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 2004 season. Click here for the other seasons.
2004 Big Ten Championship:
WEEK 1: GAME OF THE WEEK - NEBRASKA 24, MICHIGAN 23
|WEEK 1 RESULTS|
|Penn State 26, Illinois 17|
|Iowa 23, Minnesota 22|
|Northwestern 34, Indiana 18|
|Wisconsin 16, Purdue 15|
Nebraska pulls out last second victory over Michigan
In the first week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Nebraska visited Legends Division foe Michigan. The Cornhuskers came through in the clutch, benefiting from Sam Keller’s nine-yard touchdown pass that tied the game with no time remaining. Nebraska then pulled ahead of the Wolverines for good on an extra point to win, 24-23.
The winning play came after the Cornhuskers drove 59 yards in 15 seconds.
Nebraska’s Keller went 14 of 28 through the air for a total of 201 yards. Keller finished the game with one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Cornhuskers’ explosive offense used big plays to take down Michigan. The Wolverines’ defense gave up four plays of at least 20 yards. Nebraska added to the highlight reel when Keller found Ross Pilkington open for a 50-yard pass with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Later in the drive, Keller tossed a nine-yard touchdown to Grant Mulkey, which gave the Cornhuskers a 24-23 lead.
Michigan’s Chad Henne was good for 306 yards during the game, completing 25 of 37 passes. Henne tossed two touchdowns while throwing two interceptions. Henne’s favorite target on the day was Braylon Edwards. He caught nine passes for 133 yards and one touchdown.
The Wolverines’ offense finished the game having gained 379 yards. Michigan’s rushing attack contributed 73 yards on 43 carries in addition to Henne’s passing effort.
Nebraska racked up 335 total yards, including 254 yards passing while completing 18 of 43 attempts. The Cornhuskers also rushed 32 times for 81 yards.
WEEK 2: GAME OF THE WEEK - WISCONSIN 24, MICHIGAN STATE 21
|WEEK 2 RESULTS|
|Purdue 23, Michigan 21|
|Nebraska 30, Northwestern 19|
|Ohio State 34, Illinois 15|
|Iowa 20, Penn State 11|
Late heroics boost Badgers over Spartans, 24-21
In the second week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Michigan State of the Legends Division visited Wisconsin of the Leaders Division. The game between the Badgers and the Spartans came down to the final play, culminating when Mike Allen kicked a 22-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 24-21 victory.
Wisconsin marched 20 yards in three plays to set up the score. The winning drive took 13 seconds.
John Stocco threw for 241 yards while completing 16 of 32 passes for the Badgers. Stocco finished the game with one touchdown and one interception.
Home run plays keyed Wisconsin’s scoring attack. The Badgers had four plays of 20 yards or more on their way to victory. With 10:15 to go in the first quarter, Stocco hit Darrin Charles in the endzone from 38 yards out, Wisconsin’s longest play on the day. The touchdown gave the Badgers a 7-0 lead.
All facets of Wisconsin’s offense were in place and it showed against an overmatched Spartans defense. The Badgers’ offense exploded for 241 passing yards and 178 rushing yards in claiming the victory.
Drew Stanton threw for 134 yards while going 16-23 for Michigan State. He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions. Stanton also ran for 37 yards on 11 attempts. Agim Shabaj was the player Stanton targeted most often. He hauled in five catches for 25 yards.
David Herron Jr. was perpetually in Wisconsin’s backfield, and he recorded two sacks. On a critical drive in the first quarter, he sacked Stocco on second-and-8 for an eight-yard loss.
The Spartans’ offense finished the game having gained 329 yards. Michigan State complemented Stanton’s passing with 195 yards rushing on 43 attempts.
WEEK 3: GAME OF THE WEEK - ILLINOIS 46, INDIANA 45
|WEEK 3 RESULTS|
|Iowa 17, Purdue 14|
|Michigan 25, Northwestern 20|
|Minnesota 33, Michigan State 28|
|Ohio State 18, Wisconsin 14|
Thomas Jr. runs all over Indiana in Illinois’ 46-45 victory
In the third week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Illinois visited Leaders Division foe Indiana. Pierre Thomas Jr. put the team on his back in the Fighting Illini’s 46-45 win over the Hoosiers in overtime, rushing for 185 rushing yards and one touchdown.
A blown extra point by Indiana in the first quarter was the difference in the game.
Despite taking the loss, Matt LoVecchio gave the Hoosiers a fighting chance thanks to a big game through the air. LoVecchio threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns on 21-for-31 passing.
Illinois and Indiana put on an entertaining offensive show. The Fighting Illini and the Hoosiers rode their powerful offenses to a combined 1037 total yards.
Indiana racked up 488 total yards. Along with LoVecchio’s stats in the passing game, the Hoosiers also added 149 yards rushing on 44 attempts.
Illinois racked up 549 total yards, including 288 yards passing while completing 29 of 40 attempts. The Fighting Illini also rushed 42 times for 261 yards.
WEEK 4: GAME OF THE WEEK - WISCONSIN 20, NEBRASKA 17
|WEEK 4 RESULTS|
|Ohio State 36, Indiana 15|
|Michigan 30, Minnesota 28|
|Iowa 25, Michigan State 16|
|Purdue 20, Penn State 13|
Badgers win 20-17 after topping Nebraska in fourth quarter
In the fourth week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Wisconsin of the Leaders Division visited Nebraska of the Legends Division. The Badgers took the lead in the fourth quarter and hung on for a 20-17 victory over the Cornhuskers.
With 14:27 to go, Mike Allen made a 43-yard field goal to give Wisconsin a 20-17 lead.
John Stocco threw for 239 yards while completing 14 of 27 passes for the Badgers. Stocco tossed one touchdown while throwing two interceptions.
Wisconsin’s offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. The Badgers burned Nebraska’s defense for seven plays of more than 20 yards. With 1:26 to go in the third quarter, Stocco found Darrin Charles open for a 43-yard pass, Wisconsin’s biggest gain of the game. Later in the drive, an Allen field goal gave the Badgers a lead.
The Cornhuskers’ Sam Keller went 19 of 32 through the air for a total of 235 yards. Keller finished the game with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Jay Moore terrorized Wisconsin’s line with two sacks. He came up big during a crucial moment in the third quarter, when he sacked Stocco on third-and-5 for a five-yard loss.
Nebraska’s offense finished the game having gained 368 yards, including 278 passing yards on 22 completions. The Cornhuskers’ rushing attack also contributed 90 yards to the total, with the tally coming on 38 carries.
Brett Bell showed good hands on defense for the Badgers, picking off two Nebraska passes. He intercepted Keller and returned it 73 yards on third-and-goal during a key drive in the third quarter.
Wisconsin’s offense finished the game having gained 393 yards. Along with Stocco’s stats in the passing game, the Badgers also added 154 yards rushing on 46 attempts.
WEEK 5: GAME OF THE WEEK - NORTHWESTERN 24, PENN STATE 21
|WEEK 5 RESULTS|
|Michigan 34, Illinois 17|
|Iowa 34, Indiana 10|
|Nebraska 33, Minnesota 28|
|Ohio State 27, Michigan State 20|
Herron runs over Nittany Lions in Wildcats’ 24-21 victory
In the fifth week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Northwestern of the Legends Division visited Penn State of the Leaders Division. Noah Herron broke out against the Nittany Lions, piling up 140 rushing yards and scoring one touchdown to lead the Wildcats to a 24-21 victory.
Penn State at one point held a commanding lead, but failed to close out Northwestern. The Wildcats fought hard and erased the Nittany Lions’ 14-point lead.
Home run plays keyed Northwestern’s scoring attack. The Wildcats burned Penn State’s defense for five plays of more than 20 yards. Northwestern added to the highlight reel when Herron ran 42 yards with 2:17 left in the second quarter. Later in the drive, Brett Basanez threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Herron, which cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to 14-7.
Penn State’s Zack Mills went 21 of 31 through the air for a total of 199 yards. Mills finished the game with one touchdown and one interception.
The Nittany Lions racked up 357 total yards. Penn State complemented Mills’ passing with 158 yards rushing on 44 attempts.
The Wildcats’ Basanez passed for 190 yards, completing 18 of 38 throws. He tossed one touchdown and gave up two interceptions. Basanez was also a threat on the ground, as he rushed for 26 yards on 13 attempts.
Northwestern’s offense finished the game having gained 407 yards. Along with Basanez’s stats in the passing game, the Wildcats also added 217 yards rushing on 42 attempts.
WEEK 6: GAME OF THE WEEK - PURDUE 31, MINNESOTA 21
|WEEK 6 RESULTS|
|Wisconsin 33, Indiana 11|
|Nebraska 32, Michigan State 23|
|Northwestern 31, Illinois 20|
|Ohio State 21, Penn State 14|
Big comeback leads Purdue past Minnesota, 31-21
In the sixth week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Purdue of the Leaders Division visited Minnesota of the Legends Division. The Golden Gophers fell victim to a furious Boilermakers comeback, as the Boilermakers pulled out a 31-21 win.
Things didn’t look good for Purdue when it trailed by 11 points in the third quarter. However, the Boilermakers eventually battled back to take the lead with 7:33 remaining in the fourth quarter when Kyle Orton found Jerod Void open for a 43-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score.
Orton piled up 314 yards and four touchdowns through the air on 25-for-34 passing en route to the win.
Bryan Cupito threw for 251 yards while completing 13 of 28 passes for Minnesota. Cupito finished the game with one touchdown and no interceptions.
The Golden Gophers racked up 415 total yards. In addition to Cupito’s efforts through the air, Minnesota also rushed 42 times for 164 yards.
Purdue’s offense finished the game having gained 423 yards. The Boilermakers’ rushing attack contributed 109 yards on 48 carries in addition to Orton’s passing effort.
WEEK 7: GAME OF THE WEEK - WISCONSIN 24, MINNESOTA 20
|WEEK 7 RESULTS|
|Purdue 33, Illinois 14|
|Michigan 29, Michigan State 22|
|Ohio State 23, Nebraska 22|
|Iowa 23, Northwestern 14|
|Penn State 31, Indiana 15|
Davis pads his rushing stats against Minnesota in 24-20 win
In the seventh week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Wisconsin of the Leaders Division visited Minnesota of the Legends Division. Anthony Davis broke out against the Golden Gophers, piling up 161 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Badgers to a 24-20 victory.
Minnesota at one point held a commanding lead, but failed to close out Wisconsin. The Badgers showed their competitive spirit in digging themselves out of a 17-point hole and pulling out the win.
Wisconsin’s passing game looked flawless, despite the efforts of the Golden Gophers’ secondary. The Badgers’ air attack was uncontainable, as they torched Minnesota for 258 yards and one touchdown. John Stocco completed 21 of 34 passes for Wisconsin.
The Badgers’ offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. Wisconsin had four plays of 20 yards or more on its way to victory. With 1:11 to go in the fourth quarter, Stocco found Brandon Williams open for a 34-yard pass, the Badgers’ biggest gain of the game. The big gainer was part of a 10-play drive capped off when Davis ran eight yards to paydirt. That gave Wisconsin a 24-20 lead.
The Golden Gophers’ Bryan Cupito went 17 of 30 through the air for a total of 225 yards. Cupito tossed one touchdown while throwing two interceptions.
Minnesota racked up 393 total yards. The Golden Gophers complemented Cupito’s passing with 168 yards rushing on 43 attempts.
The Badgers’ offense finished the game having gained 403 yards. In addition to Stocco’s efforts through the air, Wisconsin also rushed 47 times for 145 yards.
WEEK 8: GAME OF THE WEEK - OHIO STATE 17, PURDUE 14
|WEEK 8 RESULTS|
|Michigan State 37, Indiana 22|
|Iowa 20, Michigan 15|
|Minnesota 32, Northwestern 27|
|Nebraska 24, Penn State 17|
|Wisconsin 31, Illinois 12|
Ohio State takes the lead late against Purdue, wins back and forth affair 17-14
In the eighth week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Ohio State visited Leaders Division foe Purdue. The Buckeyes and the Boilermakers traded the lead all game long, but Ohio State went ahead for good in the third quarter on Lydell Ross’ six-yard touchdown run for a 17-14 victory over Purdue.
The Buckeyes’ explosive offense used big plays to take down the Boilermakers. Ohio State burned Purdue’s defense for four plays of more than 20 yards. With 13:52 to go in the fourth quarter, Troy Smith found Roy Hall open for a 26-yard pass for the Buckeyes’ biggest gain of the game. Unfortunately for Ohio State, the big play went to waste, as that drive ended on the Buckeyes’ own 39-yard line without a score.
Smith picked apart the Boilermakers’ secondary, completing 11 of 20 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown on the day.
Kyle Orton threw for 253 yards while completing 20 of 29 passes for Purdue. Orton tossed one touchdown while throwing one interception. Orton looked for Taylor Stubblefield often. He hauled in eight catches for 108 yards.
The Boilermakers racked up 352 total yards. Along with Orton’s stats in the passing game, Purdue also added 99 yards rushing on 48 attempts.
Ohio State’s offense finished the game having gained 219 yards. The Buckeyes’ rushing attack contributed 72 yards on 48 carries in addition to Smith’s passing effort.
WEEK 9: GAME OF THE WEEK - OHIO STATE 28, MICHIGAN 18
|WEEK 9 RESULTS|
|Iowa 20, Nebraska 19|
|Minnesota 39, Illinois 24|
|Northwestern 25, Michigan State 24|
|Wisconsin 18, Penn State 12|
|Purdue 36, Indiana 15|
Henne’s passing attack can’t lead Wolverines over Buckeyes in 28-18 loss
In the ninth week of our simulated 2004 Big Ten football season, Ohio State of the Leaders Division visited Michigan of the Legends Division. Chad Henne put on an air show for the Wolverines, finishing with 342 passing yards, but Michigan fell 28-18 to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State didn’t capture the lead until the fourth quarter. With 14:57 to go, Lydell Ross pounded in a three-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 19-18 lead.
Ohio State’s offense dominated, ripping off huge chunks of yardage. The Wolverines’ defense gave up five plays of at least 20 yards. With 11:28 to go in the third quarter, Troy Smith found Ted Ginn Jr. open for a 39-yard pass, the Buckeyes’ biggest gain of the game. His big play set up a nine-play drive that cut Michigan’s lead to 15-13 after Smith ran eight yards to paydirt.
The Wolverines racked up 442 total yards. In addition to Henne’s efforts through the air, Michigan also rushed 43 times for 100 yards.
Ohio State racked up 312 total yards, including 232 yards passing while completing 16 of 28 attempts. The Buckeyes also rushed 37 times for 80 yards.
2004 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – IOWA 20, OHIO STATE 19
Big comeback helps Hawkeyes past Buckeyes, 20-19
In the tenth week of our simulated 2004 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 the Hawkeyes pulled out a 20-19 win.
Things didn’t look good for Iowa when it trailed by 13 points in the third quarter. However, the Hawkeyes eventually battled back to take the lead with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter when Kyle Schlicher made a 32-yard field goal for the go-ahead score.
Drew Tate and Ed Hinkel had a passing connection going, as Hinkel racked up 68 yards and one touchdown on five catches en route to a win for Iowa.
Lydell Ross did his best to carry Ohio State’s offense, turning 20 carries into 42 rushing yards and one touchdown.
The Hawkeyes’ Tate went 20 of 37 through the air for a total of 257 yards. He threw one touchdown and no interceptions.
Iowa’s offense finished the game having gained 346 yards. Along with Tate’s stats in the passing game, the Hawkeyes also added 89 yards rushing on 38 attempts.
The Buckeyes racked up 283 total yards, including 169 yards passing while completing 16 of 28 attempts. Ohio State also rushed 48 times for 114 yards.