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In a B1G Country: Week 9 Recap, Week 10 Preview

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Michigan State and Ohio State stayed on track for a winner-take-all showdown in two weeks, while the West has a clear favorite despite the four-way tie in the loss column.

Leon Halip

Last Week's Games

Michigan State 35, Michigan 11

MSU once again staked its claim to the Paul Bunyan Trophy in a beating that honestly felt worse than the scoreboard said. And no, I will not apologize for that pun.

Wisconsin 52, Maryland 7

Wisconsin actually had something resembling a passing game in this one. Given their running game, that's a rather terrifying thought. Ignoring a fake punt, Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy combined for a 14/22, 199 yard, 2 TD performance - nothing special, but when you've got Melvin Gordon (122 yards and 3 TDs) and Corey Clement (90 yards and another score), your air game doesn't have to be special. Maryland only broke the shutout in the final minute of the game and got outgained by a factor of 3 (527-175).

Illinois 28, Minnesota 24

Oof. Three turnovers, including a fumble returned for the decisive touchdown, and three drives crossing midfield but coming up empty (a punt from the Illinois 44 - understandable since it was 4th and 17 and shortly before halftime - a missed field goal, and a fumble lost in Illinois territory in the final two minutes). That's how you blow a 150-yard advantage in total offense and lose to a team that was (and may still be) clearly the worst in the conference. Minnesota actually trailed for most of the game, only taking a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter, but V'Angelo Bentley's 12-yard fumble return midway through the fourth put Illinois back ahead for good.

Nebraska 42, Rutgers 24

Another day, another ridiculous stat line for Ameer Abdullah - 19 carries for 225 yards and three touchdowns, 26 more yards on two catches, and a 76-yard kickoff return for good measure. Adding injury to insult for Rutgers, Gary Nova hurt his knee just before halftime and did not return; his status is still being evaluated. Nebraska used the second quarter and the opening drive of the third to blow the game open and take a 28-7 lead; the teams simply traded scores back and forth the rest of the way as Rutgers never got closer than 18 again.

Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2OT)

As pointed out in this week's Numerical, this was a "NONE SHALL PASS" sort of game: the teams combined for an impressively low yards per passing attempt (sack-adjusted) of 3.2. That's not good. That's "MSU last September" levels of not-good. Ohio State jumped out to a 17-0 lead, thanks in no small part to a couple of badly blown calls (an interception that was not overturned due to a malfunction in the replay booth and a delay of game penalty missed by three full seconds), but Penn State got back in the game with a pick-six shortly after halftime and managed to force OT with a 31-yard FG in the dying seconds of regulation. The teams traded touchdowns in the first OT, but Ohio State scored again and Joey Bosa sacked Christian Hackenberg on 4th down on Penn State's possession to seal the win. Ohio State did most of its limited damage on the ground (J.T. Barrett actually ran for more yards than he passed for, 75 to 74), while Penn State managed just 51 yards on the ground (removing sacks) and did most of its work through the air (albeit on 54 dropbacks, including sacks).

This Week's Games

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. This is the last week for which preseason bias will have any effect whatsoever, and even then it's limited to teams that have already had two bye weeks (counting for only 1/3 of one game for those teams).

West Elimination Game: Northwestern at Iowa (Noon, BTN)

It's probably a little premature to call this an elimination game, given that Iowa is in a four-way tie for first in the loss column and Northwestern is only one game back. But Northwestern won't be able to recover from falling two games behind the pack, and Iowa has the lowest rating of the four one-loss teams (albeit with a somewhat more forgiving schedule, hosting two of the other three and playing at Illinois). None of those four have played each other yet, amazingly; the first such game will be Minnesota hosting Iowa on November 8.

Odds: Iowa 78% (favored by 8)

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is an Oncoming Train: Wisconsin at Rutgers (Noon, ESPN)

This is just cruel, Big Ten schedule-maker: after consecutive road trips to Ohio State and Nebraska, you have Rutgers play Wisconsin? That's a heck of a gauntlet. (The Scarlet Knights do at least get a bye and a game against Indiana before facing the fourth of the Big Ten's top four, but they're the only one to play all four at all, and Minnesota is the only other team to play three of them consecutively, finishing the season with the same trio.) Ohio State and Nebraska averaged 308 rushing yards per game on over 7.5 per carry against Rutgers; it's hard to imagine Wisconsin not posting a similar tally. Still, home field might be enough to keep things close.

Odds: Wisconsin 66% (favored by 4.5)

Prepare for Bonus Football: Maryland at Penn State (Noon, ESPN2)

One of the oddest stats I've seen in a while: five of Penn State's last seven conference home games have gone to overtime. Naturally, since this is such an even matchup on paper, it will turn out to be a blowout in defiance of that streak.

Odds: Penn State 55% (favored by 1)

Pillow Fight of the Week: Indiana at Michigan (3:30, BTN)

On one side, you have Michigan's competent defense against Indiana's competent offense. When Michigan has the ball, though, hilarity should ensue.

Odds: Michigan 69% (favored by 5)

Blowout of the Week: Purdue at Nebraska (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

Purdue is 103rd nationally in Rushing S&P+. Nebraska has Ameer Abdullah. This is not likely to end well for the Boilers.

Odds: Nebraska 98.2% (favored by 25.5)

Good Lord, This Isn't Blowout of the Week?: Illinois at Ohio State (8:00, ABC)

Illinois's win over Minnesota was a bit fluky, but they did manage to hold Minnesota to a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. I don't think they'll do the same at Ohio State, although this is a massive trap game for the Buckeyes.

Odds: Ohio State 97.8% (favored by 24)

Bye Week: Michigan State, Minnesota

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
Michigan State 7.16 N/A N/A N/A N/A 0.08% 2.32% 16.49% 43.27% 37.84% Yes 47.06% 70.95%
Ohio State 6.95 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 338,000 0.04% 1.53% 23.04% 54.09% 21.30% Yes 29.03% 52.92%
Maryland 4.13 N/A N/A 3.28% 21.05% 41.06% 28.63% 5.98% N/A N/A 96.72% <0.01% 0.36%
Penn State 2.83 N/A 7.55% 29.15% 39.41% 20.88% 3.02% N/A N/A N/A 85.66% <0.01% <0.01%
Rutgers 2.42 N/A 9.35% 47.60% 35.29% 7.46% 0.30% N/A N/A N/A 90.65% <0.01% <0.01%
Michigan 2.34 N/A 14.26% 45.14% 33.28% 7.14% 0.17% N/A N/A N/A 7.31% <0.01% <0.01%
Indiana 1.66 9.79% 34.75% 37.82% 15.45% 2.15% 0.04% N/A N/A N/A 17.64% <0.01% <0.01%

This has really narrowed itself to a two-team race, with a near certainty that at least one of OSU or MSU will finish with a share of the title (and only a slim chance that Maryland joins them). The odds of the November 8 winner finishing 8-0 in conference are nearly 3 to 2 in favor. Despite the half-game lead and home field for the head-to-head showdown, MSU is not that much of a favorite overall because Ohio State hosts three of the four worst teams in the conference in their final five games (Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan), with better than 97% odds in each game; their only remaining test outside of the MSU game is at Minnesota. Given that, a win next weekend is almost certainly necessary for MSU to win the division, as the odds of OSU losing two other games are poor. To have any chance, given the tiebreaker situation, Maryland needs to win out, MSU to beat OSU and drop a different game, and OSU to lose one of their remaining division games (Indiana or Michigan) or both cross-division games.

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
Nebraska 6.36 N/A N/A N/A 1 in 11,800 0.63% 9.66% 42.52% 47.18% N/A Yes 60.04% 83.59%
Wisconsin 5.21 N/A N/A 0.36% 4.29% 18.62% 36.32% 31.26% 9.14% N/A 99.64% 11.64% 29.84%
Minnesota 4.34 N/A N/A N/A 12.81% 48.05% 32.09% 6.69% 0.35% N/A Yes 0.93% 5.47%
Iowa 4.25 N/A N/A 2.92% 19.12% 38.50% 29.60% 8.97% 0.90% N/A 97.08% 1.89% 8.28%
Northwestern 4.20 N/A N/A 2.32% 18.00% 42.82% 31.16% 5.71% N/A N/A 38.83% 0.15% 3.03%
Purdue 2.10 N/A 23.39% 46.95% 25.55% 4.04% 0.07% N/A N/A N/A 4.11% <0.01% 0.03%
Illinois 2.05 N/A 27.03% 45.22% 23.74% 3.93% 0.08% N/A N/A N/A 27.75% <0.01% <0.01%

Despite the logjam in the existing standings, Nebraska is a big favorite here. That's mostly because they have by far the highest rating among West teams (higher even than MSU and OSU). They do, however, have to travel to Wisconsin and Iowa. Wisconsin's only road game among the one-loss quadrumvirate is at Iowa, while Iowa only has to travel to Minnesota. Throw in Minnesota having to host Ohio State, and they quickly drop back off the pace. The tiebreaker situations here are too complex to mess around with yet and probably will be for another week or two at minimum.