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Around the B1G: Football Week 11 Recap, Week 12 Preview

Michigan’s loss opens the door for a surprise contender in the East, while five teams still have a shot at representing the West in Indianapolis.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 11 Results

Michigan State 49, Rutgers 0

That’s more like it. Rutgers failed to clear the 150-yard mark, didn’t get a first down until they were already down 21-0, and probably locked up the Dumb Punt of the Year award by punting from the MSU 30-yard line (!) early in the 2nd quarter. (Yes, it was 4th and 11 and into a light headwind, but come on. A 22-yard gain in field position is your reward for not even trying a 47-yard field goal or taking a shot downfield?)

Penn State 45, Indiana 31

This score is a bit flattering to Penn State; the Hoosiers had the game tied at halftime and even led 24-14 late in the third quarter. The Nittany Lions answered with two consecutive touchdown drives, but Indiana took the lead right back on a 40-yard catch by Nick Westbrook with 11 minutes to go. After an exchange of punts, Penn State got back on top with a Saquon Barkley touchdown run with four minutes to go. A quick four-and-out for Indiana set up a field goal that extended the lead to 7, and a strip-sack and return provided the final margin.

Northwestern 45, Purdue 17

Purdue opened the scoring with a field goal, and a long interception return set up a touchdown on their second drive, giving the Boilers a very surprising 10-0 lead. Northwestern got on the board with their own short-field touchdown after a turnover and took the lead midway through the second quarter, but at halftime the score remained only 14-10. The second half for the Wildcats, though? TD, TD, TD, TD, FG, turnover on downs at the goal line while up 28. That second-half explosion got Northwestern over the 600-yard mark for the game.

Wisconsin 48, Illinois 3

Illinois managed to force a punt on the Badgers’ first drive. The next four Wisconsin possessions, however, all found paydirt, twice aided by turnovers, thus ending the part of the game that looked even vaguely competitive. Illinois just barely hit 200 yards for the game, and four first-half interceptions put their defense in impossible positions.

Ohio State 62, Maryland 3

The other afternoon game was even more of a blowout. Four of the Buckeyes’ first five drives went for touchdowns, and after coming up short on a fourth-down try at the Maryland 32, the next two drives went the distance as well. A fumble set up a 45-yard field goal for Ohio State just before halftime, giving them a 45-3 halftime lead. The Buckeyes gained 400 more yards than the Terps, won the turnover battle 2-0, and picked up 32 first downs.

Nebraska 24, Minnesota 17

In a fight between two West contenders, the Gophers had the early lead, using half of the first quarter on their opening drive capped by a Rodney Smith touchdown run. Nebraska answered with a field goal and took the lead with a touchdown on their second drive, but Minnesota got back in front on a fourth down run by Mitch Leidner and added a field goal at the end of the half to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room. The Huskers scored to tie the game on the opening possession of the second half. With seven minutes to go, Nebraska scored again on a Tommy Armstrong run to get up 24-17. After an exchange of punts, Minnesota drove as far as the red zone, but an interception sealed the win and claimed the Broken Chair for the Huskers.

Iowa 14, Michigan 13

A broken play on a punt attempt set up Michigan in Iowa territory for their second drive, but the Hawkeyes managed to hold Michigan to a field goal. Iowa got into field goal range on their answering drive but missed from 46 yards out. The Wolverines marched the length of the field after that to go up 10-0, and an Iowa punt suggested that the game might get out of hand quickly. But that punt was downed at the 2 and turned into a safety, and a Hawkeye touchdown on a fourth-and-goal conversion attempt cut the deficit to 10-8 (Iowa went for two and failed). The Hawkeyes added a field goal on the opening drive of the second half to take an 11-10 lead. Michigan got back in front with a 51-yard field goal with 9:35 to go. The Wolverines’ chance to extend the lead ended with an interception with a bit under 4 minutes left, but Iowa turned the ball over with two minutes left. Michigan was unable to pick up a first down to kill off the game, though, and a facemask penalty on the punt return put Iowa in field goal range immediately. 21 yards and 1:23 later, the Hawkeyes hit a 33-yard field goal to give the Wolverines their first loss.

Conference Projections

Rearranging things a bit this week now that we’re down to two games left. Odds are based on my margin-aware ratings. Division title odds now include the effect of tiebreakers, which are as follows:

  1. Head-to-head (if any step from here on leaves only two teams tied, they return to head-to-head again)
  2. Division record
  3. Record against individual teams below the tie, from highest to lowest in order
  4. Record against all common conference opponents
  5. Overall record
  6. Random draw

East Division Contenders

Team Wk 12 Wk 13 Avg wins 6-3 7-2 8-1 Div title
Penn State @ RUT; 96.1% (+20.5) MSU; 97.3% (+22.5) 7.93 0.10% 6.38% 93.52% 65.26%
Ohio State @ MSU; 97.9% (+24.5) MICH; 69% (+5) 7.67 0.63% 31.47% 67.90% 4.40%
Michigan IND; 98.5% (+26.5) @ OSU; 31% (-5) 7.29 1.03% 68.75% 30.21% 30.33%

Penn State, with by far the easiest remaining schedule, has the best chance of winning out. Ohio State has the best resume for reaching the playoff, but Michigan’s loss to Iowa severely damaged their chances of winning the division due to the tiebreaker situation. Michigan needs only to win out to claim the division title but has to go to Columbus to pull it off. All three are huge favorites this week.

Detailed scenarios:

  • If Penn State wins out, they need Michigan to lose at least once to win the division; they would have the tiebreaker over Ohio State. If the Nittany Lions split their last two, they need Michigan to lose twice and Ohio State to lose to MSU.
  • Ohio State needs Penn State to lose a game in order to have any chance of winning the division. Had Michigan beaten Iowa (and Indiana this week), the Buckeyes would win a three-way tie at 8-1 because Penn State would be eliminated by their non-conference loss, but now Michigan would drop out of the tie and PSU’s win over them would be decisive. If they lose to MSU but beat Michigan, they need two Penn State losses since Michigan would own the tiebreaker (on division record) in the event of a three-way tie. A loss to Michigan would eliminate Ohio State regardless of other results.
  • Michigan wins the division if they win both games. If they beat only Ohio State, they need a single Penn State loss; they would have the tiebreaker with head-to-head wins over both OSU and PSU. If their only win is over Indiana instead, OSU must lose to MSU and PSU must split their games, leading to a three-way tie settled on division record (which Michigan would win at 5-1 to the others’ 4-2).

The Rest of the East

Team Wk 12 Wk 13 Avg wins 0-9 1-8 2-7 3-6 4-5 5-4 Bowl
Indiana @ MICH; 1.5% (-26.5) PUR; 92.9% (+16.5) 3.94 6.95% 91.67% 1.39% 93.05%
Maryland @ NEB; 9.5% (-14.5) RUT; 90.7% (+14.5) 3.00 8.44% 82.91% 8.65% 91.56%
Michigan State OSU; 2.1% (-24.5) @ PSU; 2.7% (-22.5) 1.05 95.28% 4.66% 0.06% 0
Rutgers PSU; 3.9% (-20.5) @ MARY; 9.3% (-14.5) 0.13 87.15% 12.48% 0.36% 0

Both Indiana and Maryland, needing one win to become bowl eligible, are big underdogs this week but big favorites next. MSU has a chance to throw a monkey wrench into the division title chase, facing contenders both weeks; Rutgers also plays one of them before a chance to sabotage Maryland’s bowl hopes.

West Division Contenders

Team Wk 12 Wk 13 Avg wins 4-5 5-4 6-3 7-2 Div title
Wisconsin @ PUR; 97.8% (+24) MINN; 87% (+12) 6.85 0.28% 14.54% 85.18% 91.38%
Nebraska MARY; 90.5% (+14.5) @ IOWA; 63% (+3.5) 6.53 3.54% 39.56% 56.90% 8.50%
Northwestern @ MINN; 32% (-4.5) ILL; 94.6% (+18) 5.27 3.66% 65.62% 30.72% 1 in 32,400
Iowa @ ILL; 80% (+9) NEB; 37% (-3.5) 5.17 12.75% 57.67% 29.58% 1 in 1720
Minnesota NW; 68% (+4.5) @ WISC; 13% (-12) 4.80 28.29% 63.00% 8.71% 1 in 1600

Wisconsin is clearly in the best shape, with wins over all of the contenders except Minnesota (who they have yet to play) and a perfect division record for that tiebreaker. Winning out gets them the title, and they hold the tiebreaker in every possible tie except a two-team tie with Minnesota. Nebraska is next in line, but there is about a 1 in 800 chance that a non-red-and-white team represents the West in Indianapolis. The Gophers are a slight favorite against Northwestern this week in an elimination game, while the others vary from substantial favorites (Iowa) to near locks (Wisconsin).

Detailed scenarios:

  • Wisconsin has it easy: win out and they’re in. If they lose to Purdue but beat Minnesota, a single Nebraska loss is enough, as they own tiebreakers over everyone. If their single loss is to Minnesota, things get a little more complicated; a Nebraska split is still good enough, but if Nebraska loses twice they either need Minnesota to lose to Northwestern (eliminating them from the tie) or Iowa to beat Illinois (joining the tie at 6-3 and throwing the tiebreakers to Wisconsin). Finally, there is one path that leads them to Indianapolis at 5-4: if they lose both, Nebraska loses both, Illinois beats both Iowa and Northwestern, and Northwestern beats Minnesota, the result is a five-way tie at 5-4 which goes to the Badgers as the only team with a 3-1 record against the other tied teams (Minnesota would be 1-3 and the others all 2-2).
  • Nebraska’s easiest chance is pretty clear: if they win out and Wisconsin drops a game, they claim the division title alone at 7-2. If they split, Wisconsin must lose twice; if their win is over Iowa, that is enough since Nebraska would own head-to-head tiebreakers over Minnesota or Northwestern should either of them win out. If they beat Maryland and lose to Iowa, things are a little trickier; in addition to two losses for Wisconsin, they need either an Iowa loss to Illinois (eliminating them from the tie) or two wins by Northwestern (creating a three-way tie between the Huskers, Hawkeyes, and Wildcats, all of whom would be 1-1 against each other and 4-2 in division with the other loss coming to Wisconsin; Nebraska would win on overall record as both Iowa and Northwestern have non-conference losses).
  • Northwestern has to win twice and hope that both Nebraska and Wisconsin lose twice each. That would, at worst, produce a tie with Iowa, who the Wildcats beat earlier this year. Nebraska has to lose twice because they would otherwise win the tiebreaker (directly if Iowa is not involved, or on overall record in a three-way tie). They also need one win to become bowl eligible; the other contenders are already there.
  • Iowa must win twice and have Wisconsin lose twice; in addition, Northwestern must lose a game. A three-way tie with Nebraska and Minnesota goes the Hawkeyes’ way since they would have beaten both, but including Northwestern instead of Minnesota would eliminate them (Northwestern would win a two-team tie and Nebraska a three-team tie).
  • Minnesota must win twice and hope Nebraska loses twice and Iowa loses to Illinois. Beating Northwestern eliminates them from any possible tie at 6-3, and Wisconsin would win any tie with three or more teams, so Minnesota has to either win outright or be tied with only Wisconsin.

The Rest of the West

Team Wk 12 Wk 13 Avg wins 1-8 2-7 3-6 4-5
Illinois IOWA; 20% (-9) @ NW; 5.4% (-18) 2.26 75.41% 23.49% 1.10%
Purdue WISC; 2.2% (-24) @ IND; 7.1% (-16.5) 1.09 90.90% 8.94% 0.16%

Both of these teams are playing for nothing but pride at this point, with bowl hopes gone. Illinois has two chances to affect the title race; Purdue has one as well.

Week 12 Schedule

Noon ET

Ohio State at Michigan State (ESPN; OSU 97.9% / +24.5)
Iowa at Illinois (BTN; Iowa 80% / +9)
Maryland at Nebraska (ESPN News; Nebraska 90.5% / +14.5)
Wisconsin at Purdue (ABC; Wisconsin 97.8% / +24)

3:30 ET

Indiana at Michigan (ESPN; Michigan 98.5% / +26.5)
Northwestern at Minnesota (BTN; Minnesota 68% / +4.5)

8:00 ET

Penn State at Rutgers (BTN; Penn State 96.1% / +20.5)

Not a whole lot of games that should be close on the docket this week; only two have a projected margin below two touchdowns. The most interesting game of the bunch is probably Northwestern at Minnesota; both could be eliminated from the division race before kickoff (if Nebraska wins), but if Nebraska and Wisconsin both lose this is an elimination game.