.
Lord threw for 151 yards while completing six of 10 passes for the Cornhuskers. Lord finished the game with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Cornhuskers racked up 517 total yards. Nebraska complemented Lord’s passing with 366 yards rushing on 59 attempts.
The Wildcats’ Brett Basanez was good for 225 yards during the game, completing 19 of 33 passes. He threw three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Northwestern’s offense finished the game having gained 490 yards. The Wildcats’ rushing attack contributed 265 yards on 43 carries in addition to Basanez’s passing effort.
WEEK 5: GAME OF THE WEEK - IOWA 22, OHIO STATE 20
|WEEK 5 RESULTS|
|Michigan State 35, Indiana 25|
|Nebraska 20, Michigan 19|
|Purdue 24, Penn State 23|
|Wisconsin 36, Northwestern 19|
Russell runs over Buckeyes in Hawkeyes’ 22-20 victory
In the fifth week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Iowa of the Legends Division. Fred Russell broke out against the Buckeyes, piling up 208 rushing yards and scoring one touchdown to lead the Hawkeyes to a 22-20 victory.
Iowa didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 1:15 to go, Nate Kaeding kicked a 48-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes a 22-20 lead.
Home run plays keyed Iowa’s scoring attack. Ohio State’s defense gave up six plays of at least 20 yards. With 2:36 to go in the second quarter, Russell ran 50 yards to paydirt, the Hawkeyes’ longest play on the day. The score gave Iowa a 16-0 lead.
Brad Banks threw for 164 yards while completing 12 of 27 passes for the Hawkeyes. Banks finished the game with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Iowa racked up 424 total yards. Along with Banks’ stats in the passing game, the Hawkeyes also added 260 yards rushing on 47 attempts.
Craig Krenzel threw for 229 yards while going 16-32 for the Buckeyes. He threw one touchdown and no interceptions. Krenzel also ran for 30 yards on 15 attempts.
Ohio State’s offense finished the game having gained 440 yards. The Buckeyes complemented Krenzel’s passing with 211 yards rushing on 52 attempts.
WEEK 6: GAME OF THE WEEK - MICHIGAN 31, MINNESOTA 23
|WEEK 6 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 36, Indiana 20|
|Iowa 43, Michigan State 15|
|Penn State 26, Nebraska 20|
|Ohio State 31, Illinois 19|
Michigan pulls out the win late against Minnesota, wins back and forth affair 31-23
In the sixth week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Minnesota visited Legends Division foe Michigan. It was a back and forth affair in a game between the Wolverines and the Golden Gophers, but Michigan went on top on Philip Brabbs’ 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and hung on for the 31-23 win.
John Navarre threw for 224 yards while completing 19 of 35 passes for the Wolverines. Navarre finished the game with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Navarre’s favorite target on the day was Braylon Edwards. He caught five passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns.
Michigan’s explosive offense used big plays to take down Minnesota. The Wolverines burned the Golden Gophers’ defense for six plays of more than 20 yards. Michigan added to the highlight reel when Navarre found Chris Perry open for a 31-yard pass with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. Later in the drive, Navarre found Edwards open for a two-yard touchdown pass, which gave the Wolverines a 31-23 lead.
Julius Curry showed good hands on defense for Michigan, picking off two Minnesota passes. He came up big during a crucial moment in the fourth quarter, when he intercepted Asad Abdul-Khaliq on third-and-7.
The Wolverines racked up 361 total yards. Michigan’s rushing attack contributed 137 yards on 33 carries in addition to Navarre’s passing effort.
Minnesota’s Abdul-Khaliq passed for 217 yards, completing 17 of 32 throws. He tossed one touchdown and gave up three interceptions. Abdul-Khaliq was also a threat on the ground, as he rushed for 32 yards on 15 attempts.
The Golden Gophers’ offense finished the game having gained 433 yards. Along with Abdul-Khaliq’s stats in the passing game, Minnesota also added 216 yards rushing on 55 attempts.
WEEK 7: GAME OF THE WEEK - PURDUE 30, ILLINOIS 27
|WEEK 7 RESULTS|
|Michigan 28, Michigan State 19|
|Nebraska 27, Minnesota 20|
|Iowa 49, Northwestern 11|
|Penn State 41, Indiana 17|
|Ohio State 30, Wisconsin 12|
Purdue steals lead in fourth quarter, takes home 30-27 win over Fighting Illini
In the seventh week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Illinois visited Leaders Division foe Purdue. The Boilermakers took the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 30-27 victory over the Fighting Illini.
With 2:18 to go, Berin Lacevic drilled a 47-yard field goal to give Purdue a 30-27 lead.
The Boilermakers’ Kyle Orton went 21 of 39 through the air for a total of 292 yards. He threw two touchdowns and one interception. Taylor Stubblefield was the player Orton targeted most often. He hauled in seven catches for 82 yards.
A lone bright spot for Illinois was Jon Beutjer, who made enough good throws to finish with 284 passing yards. He was 20 for 30 on pass attempts and tossed two touchdowns.
Purdue racked up 440 total yards. The Boilermakers complemented Orton’s passing with 148 yards rushing on 39 attempts.
Jeff Ruffin terrorized Purdue’s line with two sacks. His biggest play came on a critical drive in the first quarter, when he sacked Orton on third-and-5 for a six-yard loss.
The Fighting Illini’s offense finished the game having gained 434 yards. Illinois’ rushing attack contributed 150 yards on 45 carries in addition to Beutjer’s passing effort.
WEEK 8: GAME OF THE WEEK - WISCONSIN 23, MINNESOTA 20
|WEEK 8 RESULTS|
|Iowa 30, Purdue 16|
|Ohio State 42, Indiana 11|
|Penn State 24, Michigan 20|
|Nebraska 29, Michigan State 20|
|Illinois 40, Northwestern 21|
Wisconsin pulls out last second victory over Minnesota
In the eighth week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Wisconsin of the Leaders Division visited Minnesota of the Legends Division. The game between the Badgers and the Golden Gophers came down to the final play, culminating when Mike Allen kicked a 49-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 23-20 victory.
The winning play came after Wisconsin drove 82 yards in 45 seconds.
Brooks Bollinger threw for 219 yards while going 18-21 for the Badgers. He threw one touchdown and no interceptions. Bollinger also ran for 64 yards on 17 attempts.
Wisconsin racked up the yards against Minnesota on its way to victory. The Badgers gained 219 yards passing and 205 yards rushing as it dominated the Golden Gophers’ defense.
Minnesota’s Asad Abdul-Khaliq was good for 198 yards during the game, completing 15 of 24 passes. Abdul-Khaliq tossed one touchdown while throwing one interception.
The Golden Gophers racked up 300 total yards. Along with Abdul-Khaliq’s stats in the passing game, Minnesota also added 102 yards rushing on 41 attempts.
WEEK 9: GAME OF THE WEEK - OHIO STATE 27, MICHIGAN 24
|WEEK 9 RESULTS|
|Illinois 34, Michigan State 26|
|Iowa 34, Nebraska 13|
|Minnesota 36, Northwestern 21|
|Penn State 30, Wisconsin 19|
|Purdue 37, Indiana 15|
Late heroics boost Buckeyes over Wolverines, 27-24
In the ninth week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan of the Legends Division. The Buckeyes clinched a dramatic 27-24 last-second win over the Wolverines, as Mike Nugent made a 22-yard field goal as the game clock struck zero.
Ohio State marched 64 yards in seven plays to set up the score. The winning drive took 56 seconds.
Craig Krenzel and Michael Jenkins had a passing connection going, as Jenkins racked up 92 yards and two touchdowns on five 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 289 yards and two touchdowns. Krenzel completed 18 of 28 passes for Ohio State.
Michigan’s John Navarre went 21 of 42 through the air for a total of 277 yards. Navarre tossed one touchdown while throwing no interceptions. Navarre’s favorite target on the day was Braylon Edwards. He hauled in five catches for 90 yards.
The Wolverines racked up 320 total yards. Michigan’s rushing attack contributed 43 yards on 26 carries in addition to Navarre’s passing effort.
The Buckeyes’ offense finished the game having gained 472 yards. Along with Krenzel’s stats in the passing game, Ohio State also added 183 yards rushing on 55 attempts.
2002 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – IOWA 30, OHIO STATE 26
Big comeback sends Iowa past Ohio State, 30-26
In the tenth week of our simulated 2002 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Iowa of the Legends Division. The Buckeyes fell victim to a furious Hawkeyes comeback, as Iowa pulled out a 30-26 win in overtime.
Things didn’t look good for the Hawkeyes when they trailed by four points in the fourth quarter. However, Iowa eventually battled back to take the lead when Fred Russell pounded in a 15-yard touchdown run in overtime.
Michael Jenkins was a bright spot for Ohio State, hauling in three catches for 140 receiving yards in a losing effort.
The Hawkeyes’ Brad Banks was good for 224 yards during the game, completing 15 of 24 passes. He threw three touchdowns and one interception.
Iowa racked up 373 total yards. In addition to Banks’ efforts through the air, the Hawkeyes also rushed 42 times for 149 yards.
Craig Krenzel threw for 376 yards while completing 19 of 29 passes for the Buckeyes. Krenzel finished the game with two touchdowns and one interception.
Ohio State’s offense finished the game having gained 470 yards, including 383 passing yards on 20 completions. The Buckeyes’ rushing attack also contributed 87 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 59 carries.