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In a B1G Country: Week 7 Recap, Week 8 Preview

The East race will likely come down to November 8, while the balance of power in the West shifts among five contenders.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week's Results

Michigan State 45, Purdue 31

I'll let Football Study Hall's Bill Connelly summarize:

If State fancies a national title run, the Spartans need to dispose of the 70th-ranked team better than this. But "You tried to lose to PURDUE" doesn't have quite the same ring this year. Purdue's not terrible.

Minnesota 24, Northwestern 17

Hey, I actually got one of my game headlines from last week right - 24 points won the game. The teams traded scores back and forth throughout the game, with Minnesota never trailing at all nor leading by more than 7. Trevor Siemian tied the game with a 2-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, but the tie lasted only 13 seconds as Jalen Myrick took the kickoff all the way back for the winning margin. Siemian threw for 269 yards, but needed 50 attempts to reach that number (a modest 5.4 yards per attempt); Mitch Leidner only threw for 153 but did it in just 15 passes.

Iowa 45, Indiana 29

No, this is not a typo: Iowa scored 28 points in a span of four minutes near the end of the first quarter. Including one for Indiana, there were three 60+-yard touchdowns scored in the span of just 52 seconds. This un-Ferentzian outburst staked the Hawkeyes to a lead they would never completely relinquish; two more Indiana touchdowns early in the second quarter cut the lead to just 28-21 before Iowa pulled away again. Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld was just 4 for 9 for 85 yards before leaving with a separated shoulder; he's out for the rest of the season. Chris Covington was somewhat less effective, managing a paltry 2.6 yards per attempt and completing nearly as many to Iowa players (two) as to his own receivers (three). Tevin Coleman was boom-or-bust, scoring three touchdowns from at least 45 yards out but adding just 22 yards on his other 12 carries.

Wisconsin 38, Illinois 28

The typical box score stats don't seem to have any explanation for why this game was nearly as close as it was: Wisconsin put up 210 more yards and forced the only turnover of the game. Illinois took advantage of outrageous field position advantages (largely due to a 14-yard edge in net punting, getting three decent-length returns while pinning Wisconsin deep) to keep it close, with three of their four touchdown drives starting in Wisconsin territory. But there was no stopping the Badgers' run game, with Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement both going over 150 yards with room to spare.

Michigan 18, Penn State 13

This game set the cause of offense back 60 years - the teams combined for fewer total yards (470) than 32 teams are averaging this year. Neither team could find the end zone in the final 42 minutes, but in that time Michigan scored three field goals and the intentional safety given up by Penn State late, while Penn State could do nothing more at all. Neither team could protect their quarterback (a combined nine sacks in 68 dropbacks, with Hackenberg taking six of those) or run the ball well (even removing sacks, Michigan averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and Penn State just 3.2).

This Week's Games

All conference play this week. All times ET. Odds are based on my margin-aware ratings including preseason bias (available here); all four sets of rankings (margin-aware or W-L only, with or without preseason bias) are available here

Pre-Trap Game: Purdue at Minnesota (Noon, BTN)

It will be a while before the Gophers have an opponent worthy of calling the game ahead of it a trap game (next up after this is a trip to Illinois and a bye before hosting Iowa), and Purdue hasn't been bad enough to warrant giving this "blowout of the week" status, even if there's no other obvious candidate. Purdue has actually been modestly effective at stopping the run, and Minnesota's total passing yardage on the season is still short of what Connor Halliday put up in one game for Washington State, so there's reason to believe Purdue can keep this close. But for this year, the signs of progress at Purdue will probably be limited to losing in non-embarrassing fashion for a change.

Odds: Minnesota 94.7% (favored by 19)

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine: Iowa at Maryland (Noon, ESPN2)

Both of these teams have been tough to figure. Iowa is on a bit of a roll after three mediocre-to-poor performances to start the season, while Maryland put up two solid performances at Syracuse and Indiana before getting blasted at home by Ohio State. They sit just one spot apart in the rankings, so the advantage is all home field (Iowa would be about a 51-to-49 favorite on a neutral site).

Odds: Maryland 64% (favored by 4)

It's A Trap: Michigan State at Indiana (3:30, ESPN)

The week before a big rivalry game, heading into the key stretch of the season while letting opponents back in the game late? That's cause for concern - or at least, it would be if Nate Sudfeld was healthy. His backup was unimpressive last week, which makes Indiana into Wisconsin Lite: incompetent passing game, scary running back (Coleman gets overlooked a bit with Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah in the same conference), only Indiana doesn't have a defense remotely as good as Wisconsin's.

The projection doesn't account for injuries, which is why it thinks this game will be close. I don't think it will be; I just can't see Indiana stopping the MSU offense enough to allow their backup QB to keep it close.

Odds: Michigan State 77% (favored by 8)

Air Show of the Week: Rutgers at Ohio State (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

These teams rank fourth and second, respectively, in passing efficiency. Rutgers is very good at getting to the quarterback (tied for third nationally in sacks per game), but if they don't get there, J.T. Barrett will likely carve them up. Ohio State is less extreme at getting to the quarterback but also decent in terms of pass efficiency defense (although the eyes suggest otherwise, especially if they watched the Cincinnati game).

Odds: Ohio State 90% (favored by 14.5)

Game of the Week: Nebraska at Northwestern (7:30, BTN)

Both of these teams are sitting on one conference loss, and a second one will make life very difficult in terms of winning the West (though not impossible, as the race is still wide open). Except for the Wisconsin game, Northwestern has been quite stingy in terms of rushing defense, so it will be interesting to see if they can slow Ameer Abdullah.

Odds: Nebraska 70% (favored by 6)

Bye Week: Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State

Conference Race

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds. Division title chances (outright or share) are estimated by 100,000 season simulations.

East Division

Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Ohio State 6.44 N/A 1 in 1,690,000 1 in 19,600 0.16% 2.13% 13.32% 35.00% 36.69% 12.70% 99.99% 36.07% 60.59%
Michigan State 6.42 N/A N/A 0.01% 0.33% 3.25% 14.56% 32.39% 34.91% 14.55% 99.99% 37.46% 61.72%
Maryland 3.95 N/A 1.30% 9.10% 24.74% 33.17% 22.95% 7.75% 1.00% N/A 89.60% 0.56% 3.58%
Penn State 3.39 N/A 3.05% 17.04% 34.36% 31.06% 12.63% 1.87% N/A N/A 91.61% 0.18% 1.59%
Rutgers 2.95 N/A 5.38% 27.77% 39.37% 21.66% 5.23% 0.57% 0.02% N/A 94.62% 0.06% 0.48%
Michigan 2.39 N/A 15.32% 41.33% 33.26% 9.28% 0.80% 0.02% N/A N/A 10.10% 0.01% 0.07%
Indiana 2.28 2.73% 19.65% 37.40% 28.84% 9.90% 1.42% 0.06% N/A N/A 40.22% <0.01% 0.13%

This is a little bit odd in that Ohio State projects with slightly more wins on average but MSU has the better chance of winning the division. Could just be an artifact of simulation, although the size of the gap suggests otherwise (if the chances were truly equal, this is about twice the largest gap I'd ever expect to see). Nobody else is all that likely to get a piece of the title. MSU's projection was helped significantly by two of their remaining road opponents (Indiana and Penn State) losing last week.

Indiana's bowl hopes took a major hit with the loss to Iowa and the injury to Sudfeld (which isn't included in the projections, so 40% is probably very optimistic at this point); it's likely that there will be five eligible teams from the East and no more.

West Division

Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Minnesota 5.64 N/A N/A 0.05% 1.44% 10.97% 31.76% 36.13% 16.94% 2.70% 99.95% 21.35% 48.86%
Nebraska 5.35 N/A 1 in 12,800 0.32% 3.51% 15.87% 34.00% 33.84% 12.44% N/A 99.99% 16.25% 40.04%
Iowa 5.06 N/A N/A 0.79% 7.02% 22.90% 34.36% 25.18% 8.66% 1.10% 99.21% 11.53% 29.92%
Northwestern 4.79 N/A N/A 0.67% 7.86% 28.88% 40.24% 19.39% 2.95% N/A 64.65% 3.88% 17.50%
Wisconsin 4.65 N/A 0.24% 2.81% 12.73% 28.22% 32.68% 18.97% 4.36% N/A 96.95% 6.08% 20.46%
Purdue 1.81 N/A 39.34% 43.05% 15.29% 2.21% 0.12% 1 in 46,400 N/A N/A 2.33% <0.01% 0.03%
Illinois 0.89 36.34% 42.30% 17.82% 3.29% 0.25% 1 in 22,400 N/A N/A N/A 3.54% <0.01% <0.01%

This is almost the inverse of the East: two teams way behind everyone else, with the others reasonably close. Minnesota moves to the top with a win while Nebraska was on a bye, and Wisconsin's projected win total drops even with the win over Illinois thanks to the close score and their three remaining toughest opponents going 2-0 (with a bye). The loss to Minnesota wasn't crippling to Northwestern's bowl hopes, but with two non-conference losses already and a trip to Notre Dame looming, they likely have to get to 5-3 in conference.

Interestingly, Wisconsin and Northwestern show the same anomaly in terms of division win chances that MSU and OSU do. Here I think I understand why: Northwestern has already played Minnesota and so needs help even if they win out, while Wisconsin has all their games against the teams that are unbeaten ahead of them. I don't think this explains the MSU and OSU anomaly as effectively, unless it's the risk of Maryland jumping up (the team Ohio State has played but MSU has not).