Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, November 29, 2015
So much to absorb, beginning with the awesomeness of Michigan State, the perfection of Iowa and the power of Ohio State. And how about those Hoosiers?!
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Here's what I learned in Week 13:
1. The Big Ten title game next Saturday in Indianapolis sets up as a likely play-in game for a playoff spot. Big Ten West champ and 12-0 Iowa was No. 4 in last week?s College Football Playoff rankings; Big Ten East champ and 11-1 Michigan State was No. 5. The winner certainly will make the second annual playoff. All things considered, this shapes up as perhaps the most-anticipated Big Ten title game yet. Get my full thoughts.
The stage is set:@MSU_Football vs. @HawkeyeFootball pic.twitter.com/qdp51Gz79W— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 29, 2015
2. What a difference a year makes for Iowa. This time last year, the Hawkeyes were coming off a loss at home to Nebraska in which they blew a 24-7 third-quarter lead to fall to 7-5. It was Iowa?s third loss in four games, as a 6-2 mark melted to 7-5. That was followed by a lackluster bowl loss to Tennessee that had some questioning the program. Now, the Hawkeyes are unbeaten and headed to Indianapolis looking for their first Big Ten title since 2004 and possible playoff bid. Incredible turn of events.
12-0. https://t.co/uHjTEyWRGn— The Iowa Hawkeyes (@TheIowaHawkeyes) November 28, 2015
3. From the ?Too Little, Too Late? department, Ohio State?s offense woke up a week late. After scoring just 14 points and gaining 132 yards in a home loss to Michigan State the last time out, the Buckeyes trampled Michigan, 42-13, gaining 482 yards with 369 coming on the ground. Now THAT is the Ohio State offense. Alas, Michigan State sewed up the East Division with a home win vs. Penn State on Saturday. What?s it mean? Unless some chaos occurs on Championship Saturday (Clemson loses to North Carolina in the ACC title game?), the reigning champs will be locked out of the playoff but still figure to be headed to a New Year?s Day Six Bowl. The what-if game in Columbus can begin right ? now.
? WIN COLUMN: @OSUCoachMeyer is 4-0 at OSU vs TTUN & is now 15-6 in HC career against Top 10 teams. #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/SMXvLD8eV1— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) November 28, 2015
4. All is forgiven for Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott. A week after an epic postgame rant in which he felt he wasn?t used enough (12 carries, 33 yards) and also took the time to announce he was going pro, the junior ran 30 times for 214 yards and two touchdowns. The effort figures to be enough to guarantee ?Zeke? a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. Regardless, Elliott is a star and the Ohio State offense is at its best when he is playing a significant role.
Don't think I ever ran harder than I did today ...— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) November 28, 2015
5. Northwestern is the best 10-win team no one knows about. Kudos to Pat Fitzgerald. The program was listing the last two seasons, dealing with a unionization effort that distracted and played a role in consecutive 5-7 seasons after a breakout 10-win season in 2012. Now, the Wildcats are back on track. And, if not for the magic of Iowa, NU would be the Cinderella Big Ten story grabbing headlines.
Illinois' field goal attempt sails wide right. Mood. #B1GCats pic.twitter.com/pdW6fGSTSV— Northwestern Football (@NUFBFamily) November 28, 2015
6. Mike Riley capped a difficult debut season with a 28-20 home loss to an Iowa team that resembles what Nebraska wants to be. That makes the Cornhuskers 5-7, the program?s third losing mark since 2004. There is a shot Nebraska could get a bowl bid with a losing record. But would Nebraska accept it? If the Huskers get one, I think they take it and run.
7. Reality sank in for Michigan as the season wore on. The defense has been mashed down the stretch. Ohio State notched 482 yards overall and 369 rushing. Indiana had 527 total and 307 rushing. Minnesota had 461 yards. And the Wolverine offense has all sorts of shortcomings, especially when it comes to blocking and running the ball. Bottom line: Jim Harbaugh maxed out this roster but still has much work to do.
8. It was good to see Indiana A.D. Fred Glass? commitment to Kevin Wilson rewarded. The Hoosiers punched their ticket to a bowl bid with a commanding win at Purdue, their third straight win in the rivalry. It took Wilson five years, but he finally delivered IU to the postseason for the first time since 2007. And if not for a meltdown at home to Rutgers and double-OT home loss to Michigan, the Hoosiers would be 8-4. Wilson is now a hot commodity.
9. Illinois made more news off the field than on it on Saturday. The school announced interim coach Bill Cubit would be the head coach and given a two-year deal. It was a smart move given the school?s current situation with an interim chancellor and interim A.D. A two-year deal isn?t ideal from a recruiting standpoint, but the appointment of Cubit offers some stability and allowed the program to move forward knowing who its leader is. The next A.D. can decide Cubit?s long-term fate next year. Until then, Cubit can continue to audition.
When you arrive at @SoldierField and see your mentions blowing up. @CoachCubit #Illini pic.twitter.com/XUURk3sG4l— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) November 28, 2015
10. I'm not sure it was a satisfying season in Happy Valley. Penn State finished 7-5 and will go to a bowl. This team still has a lot to prove and appears to be miles behind East powers Ohio State and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions didn?t beat a Big Ten club with a winning record (Rutgers, Indiana, Maryland, Illinois). In fact, Penn State beat just one team with a winning mark: San Diego State. Year No. 3 will be interesting for James Franklin, who is 14-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big Ten. This team must get much better along the offensive line.
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