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In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 9 Recap and Week 10 Preview

The title race didn't change much, but Minnesota nearly changed the East race and one big surprise shakes up the bottom of the West.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 Results

Iowa 31, Maryland 15

Iowa forgot the cardinal rule of playing Maryland: Never kick to Will Likely. Likely took a kickoff back 100 yards to the house against the Hawkeyes; fortunately, by the time this happened, it was already 31-7 midway through the fourth quarter. The Terrapins' passing game was an absolute disaster; Iowa had more yards on interception returns (100, including an 88-yard touchdown return by Desmond King) than Maryland had in passing offense (74). Iowa's offense was far from spectacular themselves (under 3.5 yards per carry from the running backs), but they didn't shoot themselves in the foot (only one turnover - and that was actually committed by the defense as a fumble after an interception return - to Maryland's four, not counting a partially blocked punt that set up Iowa's third touchdown just before the half), and that was enough.

This week's Dumb Punt Award goes to Maryland. First drive of the second half, down 21-0, you get to 4th and 6 at the opposition's 35 yard line. Do you:

A) Go for it
B) Kick a long field goal
C) Take a delay of game penalty and then

Maryland, of course, chose C. This is why you can't have nice things.

Michigan 29, Minnesota 26

For the second game in a row, Michigan was severely outgained. Giving up yards through the air to Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge is entirely understandable. Doing the same to a passing offense led by Mitch Leidner, even in a game where Minnesota was playing inspired due to Jerry Kill's abrupt retirement, is somewhat less encouraging. Add two turnovers and it's a wonder Michigan was even in the game, much less winning it. Part of that is due to a special teams advantage - an extra six yards per punt, plus a 40-yard kickoff return and a 40-yard punt return - but a large chunk comes from Minnesota's inability to finish drives (or Michigan's defense stiffening when it mattered most, whichever way you want to spin it). Minnesota kicked three red-zone field goals in the first half, punted from the Michigan 41 (on 4th and 15) and their own 47 (on 4th and 2), and then spectacularly botched a final drive after Michigan scored a touchdown with five minutes left to go up by 3.

Minnesota appeared to have the go-ahead touchdown with 19 seconds left, but a review showed that K.J. Maye was down a half-yard short of the end zone. With the clock running on ready-for-play, Minnesota wasted a large amount of time with some elaborate shifts and motion; by the time their first-down play ended, only two seconds remained. I have no problem with Minnesota's decision to go for the win instead of kicking a chip shot to force OT; their chances of scoring from a half yard out are almost certainly better than their chances of winning in OT (even assuming the field goal is automatic). But you have to give yourself more than two plays to do it. Spike the ball on first down, or run a quick fade, or sneak and use your last timeout (probably not ideal, but you might catch Michigan off guard). Do your wacky misdirection on second down with the clock stopped. Pretty much anything else would have made more sense than what Minnesota did.

Penn State 39, Illinois 0

Remember when Illinois looked like a surprisingly competent team and we were all laughing at Penn State for giving up a sack on a two-man rush to Temple? So much for that. Illinois went a miserable 17/44 passing with four sacks, netting less than 2 yards per attempt (counting sacks) and only got inside the Penn State 40-yard line once (though they did cross midfield surprisingly often, given a total offense of just 167 yards). For the second time this season, Penn State kicker Joey Julius missed two PATs (both blocked this time) and was benched for the remainder of the game.

Wisconsin 48, Rutgers 10

Think the Badgers missed Corey Clement? In his return from injury, Clement ran for 115 yards and three scores on just 11 carries, and Wisconsin was back to doing what Wisconsin usually does to bad teams: stomping them into a mudhole. Rutgers gave up as many sacks (6) as they had completed passes and gained more than 10 yards on a drive only three times all game (a 55-yard field goal drive, a turnover on downs after 15 yards, and another 55-yard drive ending in a missed field goal while already down 38; the touchdown came on an interception return).

Purdue 55, Nebraska 45

Last-second losses to BYU and Wisconsin aren't terribly embarrassing. Nor is losing to Northwestern by two, or even falling to Miami in overtime. But getting blown out by Purdue (scoring 29 in the fourth quarter to make it look close)? Mike Riley's got some 'splainin' to do. As has so often been the case in Nebraska's weird-game history, turnovers were the big difference: the Huskers outgained Purdue 484-457, but it takes far more than that to make up for a 5-0 turnover deficit. Compound the problem with three turnovers setting Purdue up deep in Husker territory for easy touchdowns and you have the recipe for a bad day.

Week 10 Games

Odds are based on my margin-aware rating system (available here). Carryover from last season is now removed. If you want to see the ratings ignoring margin, you can find them here.

All times ET.

Game of the Week: Penn State at Northwestern (Noon, ESPNU)

Northwestern really drew the short straw in the cross-division schedule lottery for the West - while Wisconsin and Iowa beat up on Maryland and either Rutgers or Indiana, Northwestern gets Michigan and Penn State. The Wildcats are already effectively out of the division race due to tiebreakers, while Penn State certainly can't afford a cross-division slip-up if they want to contend for the East.

Odds: Northwestern 65% (4-point favorite)

Pillow Fight of the Week: Illinois at Purdue (Noon, BTN)

Purdue could become the first team eliminated from bowl consideration in the Big Ten; Illinois isn't in a do-or-die situation yet, but with games against Ohio State and Northwestern ahead, they might as well be.

Odds: Purdue 56% (1.5-point favorite)

Crossover Cupcakes: Iowa at Indiana (3:30, ESPN) and Wisconsin at Maryland (3:30, BTN)

The probabilities of upsets here are probably on the high side; the unusual lack of upsets (at least against the top teams) and back-loaded schedule seem to be skewing the home-field adjustment factor very high this year. Even so, it's hard to picture either the Hawkeyes or Badgers tripping up here.

Odds: Iowa 89.6% (14-point favorite), Wisconsin 84% (11-point favorite)

Blowout of the Week: Rutgers at Michigan (3:30, BTN)

Michigan is probably not quite as good as their three-game shutout streak suggested. They won't need to be to handle the Scarlet Knights.

Odds: Michigan 97.7% (24.5-point favorite)

Trap Game of the Week: Michigan State at Nebraska (7:00, ESPN)

On the one hand, Nebraska's always given MSU trouble and this is a road game with two weeks to the big showdown in Columbus. On the other, though, those Nebraska teams that gave MSU trouble were consistently 9-4, which this year's team won't be, and the Huskers just gave up 55 points to Purdue.

Odds: Michigan State 73% (6.5-point favorite)

The Calm Before the Storm: Minnesota at Ohio State (8:00, ABC)

The numbers actually put Ohio State as a bigger favorite than Michigan, but Minnesota has showed signs of life lately and Rutgers hasn't. Even so, in Columbus I don't think the Gophers will be able to replicate their near-upset of Michigan.

Odds: Ohio State 98.6% (27.5-point favorite)

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 (#1) 7.33 1 in 19,100 0.49% 9.50% 46.44% 43.56% Yes 51.74% 85.72%
Michigan State (#15) 6.72 0.06% 3.74% 29.65% 57.24% 9.31% Yes 11.63% 40.32%
Michigan (#16) 5.83 0.08% 3.92% 29.51% 46.28% 20.21% Yes 0.61% 18.93%
Penn State (#35) 4.96 29.41% 47.06% 21.19% 2.34% Yes 0.13% 1.73%
Rutgers (#88) 2.12 17.43% 53.91% 28.04% 0.62% 15.54%
Maryland (#89) 1.08 22.60% 50.01% 24.15% 3.18% 0.05% 0.05%
Indiana (#79) 1.04 27.93% 44.94% 22.95% 3.95% 0.21% 27.11%

The bottom three are out of the title race entirely, which simplifies things a bit. Obviously Ohio State and Michigan State control their own destiny; win out and it's on to Indy. The situations for Michigan and Penn State are a bit murkier; while both can be part of three-way ties at 7-1 (Michigan if they beat OSU, OSU beats MSU, and all those teams win out otherwise; PSU if they beat MSU, MSU beats OSU, and all those teams win out otherwise), those ties would be broken by the playoff committee rankings (with an exception if the second-highest team is only one spot behind a team they beat). Neither of their non-conference losses is all that embarrassing, but because of them it's hard to imagine the committee would put them ahead of OSU and MSU if it came down to that. Thus, the most likely scenarios to work for them are:

  • Michigan: win out and hope MSU loses twice
  • Penn State: win out and hope OSU loses twice

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 (#12) 7.61 1 in 94,500 0.12% 3.70% 31.19% 64.99% Yes 80.88% 98.05%
Wisconsin (#28) 6.38 0.81% 9.93% 39.21% 50.04% Yes 1.93% 18.99%
Northwestern (#37) 4.62 0.26% 6.45% 34.33% 48.60% 10.35% Yes 0.01% 0.39%
Purdue (#92) 2.21 17.01% 46.89% 33.89% 2.19% 0.02% 0.02% <0.01% <0.01%
Nebraska (#55) 2.13 21.33% 48.62% 26.00% 4.04% 4.04% <0.01%
Minnesota (#75) 2.03 18.92% 59.69% 20.55% 0.83% 1 in 12,700 21.39% <0.01% <0.01%
Illinois (#77) 1.93 32.31% 45.35% 19.33% 2.90% 0.11% 22.34% <0.01% <0.01%

The race behind Iowa is a little more clear: Wisconsin needs to win out and hope Iowa loses twice, and Northwestern needs to win out and hope Iowa loses three times. Purdue's surprise win over Nebraska vaults them all the way to fourth in the division (albeit in a virtual four-way tie), with most of their slight edge coming from hosting games against Indiana and Illinois.

In both divisions, the stratification between the haves and have-nots is remarkably clear; seven teams are bowl eligible entering November, and on average only one will join those seven in the next four weeks.