Can anyone find the Michigan defense? The Wolverines defensive unit has not been seen in a few weeks because whoever showed up in Columbus were not part of the number one defense in the country. Going into “The Game,” the most amount of points in a game that Michigan allowed was 24 to Notre Dame. Ohio State nearly tripled that amount as they scored 62 points on their way to a 23 point victory. As Michigan’s Playoff hopes died, Ohio State’s dreams were reborn, but before we talk about the postseason, do no forget about Northwestern in the Big Ten Power Rankings Week 14.
Here are last week’s Big Ten Power Rankings for reference.
14. Rutgers (1-11)
Lost to Michigan State, 14-10
I know I’ve been bashing Rutgers the past couple of weeks, but I will give credit where credit is due. They played hard against Michigan State and deserved to win. That being said, there are no moral victories in the Big Ten. Chris Ash was on the hot seat going into this season and despite a 1-11 year, Ash will return for another season. This move is head scratching, but ask yourself this: Can anyone save Rutgers?
13. Illinois (4-8)
Lost to Northwestern, 24-16
Illinois hung around the entire game against Northwestern before losing by 8 points. However, the biggest story for the Illini was the decision to extend Lovie Smith’s contract an additional two years. The Illini made some strides this year, but Smith has won only 9 games in three years. Does that merit an extension? All eyes will be on the quarterback position in 2019 as they welcome five-star recruit Isaiah Williams to the program.
12. Indiana (5-7)
Lost to Purdue, 28-21
After a 4-1 start, the Hoosiers went 1-6 in their final 7 games to end the season and ruin their chances of making a bowl game. On the bright side, Stevie Scott is an excellent running back and finished off his strong freshman season with 104 rushing yards and 1 TD.
11. Maryland (5-7)
Lost to Penn State, 38-3
For Maryland, it was a season of some highs, but many lows. A win over Texas was the highlight of a season clouded in controversy. Now that the DJ Durkin debacle is past the Terps, they can move on to finding a new coach to turn this program around. Many believe their first call will be to current Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who had two stints on the Maryland coaching staff.
10. Nebraska (4-8)
Lost to Iowa, 31-28
It may have taken 6 games to reaffirm their coaching decision but Nebraska hired the right guy to turn this program around in Scott Frost. The Cornhuskers went 4-2 over their last 6 games and only lost by a combined 8 points in two games. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is going to be a Heisman favorite going into next season. Watch out for Nebraska.
9. Michigan State (7-5)
Beat Rutgers, 14-10
I’m only putting Michigan State ahead of Nebraska because of their bowl eligibility status. Other than that, Michigan State had a disastrous season and it would’ve hit rock bottom had it not been for a touchdown by Cody White on an end-around to take the lead against Rutgers late in the fourth quarter. Michigan State will play in a bowl game to cap off their disappointing season.
8. Wisconsin (7-5)
Lost to Minnesota, 37-15
What a disappointing season for the Badgers, who had Playoff hopes coming into the year. No one expected this Wisconsin team to be this bad. In fact, Lee Corso picked Wisconsin to win the National Championship this past August!
I understand Alex Hornibrook was hurt throughout the year, but he is not the answer at quarterback (4 turnovers against Minnesota in the loss). The good news is that star running back Jonathan Taylor will be back for at least one more season. Plus, the Badgers will play in a bowl game to end the season.
7. Purdue (6-6)
Beat Indiana, 28-21
After starting the season 0-3, Purdue rallied to go 6-3 and become bowl eligible for the second straight year. As I stated last week, the only storyline at Purdue is the status of coach Jeff Brohm. Will he go to Louisville or will he stay at Purdue? His impending decision will have a huge impact on the direction of this program. If I’m a Boilermaker fan, I’d start saying my prayers to keep Brohm.
6. Minnesota (6-6)
Beat Wisconsin, 37-15
Row. The. Boat. It’s a huge jump in the rankings for Minnesota (10 to 6), but they deserve it after throttling their rival, Wisconsin, to take back Paul Bunyan’s ax and become bowl eligible. This was Minnesota’s first win over Wisconsin since 2003. P.J. Fleck is one hell of a coach, and it’s clear that he is building something special at Minnesota. I’m a believer.
5. Iowa (8-4)
Beat Nebraska, 31-28
Iowa finished its season off on a high note with a game-winning field goal as time expired to defeat Nebraska, 31-28. At one point, Iowa controlled it’s own destiny to make the Big Ten Conference Championship game, but losing three straight games in the middle of conference play derailed their chances. Iowa will most likely play in the Outback Bowl or Holiday Bowl.
4. Penn State (9-3)
Beat Maryland 38-3
In their last dress rehearsal before a bowl game, Penn State put the beatdown on Maryland, which is something they needed to do in order to impress the committee. Going into Saturday, Penn State was a long shot to make a New Year’s Six Game. Now, I believe it can happen because of brand recognition (popularity) and their position in the rankings. Penn State will finish in the Top 12, but that does not guarantee entrance to a New Year’s Six game. Penn State will need both LSU and Washington State to drop below them in the rankings (which should happen this week) and pray Oklahoma beats Texas in the Big 12 Championship. If all three of those things happen, Penn State will play in the New Year’s Six.
3. Northwestern (8-4)
Beat Illinois, 24-16
Northwestern has managed to escape these past few weeks with close wins against inferior opponents, but I’m not putting that much stock into those games. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when their ticket to the Big Ten Conference Championship game was punched weeks ago. Make no mistake about; this is a good Wildcats team. Can they beat Ohio State? Sure, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Is it likely to happen? No, but crazier things have happened. No matter what, Northwestern had a special season that their team and fans should be proud of.
2. Michigan (10-2)
Lost to Ohio State, 62-39
To paraphrase the great Pedro Martinez, “Michigan (and Jim Harbaugh) just needs to tip their hat and call Ohio State their daddy.” A lot of fans call it big brother vs. little brother, but in all actuality, it’s father vs. son. Since 2001, Michigan has beaten Ohio State twice in 18 attempts (counting the vacated win by OSU in 2010). Michigan’s defense was exposed all day as the speed and offensive creativity of the Buckeyes outmatched the Wolverines. Now, Michigan will be the biggest Ohio State fan on Saturday. Assuming Oklahoma is ahead of OSU in the Playoff rankings, Michigan may need OSU to win and both Georgia and Oklahoma to lose for the Wolverines to go to the Rose Bowl.
1. Ohio State (11-1)
Beat Michigan, 62-39
At the end of the day, Ohio State is still the big brother. The loss to Purdue was a head scratcher, but after Saturday, it was probably a fluke. Ohio State established their recent dominance once again over Michigan, dropping 62 points on the best defense in the country. Dwayne Haskins made the Michigan defense look like Rutgers as he threw for 396 yards and 6 TDs. Now, the Buckeyes wait and see where they fall in the College Football Playoff rankings. My guess is that they will be at #6, right behind Oklahoma. If that’s the case, Ohio State will have to beat Northwestern and hope both Georgia and Oklahoma lose in their respective conference championship games. Then, Ohio State would be in the Playoff with a win over Northwestern. A lot has to happen, but it’s not impossible. For the second straight year, an embarrassing loss might keep the Buckeyes (and the Big Ten) out of the Playoff.
Only one game remains in the Big Ten season, and that’s Northwestern vs. Ohio State on Saturday night.