1 B1G thought about every Week 13 Big Ten game
Hard as it may be to believe, we’re already here. The end of the road. The final week of the Big Ten football season.
This rocky road began in Dublin town with Northwestern beating Nebraska in Week Zero, and concludes with the first unbeaten meeting between Michigan and Ohio State since 2006. (Technically it concludes with Michigan State and Penn State battling for the Land-Grant Trophy, but you get the idea.)
Sure, there’s still the Big Ten Championship Game, various bowls and the College Football Playoff to be contested. Perhaps even a CFP with 2 B1G teams.
But this is the last week when all 14 B1G teams will be on the field. And that always makes us a bit wistful.
Nebraska (3-8, 2-6) at Iowa (7-4, 5-3)
When: 4 p.m. ET Friday, BTN
B1G thought: Outside of The Game, this is the B1G game that matters most. And it gets a time slot all to itself, a day ahead of the rest of the league slate.
If Iowa wins, the Hawkeyes clinch the Big Ten West. But if the Cornhuskers pull off the upset, a world of possibilities are in play — which includes Iowa still backing its way to Indianapolis if both Illinois and Purdue were to lose.
Nebraska hasn’t beaten Iowa since 2014 — just days before firing Bo Pelini.
No. 3 Michigan (11-0, 8-0) at No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0)
When: Noon ET Saturday, FOX
B1G thought: What more can be said about this one?
The issue of who is able to play will be a significant factor. Both teams have multiple A-list players who have dealt with injuries lately.
And though a loss will feel devastating, Ohio State might be able to sustain a defeat and stay alive in the CFP conversation. Michigan has a much tougher case to make in that scenario.
Rutgers (4-7, 1-7) at Maryland (6-5, 3-5)
When: Noon ET, BTN
B1G thought: We’ll learn a lot about the maturity of Mike Locksley’s program here. This is a classic position for a Maryland letdown after last week’s near-miss against Ohio State. Rutgers has nothing to play for but pride, but that’s the type of thing Greg Schiano seems adept at milking out of his teams.
If the Terps fall to 6-6, it will be one of the most disappointing seasons in recent B1G memory. And a sign that Locks will probably never get it done in College Park.
Illinois (7-4, 4-4) at Northwestern (1-10, 1-8)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
B1G thought: If Nebraska beats Iowa, this game takes on massive significance for the Illini. But if Iowa wins, all that matters is improving bowl status and earning Abe Lincoln’s hat.
The Wildcats are trying to avoid the indignity of losing every game they played in the United States this season.
Minnesota (7-4, 4-4) at Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
B1G thought: The winner could find itself in 3- or 4-way tie for the Big Ten West title, though tiebreakers prevent both the Badgers and Gophers from making a Big Ten title game appearance.
It seems only a matter of days before the Badgers announce Jim Leonhard as full-time head coach, but a win here would 100% seal the deal.
For the Gophers, this is an opportunity to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 1994. Minnesota has handed the Axe back to Wisconsin each of the 4 times it has won the prize since ’94.
Purdue (7-4, 5-3) at Indiana (4-7, 2-6)
When: 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
B1G thought: If Iowa loses, this becomes the most important battle for the Old Oaken Bucket since 2000.
With a win, Purdue would reach the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time. And given the way the conference is likely to realign after USC and UCLA join, opportunities for the Boilermakers to get back there in the future figure to be few and far between.
It’s been a disappointing season for Indiana. But if the Hoosiers are responsible for squelching Purdue’s best shot at a Big Ten title in 2 decades? They’ll be talking about this in Bloomington forever. And maybe in Champaign, too.
Illinois needs both Iowa and Purdue to lose in order to win the West.
Michigan State (5-6, 3-5) at No. 11 Penn State (9-2, 6-2)
When: 4 p.m. ET, FS1
B1G thought: There’s more at stake here than the illustrious Land-Grant Trophy.
After squandering a 17-point lead to Indiana last week, Michigan State needs a win in order to gain bowl eligibility. And given the tumultuous nature of this disaster of a season for the Spartans, that feels massively important for the stability of Mel Tucker’s program.
In a 12-team Playoff, this would be an incredibly important game for Penn State. Which, by the way, is the argument against those who think a 12-team Playoff kills the regular season. This game would have so much more meaning in that format, as would a number of other games across the country.
As it is, the Nittany Lions should position themselves for a New Year’s 6 bowl game with a win — which, for the time being, is fairly meaningful.