Week 13 B1G Grades
Ah, final grades.
Week 13 is supposed to be the true measure of how much a team has really improved since the beginning of the season.
For a team like Penn State, which had its two worst performances of the season in the opener and in the finale, that might not be true. For Michigan, which looked like a top-10 team for basically every game besides Saturday, that wasn’t true. And for Minnesota, which played its first bad game in over a month, that certainly wasn’t true.
Ok, so maybe Week 13 wasn’t the final product some B1G teams wanted to show off.
But it was for others:
There was a chance for Illinois to pick up its best win of the year and earn a bowl berth in impressive fashion. Instead, it dropped the ball.
Indiana didn’t need some last-second kick to clinch bowl eligibility this time around. The IU offense dominated from start to finish on Saturday. Without Jordan Howard, Nate Sudfeld shined again to lift the Hoosiers to a monumental sixth win.
Everybody’s trendy upset pick was Nebraska over Iowa. And what did the Hawkeyes do? They came out and controlled the game on the road. This team travels so well because of the way it blocks and capitalizes on opportunities on defense. Yet again, the perfect Hawkeyes took care of business playing smart, smash-mouth football.
So for about 15 halves of B1G football, the Terps didn’t do enough to win. But in the second half on the road, Maryland ended its season in surprising fashion by overcoming a 21-point deficit thanks in large part to the dominance of Brandon Ross. Better late than never?
There’s an unfair conclusion that many likely formed while watching this team get dismantled by Ohio State. It was that the Wolverines couldn’t compete with the best teams in the country. That’s not true. Ask Michigan State, Northwestern and Utah about that. But Michigan couldn’t compete with an Ohio State-team that went playoff-mode. Michigan’s upside simply is not there in Harbaugh’s first season in Ann Arbor.
Michigan State: A+
Speaking of upside, talk about saving your best for last. The Spartans destroyed Penn State with their B1G Championship hopes on the line. You know it’s a big day when the likes of Jack Allen and Malik McDowell both wind up in the end zone. And oh, that Connor Cook guy is pretty good, too.
All signs pointed to the Gophers finally getting the axe back. Instead, they let Wisconsin completely dominate the line of scrimmage and run all over the place. Some untimely turnovers didn’t help Minnesota, either. And as a result of arguably its worst performance since the Nebraska game, Minnesota needs a miracle to make a bowl with five wins.
Speaking of five-win miracles, Nebraska finds itself in a similar boat following Friday’s loss to Iowa. The Huskers were beat up front at critical points of the game, and Tommy Armstrong played his own game of 500. That’s not a winning combination.
It ain’t sexy, but it sure is effective. Justin Jackson does the running, Anthony Walker does the play-making and Pat Fitzgerald does the winning. Northwestern, despite the fact that it wasn’t playing for any bowl game or division title, followed the same blueprint that got it its nine previous wins.
Ohio State: A+
The assumption following last week’s loss to Michigan State was that Ohio State no longer had the ‘on’ switch. Well, the Buckeyes have it, and they definitely flipped it on Saturday. Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett were dominant behind a much better performance from the offensive line and Joey Bosa led the Buckeyes to their best defensive effort of the year. That was quite the loud closing week statement to make.
Penn State: F
The Lions finished their season exactly how it began. They couldn’t protect Christian Hackenberg, they couldn’t take care of the ball, and the depleted defense had no answer for an MSU squad that finally clicked. Bowl win or not, Saturday’s effort will have lasting presence in the minds of Penn State fans.
In Purdue’s defense, not many units have contained Indiana this year. But it wasn’t that Purdue let Nate Sudfeld carve up the defense. It was that the Boilers couldn’t stop IU’s running game without Jordan Howard. That allowed Indiana to celebrate its first three-game Bucket Game winning streak since 1947. Ouch.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the Scarlet Knights’ season ended a complete mess. Up three scores at home to a Maryland team that hadn’t won a B1G game, and Rutgers couldn’t get out of its own way. The fact that Kyle Flood wasn’t fired at the final whistle was a minor miracle.
Now THAT was the Wisconsin team a lot of us expected to see. What’s the best way to not put pressure on Joel Stave? Run the ball four times as much as you pass it. It helps when your defensive studs force turnovers, too. For as rough as last week had to be for the Badgers, preventing Minnesota from breaking its axe-less streak in the regular season finale had to be one of the sweeter moments of 2015.