Every B1G East team's most devastating loss of the Playoff era
Not all losses are created equal.
Some are expected. Some are disappointing. Others are devastating.
They’re the games that make fans ache when they watch highlights. They’re the type of losses that make it hard to even think about anything that has to do with football for a good week/year.
To be clear, we’re talking about devastating losses here. To me, “devastating” implies that there was a reason to have some pre-game expectations. The bigger the implications, the more devastating the loss.
Yesterday, I started off with the most devastating losses of each B1G West team during the Playoff era. Today, it’s the B1G East’s turn:
Most devastating loss — 2015 vs. Ohio State
Keep in mind that IU came into that game 4-0. Can you imagine how crazy Bloomington would’ve been for a 5-0 team that just knocked off No. 1 Ohio State? Madness I tell you. But it was only the bad kind of madness that Indiana fans experienced…again.
If you’ve been consuming Indiana football in the 21st century, the way the Ohio State game unfolded was plenty familiar. Of course the Hoosiers stuck with the No. 1 Buckeyes on their home field…only to come up one play short.
Despite a career day from Ezekiel Elliott, Indiana actually had a chance to tie or even win the game down seven with a 4th and goal on the final play. Yes, I do believe Kevin Wilson would’ve gone for two. Unfortunately, we’ll never know because a broken play fell incomplete and the Hoosiers’ upset bid came up empty.
Most devastating loss — 2014 vs. West Virginia
Maryland hasn’t had a ton of what I’d call “devastation” in the Playoff era. Getting trucked by B1G East powers isn’t devastating if it’s expected. I went with an old rivalry game from 2014 because of the implications and the way it played out.
The Terps were 2-0 with a talented, veteran team in their first year in the B1G. Maryland fans knew there was a good chance that the Terps could start the season off 5-0 heading into that OSU game if it could just get past West Virginia. They had a chance to beat a West Virginia team that won seven of the previous eight matchups.
After rallying back from a 28-6 deficit to tie the game at 37-37, the Terps watched a 47-yard West Virginia field goal sail through the uprights as time expired.
Last-second field goals are never a fun way to lose, especially against a rival. It might not have been as devastating as some of the other games on this list, but it probably didn’t sit too well with Maryland fans who had hopes that their team would crack the top 25 for the second time in six seasons.
Most devastating loss — 2016 at Ohio State
I know, Michigan fans. “This was so devastating because the refs blew Michigan’s shot at a national title.” Wolverine fans will argue the spot of J.T. Barrett’s fourth-down run to their graves.
That was the first overtime game in the 120-year history of the rivalry, and it couldn’t have ended in more devastating fashion. Michigan, regardless of the spot of that play, still surrendered a two-possession lead and let the Buckeyes force overtime. I can’t imagine the devastation that Michigan fans felt watching Curtis Samuel waltz into the end zone in double overtime (via Big Ten Network).
It wasn’t just that it was the fifth straight loss to Ohio State. The following April, Michigan set a program record for NFL draft picks. A team that talented simply had to win two of its final three regular season games and it was going to the B1G Championship with a chance to earn a Playoff berth.
Instead, that happened. That’s as brutal as it gets. And yes, that was even more devastating than the 2015 Michigan State loss because of what was at stake.
Most devastating loss — 2015 Cotton Bowl vs. Alabama
In hindsight, it seems crazy to suggest that 2015 Michigan State was going to beat that Alabama team and play for a national title. But at the time, that wasn’t so crazy at all. Alabama did lose in the Playoff the year before against Ohio State, and Alabama wasn’t even ranked No. 1 for the Cotton Bowl.
Yeah, about that.
Lane Kiffin drew up the perfect game plan for the Alabama offense and MSU never really had a shot. It probably didn’t help matters that the Tide defense had a month to prepare for the Spartans’ predictable offense. I don’t think a healthy Connor Cook would’ve made that big of a difference, either.
The devastating part was that MSU fans entered the night hoping that they could finally take that next step. Instead, they watched arguably their most talented team in the last 50 years get trucked.
Most devastating loss — 2017 at Iowa
Yes, I have no problem if you want to list that 2015 Michigan State game as the most devastating of the Playoff era. It was cold, wet and rainy, and the Buckeyes lost in devastating fashion via a last-second field goal (thanks to MSU’s backup quarterbacks).
But I went with the Iowa game from last season because of how it unfolded. A week earlier, the Buckeyes pulled off that season-saving comeback against Penn State. The thought heading into that Iowa game was that Ohio State was in the driver’s seat to earn a Playoff berth.
Then 55-24 happened.
Iowa ran over Ohio State and then backed the truck up just so it could do it again. It was that kind of beatdown (via Big Ten Network):
It was the type of loss that you never see from an Urban Meyer-coached team. I said after that day that Ohio State wasn’t getting into the Playoff, regardless of what happened the rest of the way. Buckeye fans felt that, too.
That’s why the talk of a Playoff berth after that game made no sense. And as the selection committee said after the field was announced, the Iowa game was the difference-maker. It probably only added to the devastation that the Iowa loss had to be revisited and scrutinized for the following month.
Most devastating loss — 2017 at Ohio State
I could’ve gone with the 2016 Rose Bowl loss but after the year that was, I don’t think “devastation” was the first word that Penn State fans would describe their mood after that game. I think they were absolutely devastated after the way Penn State lost last year’s game in Columbus.
They watched their Playoff hopes all but end after vaulting up to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. Even worse was the fact that the undefeated Lions — they had just blown out Michigan the previous week — led by 11 with just over four minutes left.
That was such a prime opportunity for Penn State. Had the Lions held on that day, they could’ve actually lost to Michigan State and still played for a B1G Championship again. Instead, the Ohio State loss blocked their path to defending their crown in Indianapolis. With Saquon Barkley inevitably off to the NFL at season’s end, that was a devastating reality to accept.
Most devastating loss — 2015 vs. Michigan State
I think a lot of people tend to forget that while that 2015 MSU squad earned a Playoff berth, it had tons of close calls. One of those was at Rutgers in the second week of October. It wasn’t that Rutgers had high expectations. It was just how the Scarlet Knights managed to blow what would’ve been a massive upset that was so devastating.
After MSU took the lead with 43 seconds left, Rutgers had one chance to tie or win with 21 seconds from the MSU 40-yard line. Instead of attempting a Hail Mary, Rutgers did a Rutgers thing. Chris Laviano got sacked on third down. With the clock ticking, he hurried up to the line of scrimmage…only to spike the ball on fourth down.
Remember this (via Big Ten Network)?
Yeah, that’s pretty bad.
Would Rutgers have somehow pulled off a Hail Mary and won that game? Extremely unlikely. But the Knights, after what was already an embarrassing season on and off the field, made national headlines for the way the game ended.
That’s a lowlight that Rutgers fans wish they could forget. My apologies for opening up that wound again.