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In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 7 Recap and Week 8 Preview

The East race continues shuffling around, but the West is nearly decided already.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 7 Results

Michigan State 27, Michigan 23

That was awesomely ridiculous and ridiculously awesome.

A couple of game theory notes:

1) The timeout before the 4th and 19 play was a disaster. In the likely event that you don't pick up the first down, that's 40 seconds lost, and the extra time to call a play can't improve your success rate on the fourth down enough to make that a worthwhile tradeoff. You're certainly better off taking the delay of game (4th and 24 isn't that much worse than 4th and 19), and I'm not totally convinced you aren't better off just conceding the turnover on downs. At least then, if you get a stop, you have some time to put together a last-ditch drive instead of needing to rely on a miracle.

2) I've seen a fair bit of Monday-morning quarterbacking (not here) suggesting that Michigan was foolish to even try to punt the ball, and they should have just run a play or scrambled around behind the line of scrimmage to run out the clock. That's absurd. You can (and should) blame them for not running max protect on the punt, but if the punt gets off (especially a rugby-style roller), it might run out the clock on its own and even if it doesn't, MSU has one play to go 80+ yards. A normal play run (assuming it doesn't pick up the first down) gives MSU the ball in Hail Mary range, and the run-around-and-waste-time play (leaving aside that to maximize the chances of success on this, you need to do a long snap anyway to give the scrambler a head start) is a huge risk with 10 seconds left up only two - fail to run out the clock and you've given MSU a shot at a FG to win, and you can't retreat into the endzone because a safety ties the game.

Ohio State 38, Penn State 10

Penn State kicked a field goal on their opening drive and managed to hold that lead through the first quarter. It didn't last much longer than that, as the Buckeyes scored three consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter to get to the half up 21-3. The second half was eerily similar: Penn State scored on their opening drive and kept Ohio State off the board for the rest of the third quarter, then the Buckeyes pieced together three scoring drives in a row to salt the game away. Penn State put up a respectable 219 rushing yards on 35 attempts (sack-adjusted), but the passing game was the pressure-induced disaster you would expect: 7 completions, 6 incompletions, 5 sacks, net of 96 yards including sacks. Ohio State's passing game wasn't a whole lot better, but the run was more effective, at 46 carries for 331 yards.

Iowa 40, Northwestern 10

So much for the wide-open West. Iowa lost Jordan Canzeri to an ankle injury, but Akrum Wadley filled in admirably, putting up 204 rushing yards and reaching the end zone four times. Northwestern's offense was thoroughly stymied, failing to reach 200 yards. Having already beaten Wisconsin and Illinois, Iowa is so thoroughly in command of the division that they can lose any one game and still control their own destiny for reaching Indianapolis.

Wisconsin 24, Purdue 7

If you looked solely at the yardage numbers, you would expect a much bigger blowout than this; Wisconsin more than doubled up Purdue in total offense, 418-191. Trouble finishing drives accounts for the closeness of the game; Wisconsin had first-half drives of 53, 65, and 63 yards that accounted for a total of three points (an interception returned deep into Wisconsin territory and a missed field goal ended the other two), and Purdue trailed just 10-7 at the half despite being outgained 262-58. Wisconsin's running game was, as it has been all year, strangely anemic (just 96 yards on 37 carries), but Joel Stave went 30/39 for 322 yards through the air.

Rutgers 55, Indiana 52

On an ordinary weekend, this would have been easily the wildest game of the conference slate. The first half was back and forth, with Rutgers taking a 27-24 lead into the half. Indiana came out on fire to start the second, though, scoring four touchdowns in less than 10 minutes to go ahead 52-27. Leonte Carroo caught his second touchdown of the day late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 52-33 (Rutgers went for two, hoping to cut the lead to 17, but failed), then a fumbled snap on an Indiana punt was returned for a touchdown to cut it to 52-39 (again, Rutgers went for two, hoping to get within a TD+2 and FG, but failed). Indiana turned the ball over on the next drive and Rutgers again struck quickly to get within six, then a first-play interception gave Rutgers the ball back again with a chance to get in the lead. Three minutes later, Paul James broke a 40-yard touchdown run to tie the game, but the go-ahead PAT was blocked (Rutgers's second failed PAT kick of the game and fourth overall failed conversion). Indiana went three and out, and Rutgers ran the clock all the way down before Kyle Federico hit a chip shot from 26 yards out to seal the win.

Nebraska 48, Minnesota 25

The Broken Chair is heading to the Great Plains for the first time. Nebraska took advantage of three turnovers, returning one directly for a touchdown and cashing in on a short field another time, to put away the Gophers. Mitch Leidner put up a surprisingly prolific day through the air for Minnesota (26/40, 301 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), but the Gophers' run game was nonexistent and Nebraska topped 250 passing yards and 200 rushing yards.

Week 8 Games

Odds are based on my margin-aware rating system (available here). Carryover from last year still exists but is minimal at this point; once all teams have played eight games, it will be gone entirely. If you want to see the ratings without carryover or ignoring margin, you can find them here.

All times ET.

The Battle of the "NU"s: Northwestern at Nebraska (Noon, ESPN2)

Northwestern's once-stout defense has suddenly looked anything but, allowing 78 points in the past two games to Michigan and Iowa (although 14 of those aren't attributable to the defense and another 13 or so have come from short fields). With their offense only putting up 10 in that span, that's not good. Meanwhile, Nebraska may have found the secret to avoiding their late-game follies: don't leave it until the last minute.

Odds: Nebraska 69% (5-point favorite)

Recovering from Drama: Indiana at Michigan State (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

One team won in memorable fashion, the other lost a game they'd love to forget. Both teams will have to get over the emotional high or low from last Saturday. Indiana's offense is respectable, but defensively they have a hard time preventing explosive plays; if Jourdan Lewis couldn't shut down Aaron Burbridge, it's unlikely Indiana can.

Odds: Michigan State 95.0% (19-point favorite)

Best of the Rest of the West: Wisconsin at Illinois (3:30, BTN)

Raise your hand if you thought this game would pit two teams with passing offenses in the top third of FBS in yards per game and rushing offenses in the bottom quarter by the same metric. For Illinois, it's believable but just barely; Wisconsin's identity has been a power rushing team for so long that it's a bit unnerving seeing them relying so heavily on their quarterback's arm. The winner stays only one game off the pace in the West, albeit with a tiebreaker disadvantage; the loser is effectively done.

Odds: Wisconsin 60% (2.5-point favorite)

Grounded: Penn State at Maryland (3:30, ESPN)

I'm not sure why either team would bother passing. Penn State's pass rush is equaled by few teams, but their offensive line can't protect Hackenberg at all. Maryland's passing offense is somehow even worse, thanks to an abominable completion percentage. The Nittany Lions can clinch a bowl berth, while Maryland needs this one to have much chance at all of reaching a bowl (with four losses already and trips to Iowa and Michigan State, odds are definitely not in their favor).

Odds: Penn State 75% (7-point favorite)

Mismatch of the Week: Ohio State at Rutgers (8:00, ABC)

Home field puts the odds somewhat better than Indiana's against MSU, but the model tends to skew high on home field advantage. The Buckeyes' offense has had trouble getting in top gear this season but appears to be slowly rounding into form (finally settling on a quarterback may help that); Rutgers has Leonte Carroo, but he's considered questionable after an injury suffered in the Indiana game, and if he's out it's even harder to imagine the Scarlet Knights keeping up at all.

Odds: Ohio State 91.6% (15.5-point favorite)

Licking Their Wounds

Michigan, Minnesota, and Purdue all go into their byes off of losses; Iowa comes in on a winning streak but is hoping to get Jordan Canzeri back to full health during their off week.

Conference Title Race

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds. Division title chances are estimated based on 100,000 season simulations; tiebreakers are not included.

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 (#3) 7.11 1 in 54,500 0.12% 2.29% 16.85% 47.79% 32.95% Yes 48.06% 81.00%
Michigan State (#14) 6.50 1 in 12,200 0.48% 8.17% 39.39% 44.49% 7.46% Yes 12.71% 40.34%
Michigan (#9) 5.78 0.02% 0.67% 6.90% 27.77% 43.06% 21.58% 99.98% 2.46% 22.57%
Penn State (#43) 4.46 1.46% 13.38% 37.28% 34.49% 12.11% 1.28% 98.54% 0.18% 1.71%
Rutgers (#74) 2.40 10.30% 47.26% 34.94% 6.98% 0.51% 0.01% 29.95% <0.01% 0.01%
Indiana (#77) 1.45 13.27% 40.47% 35.20% 9.97% 1.06% 0.03% 46.26% <0.01% <0.01%
Maryland (#91) 1.26 20.42% 42.63% 28.07% 7.90% 0.95% 0.04% 1 in 222,000 0.99% <0.01% <0.01%

After toppling their biggest hurdle prior to the big showdown with Ohio State, Michigan State jumps back up to 2nd place in the East, with about a 1 in 8 chance of an outright division title and 2 in 5 chance of at least a share. Michigan drops back and, due to tiebreakers (assuming that their non-conference loss will keep them from being the highest-ranked team by the playoff committee) needs MSU to lose twice to have any realistic chance of a trip to Indy. In the bottom tier, Rutgers swaps places with Indiana, seriously damaging the Hoosiers' bowl hopes while giving Rutgers a boost.

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
Iowa (#13) 7.37 1 in 1,080,000 0.01% 0.59% 9.16% 43.32% 46.92% Yes 84.32% 97.72%
Wisconsin (#31) 5.66 0.09% 1.55% 9.89% 28.94% 39.38% 20.15% 99.91% 2.16% 14.72%
Nebraska (#42) 4.01 0.54% 6.31% 23.57% 37.43% 25.79% 6.36% 69.58% 0.04% 1.19%
Northwestern (#45) 3.87 0.23% 6.44% 27.58% 40.90% 21.30% 3.56% 99.77% 0.02% 0.39%
Illinois (#68) 3.11 5.09% 24.01% 36.39% 24.92% 8.27% 1.25% 0.07% 70.90% 0.01% 0.18%
Minnesota (#72) 2.18 20.24% 47.05% 27.52% 4.93% 0.26% 1 in 27,000 32.71% <0.01% 0.01%
Purdue (#110) 0.82 37.97% 43.83% 16.06% 2.05% 0.08% 1 in 145,000 <0.01% <0.01% <0.01%

Considering tiebreakers (such that any 1-loss Iowa team automatically advances), Iowa's probability of winning the division is already over 90% and could be as high as 97 or 98%. Wisconsin and Illinois need two Iowa losses plus winning out; the situation with Minnesota, Northwestern, and Nebraska is a bit more complex due to the possibility of multi-team ties, but all three of them are already at least two games back. It's very difficult to picture anyone else representing the West at this point.