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Around the B1G: Football Week 9 Recap, Week 10 Preview

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Wisconsin’s overtime win against Nebraska makes the West race more interesting. Can Penn State crash the party in the East?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 Recap

Michigan 32, Michigan State 23

MSU looked much better than they have for most of this season, but red zone failures doomed the comeback (two turnovers on downs and a missed field goal). On the Spartans’ first drive of the second half, down 27-10 but set up in great field position thanks to a turnover, MSU reached first and goal at the 2 but L.J. Scott was stuffed four times in a row. I fully agree with the decision to go for it here; you need touchdowns if you’re going to come back and you’re not going to get many better opportunities than that.

I’m a little less pleased with the decision to try a field goal on the next possession down 30-10; you’re into the fourth quarter and a field goal still means you need three more scores. Yes, it was 4th and goal from the 17, but the odds of actually getting three more possessions, in a game where neither the first nor third quarters even featured three full possessions for the teams combined, aren’t good. That said, it turned out that we did get three more drives and could have taken the field goal on one of them instead of a turnover on downs had the field goal actually been made on this drive (if we assume that everything plays out the same otherwise, which might not have been the case, of course), so maybe I’m wrong.

I really don’t understand the two-point try on the final touchdown either; there was a possible (albeit very unlikely) way for MSU to still win. If an onside kick attempt was recovered cleanly (no previous touch by either team), the ball would become dead immediately without any time running off the clock (since it starts on a touch) and MSU would have time for a Hail Mary. Yes, we’re in the realm of events that would make 2015’s ending look normal, but going for 2 has no upside.

Minnesota 40, Illinois 17

Turnovers doomed Illinois, as Minnesota managed their 40 points on just 283 yards of total offense. Only one of Minnesota’s touchdown drives was longer than 50 yards; the Gophers scored 24 points on drives starting inside the Illinois 20 yard line and another two on a safety. The win kept Minnesota in the hunt in the West and pushed Illinois to the brink of bowl elimination.

Penn State 62, Purdue 24

Coming off the upset over Ohio State last week, the Nittany Lions seemed to have a bit of a hangover in the first half. The Boilermakers got out to a 14-7 lead and went into halftime tied at 17, having missed a field goal just before the half that would have put them back in front. But in the second half, the wheels fell off the train; two turnovers early set up Penn State touchdowns, and after a bomb to DeAngelo Yancey cut the deficit back down to 34-24, Penn State rattled off four straight touchdowns while Purdue went backwards on three of four drives and turned the ball over on two of them.

Indiana 42, Maryland 36

This was a wild one. Indiana put up 650 yards without a turnover, but a turnover on downs (4th and 1 from the 6), a missed field goal, an 82-yard drive ending in a field goal, and three failed two-point conversions kept their score down. Maryland led 21-16 at the half and 24-23 late in the third quarter, but Mitchell Paige ran for a touchdown to end the quarter and go up 29-24. Another touchdown with 8:30 to go made it 35-24. Maryland answered with just under four minutes left but failed their own two-point conversion to trail by 5. The Terps kicked deep, a dubious decision when they had only forced two punts on the night, and Indiana marched 75 yards to pad the lead back out to 12. Maryland scored again as time expired to provide the final margin.

Ohio State 24, Northwestern 20

The Wildcats kept this one tight most of the way. The Buckeyes led 10-0 in the first quarter, but a 16-play touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard run by Clayton Thorson cut it down to 3, and an 82-yard drive before the half ended in a field goal to make the halftime score 17-10 in favor of Ohio State. A 2-yard catch for Garrett Dickerson tied the game late in the third quarter, but after trading punts, the Buckeyes marched 63 yards to retake the lead with a little under 10 minutes left. Northwestern responded with a 16-play drive, but after first and goal at the 3, a penalty pushed them back and they kicked a field goal from the 15 with 3:31 to go. As with MSU’s decision early in the fourth quarter, I disagree with the strategy here; you still need a touchdown and you’re likely to face a difficult situation on that drive too, assuming you get the ball back - which they did not.

Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 17 (OT)

Wisconsin struck first with a 21-yard run from Bradrick Shaw midway through the first quarter after an exchange of three-and-outs, and the Badgers took a 10-7 lead into the half. A 73-yard drive to open the third quarter made it 17-7, but after trading punts, Nebraska answered to cut the deficit back down to 3 early in the fourth quarter. The Huskers got interceptions on the next two Badger drives, but one went nowhere and the other stalled in field goal range, forcing them to kick for the tie with 3:43 to go. A big run by Corey Clement set up Wisconsin for a potential game-winning score, but after the offense stalled, Andrew Endicott missed a 45-yard field goal. Nebraska got as far as midfield but couldn’t get into scoring range themselves, and the game went to overtime. The Badgers got the ball first and scored a touchdown but missed the extra point, but Nebraska couldn’t take advantage, quickly going four and out to end the game and their unbeaten season.

Week 10 Preview

All times ET. Odds are per my margin-aware ratings. There is no more carryover from last season in the ratings; everything is based on this season now.

Michigan State at Illinois (Noon, ESPN News)

A few weeks ago I made fun of Illinois-Rutgers for being an awful enough game to end up on ESPN News. Oops. At least MSU has been competitive in every game; Illinois’s only loss by fewer than 15 points is to Purdue. Still, the combination of too-close wins by MSU and home field advantage for Illinois sees the Illini favored by my method.

Odds: Illinois 60% (projected margin: +2.5)

Indiana at Rutgers (Noon, BTN)

Indiana’s remaining schedule is very bipolar: this game and home against Purdue should be easy, while home against Penn State and at Michigan should be very hard. Screw this one up and the Hoosiers will likely need to hope that a few bowl slots are open for 5-7 teams.

Odds: Indiana 60% (+3)

Wisconsin at Northwestern (Noon, ABC)

Somehow, Ryan Field is the Big Ten venue at which the Badgers have gone the longest without a win (not since 1999, although that’s only a four-game losing streak there). If the Badgers want to remain in the hunt for the division title, that streak probably has to end this week.

Odds: Wisconsin 58% (+2)

Maryland at Michigan (3:30, ESPN)

Michigan’s closing stretch has one moderately tough game (at Iowa) and two trap games (this one and Indiana) before the showdown with Ohio State. Maryland has four chances to reach bowl eligibility, but they face a particularly nasty three-game stretch (this followed by home vs. Ohio State and at Nebraska) before closing with a home game against Rutgers.

Odds: Michigan 97.5% (+24)

Purdue at Minnesota (3:30, BTN)

One last warm-up for the Gophers before they get into the heaviest part of their schedule; their final three games include road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin and a home game against Northwestern. If they can sweep that, they only need an Iowa loss to claim the division title. The bad news is that sweeping that schedule is going to be very tough.

Odds: Minnesota 96.7% (+22.5)

Iowa at Penn State (7:30, BTN)

Iowa, like Minnesota, has a brutal finishing stretch; the only game against a team outside the Playoff Committee’s top 12 is against Illinois in two weeks. The Illinois game should be enough to get them to a bowl, but a division crown will require at least two, probably three major upsets.

Odds: Penn State 85% (+11.5)

Nebraska at Ohio State (8:00, ABC)

Here’s the headliner for the week. A Buckeye win would keep them on pace for a potential winner-take-all showdown with Michigan (although if Michigan slips up somewhere along the line, the Buckeyes would need someone to take down Penn State too) and throw the West into total chaos. A Husker win keeps them solidly in the driver’s seat in the West and would give Michigan a chance to clinch before even facing the Buckeyes.

Odds: Ohio State 84% (+11)

Conference Projections

East Division

Team Avg wins 0-9 1-8 2-7 3-6 4-5 5-4 6-3 7-2 8-1 9-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Michigan 8.32 1 in 42,000 0.25% 7.50% 52.24% 40.00% Yes 49.74% 93.44%
Penn State 7.43 0.02% 0.69% 8.46% 37.83% 53.00% Yes 1.30% 32.87%
Ohio State 7.19 0.04% 1.51% 14.44% 46.94% 37.06% Yes 2.43% 38.01%
Indiana 3.81 2.48% 30.51% 51.00% 15.74% 0.26% 67.01% <0.01% <0.01%
Maryland 3.16 8.01% 69.50% 20.70% 1.76% 0.03% 91.99% <0.01% <0.01%
Michigan State 1.15 18.28% 50.83% 28.91% 1.95% 0.03% 0.03%
Rutgers 0.95 32.07% 44.73% 19.93% 3.12% 0.16% 0.16%

Penn State edges ahead of Ohio State in projected wins thanks to an easier finishing schedule and Ohio State’s slight slip in the ratings after a close game against Northwestern. The gap to fourth and fifth is enormous, and at the bottom end MSU and Rutgers are the first two teams officially eliminated from the division title hunt.

West Division

Team Avg wins 0-9 1-8 2-7 3-6 4-5 5-4 6-3 7-2 8-1 9-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Nebraska 6.53 0.55% 8.38% 36.46% 46.89% 7.71% Yes 29.87% 70.14%
Wisconsin 6.30 0.01% 0.71% 11.31% 45.41% 42.55% Yes 19.53% 55.24%
Northwestern 5.52 0.33% 7.82% 41.74% 40.16% 9.96% 91.85% 4.53% 21.92%
Minnesota 5.06 0.63% 20.20% 54.40% 22.28% 2.49% Yes 2.32% 11.43%
Iowa 4.37 11.47% 47.94% 33.42% 6.76% 0.41% 88.53% 0.15% 2.87%
Illinois 1.90 28.74% 53.22% 16.89% 1.13% 0.02% 0.02% <0.01%
Purdue 1.32 71.39% 25.41% 3.06% 0.15% 1 in 41,900 0.15% <0.01%

Nebraska still has a slight edge in average wins over Wisconsin, but with the tiebreaker pointing toward the Badgers, things should get pretty interesting down the stretch. Northwestern, Minnesota, and Iowa are all lurking at the edge of the race; although none have a great chance of winning out, any of them could end up in Indianapolis if they manage it.