10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after Week 9 in the B1G
Turn out the lights, the party’s over.
After nine really fun, entertaining weeks, the B1G football season has come to an end. Grab a box of tissues and share your favorite memories, as we reminisce about this awkwardly unique and still strangely satisfying 2020 football season in the B1G.
OK, so maybe we aren’t going to swap stories just yet. There will be plenty of time for that in the offseason. But we can all connect on, and agree that, this B1G football season went by way too quickly.
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This weekend was a lot of fun, though. In one last hurrah, we were able to consume a fun Nebraska-Rutgers matchup on Friday night, the B1G Championship Game, the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe and an offensive shootout between Indiana and Penn State.
Even with only four games over the weekend, there was plenty to overreact to, so let’s get after it.
Mo carries, Mo 100-yard games
In the history of Minnesota football, nobody has done what Mohamed Ibrahim has accomplished over the last eight games. Not Laurence Maroney, Marion Barber, David Cobb or any of the other Gopher greats that occupied the backfield in the Twin Cities.
Ibrahim racked up 151 yards in Minnesota’s overtime loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, marking eight straight games in which he has eclipsed the 100-yard mark, a new program record. It surpasses the mark hit by Maroney in the mid-2000s, when he reached seven straight games with triple digits on the ground.
For the season, Ibrahim finished the year with 1,076 yards, 15 touchdowns and a 5.4 yards per carry average. All that in seven games. SEVEN! And against B1G defenses like Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin. That’s nothing to blink at.
It’s really too bad this year was what it was, because if the Gophers had played a little bit better earlier in the year and had the opportunity to play more games, Ibrahim could’ve made a legitimate run at the Heisman Trophy this year.
Then again, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor dominated the league for 3 years and didn’t earn a single invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony at the end of any of them. So maybe the end result would’ve been the same. Heisman voters, am I right?
Huskers finally end on a high note
Did you hear the sound of constant chatter and shouting permeating through the air on Friday night across the Midwest? That was just the entire state of Nebraska shouting at televisions as they watched the Huskers try to gift wrap a win to Rutgers. And it looked like the Scarlet Knights were willingly going to accept the present.
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Nebraska had 9 penalties and had 4 turnovers on Friday night in Piscataway, but found a way to get a 28-21 win over Rutgers. And even though it felt more like an “oh thank God we didn’t lose another one like excruciatingly painful fashion” outcome, there is something to be said for the Huskers finding a way to win that game. They’ve been losing those contests consistently under Scott Frost.
Frost and the Huskers now take some momentum in the offseason, having won two of their final three games and ending the year with a victory. I’m sure that strong finish won’t get to anyone’s head in Lincoln and result in ridiculously high expectations for the 2021 season.
The depth at Ohio State is…insane
No, Ohio State didn’t look good against Northwestern in the B1G Championship Game on Saturday. Like, at all. A 22-10 victory wasn’t exactly the statement the Buckeyes were hoping to make in Indianapolis as it had one last opportunity to prove it belonged in the College Football Playoff field, even at 6-0.
But let’s ignore the final score for a minute, and realize that the Buckeyes beat a 6-1 Northwestern team — one many consider to be the second-best team in the league this season — by two scores with 22 guys out, including several key contributors like wide receiver Chris Olave, linebacker Baron Browning, punter Drue Chrisman and others.
Do you see why it’s so difficult for anyone to catch the Buckeyes? And just how critical recruiting is in this sport? It seems unlikely Ohio State’s streak of B1G titles ends at four, based on what we saw from the “reserves” on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Trey’s big day
What pun do you want to use? Sermon on the mount? Sermon was preaching? Something else that’s probably way better that I haven’t thought of yet?
Regardless of what you go with, it’s impossible to mention Ohio State’s win over Northwestern and not mention Trey Sermon’s memorable day in the B1G Championship Game. The running back ended with 331 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries in one of the most sensational performances ever seen in a conference title game. And, to make the day even better, he broke Eddie George’s old rushing record, which was set at 314 yards.
Northwestern’s defense, which had been stellar all season, had no answer. Sermon was running over, around and through Wildcats all afternoon long on his way to those 331 yards.
He might actually still be running somewhere in Lucas Oil Stadium right now.
Fitz’s last stand?
Cue the large eye emoji (or whatever you’d like to call it)!
I’m not saying that Pat Fitzgerald is going to be the next head coach of the Chicago Bears. No, I’m not that plugged into the NFL circles to know if he’s having those conversations with an organization he loves right now. But, here’s what I’m thinking…
Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips is now the commissioner of the ACC. Longtime defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz is retiring at the end of the season. The Wildcats reached the B1G Championship Game for the second time in three seasons and failed to beat a seriously depleted Buckeyes team. Fitz has always had a reported interest in potentially coaching the Bears.
If ever there was a time for Northwestern fans to be worried about the status of their head coach, this might be the time.
Bert and (a new) journey
Bret Bielema is back in the B1G, a league he found plenty of success in when he was the head coach at Wisconsin a decade ago. But being successful at Illinois is going to require a lot more than it does at Wisconsin, and I have some serious questions about whether “Bert” is the guy to get the job done.
Honestly, I felt like Ross from Friends as I thought, “Why, why would you do that?!” to myself after seeing the announcement come from Illinois.
Illinois has struggled for quite some time, though, and Bielema could be a pleasant surprise for that program. He knows how to recruit in the Midwest, he understands what works schematically in the league and he’s taking over a program that is just hopeful to consistency get to bowl games, rather than win B1G titles (though that would obviously be a welcomed change).
After initially dismissing this as a bad hire, I’m going to set aside my judgment. I still have my concerns about Bielema at Illinois and don’t think his record at Wisconsin has any relevance — Gary Andersen was 19-7 for heaven’s sake. But, it certainly can’t get much worse for the Illini.
At the very least, press conferences and media days should be much more entertaining.
Stop and bid farewell to the roses
There will be no Rose Bowl in 2020. The College Football Playoff is moving the semifinal game to Arlington’s AT&T Stadium because of attendance conflicts and rising positive test rates for COVID-19 in California. Another disappointing blow to this endless year.
I really don’t have much else to say other than 2020 sucks.
A round of applause to you, Rutgers and Penn State
Hey, you know what has been really cool in this year from Hell? The fact that, somehow, Rutgers and Penn State were able to get through the entire B1G season, Champions Week included, without having to cancel a football game. Both the Scarlet Knights and Nittany Lions played nine games in nine weeks, a feat that nobody actually thought was possible when the conference laid out this goofy plan two months ago.
The student-athletes, coaching staffs, administrative workers and everyone else in those two programs deserve a ton of credit. Yes, both teams had to get a little luck with scheduling, but it doesn’t take anything away from this really impressive feat.
And honestly, maybe we should put Rutgers and Penn State in the College Football Playoff. Playing nine games in as many weeks is a more impressive feat than anything anyone else has done this year.
O-H is I-N
Fair or not, like it or not, Ohio State is going to be in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes will probably own the No. 3 seed and will play No. 2 Clemson in a rematch of last year’s Fiesta Bowl, a thrilling game the Tigers won to advance to the national championship.
I’m still not convinced that 6-0 is the kind of resume worthy of a College Football Playoff berth, but I also understand the argument to not punish Ohio State for the B1G’s blunders, and the conference made plenty. If the shoe was on the other foot, though, and it was a 6-0 Alabama team trying to wiggle its way into the field with Ohio State sitting with an 8-1 record on the year, I think Buckeye fans would be on the other side of the argument.
This is a weird year and Ohio State has defeated everyone its played. That includes wins over ranked teams Indiana and Northwestern, along with a conference championship to its name. During this weird season, it’s really about all you can ask for a team to do.
The committee will have the Buckeyes in the field again.
Keep Champions Week forever
So, what did everyone think of Champions Week? Because I loved it. The final week of the season felt like a built-in bowl game, and may serve as that purpose for some teams in the B1G.
Why not keep it forever? Three games were decided by 12 points or less, with Penn State’s blowout win over Illinois being the only outlier. But still, that game was incredibly fun through the first half, with the Illini playing like they had nothing to lose.
Let’s trim the regular season schedule down to three nonconference games, eight league contests and then one final crossover game at the end of the year. Is everyone on board with that?