With just one week remaining in the regular season, the Big Ten Championship game has been set. In two weeks, Wisconsin will try to go 13-0 for the first time in school history while Ohio State will attempt to somehow be the first two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff. Before that, however, is rivalry week. While the stakes aren’t as large as they’ve been in the past, there is still bowl eligibility and pride on the line for some teams. Here is where the conference stands going into the final week of the regular season.
1. Wisconsin (11-0 overall, 8-0 Big Ten)
Once again, Wisconsin found a way to completely take over its game in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon. The Badgers faced their toughest test of the regular season against Michigan, and the Wolverines had them sweating for three quarters, but Wisconsin completely wore them down. Bouncing back from a terrible first half, quarterback Alex Hornibrook turned in a gutsy performance and led the Badgers to a pair of touchdowns in their 24-10 victory. Wisconsin has proved it is the best overall team in the Big Ten Conference this season, but its quarterback struggles could prove costly in the Big Ten Championship Game or in the CFB Playoff. Wisconsin will look to achieve a perfect regular season this weekend at Minnesota on Saturday.
2. Ohio State (9-2, 7-1)
Ohio State took full advantage of a mismatch against Illinois as it rolled 52-14 behind a 28-point first quarter. The Buckeyes have outscored their last two opponents 100-17 and have now clinched the Big Ten East division. It may be too late, but Ohio State still has the slimmest of chances to reach the CFB Playoff. The Buckeyes will close out their regular season slate this Saturday at Michigan.
3. Penn State (9-2, 7-1)
Penn State used a 26-point second quarter to pull away from Nebraska for a 56-44 win on senior night in State College. Saquon Barkley returned to his old form with over 200 total yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Trace McSorley added four more touchdowns of his own. After leading 42-10 at halftime, it was disappointing to see the Nittany Lions ease up, but frankly it didn’t matter. This season will go down as a disappointing one for Penn State, a team that had national championship potential but failed to close out the games that mattered. Penn State ends its regular season Saturday afternoon at Maryland.
4. Northwestern (8-3, 6-2)
Maybe, just maybe, Northwestern will get the respect it deserves this season after pounding Minnesota 39-0 on Saturday. The Wildcats have now won six straight games — the second-longest streak in the conference. They defeated the second-best team in the Big Ten East, scored more points on Wisconsin than any other team this year and rolled over the rest of the western division. The western division has been perceived as terrible outside of Wisconsin this year, but Northwestern doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with the rest of the west. The Wildcats will go for their ninth win of the season Saturday at Illinois.
5. Michigan State (8-3, 6-2)
Michigan State doesn’t have that many seniors this year, but honored the few it does have with another ugly 17-7 win over Maryland Saturday afternoon. The Spartans still have a lot of work to do to catch up with the rest of the division, but if many players return, Michigan State has the potential to be a good football team next year. Michigan State will play at Rutgers on Saturday.
6. Michigan (8-3, 5-3)
Michigan gave Wisconsin an admirable fight on the road, but once starting quarterback Brandon Peters exited the game the Wolverines didn’t have a chance. Criticisms will be hurled at Jim Harbaugh for losing three games in the regular season for a third-straight season at Michigan, but this should have been expected. The truth is, the Wolverines were in a rebuilding year and it showed, especially on offense. They do have a chance to make this lost season a success if they can snap their losing streak against Ohio State this weekend.
7. Purdue (5-6, 3-5)
In one of the more surprising results of the weekend, Purdue went into Iowa City, Iowa, and dominated the Hawkeyes, 24-15. This is one of those wins that gives the Boilermakers momentum to build on for year two under Jeff Brohm. More importantly it puts Purdue one win away from bowl eligibility. Sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar appears to be the future for Purdue, and he had a career afternoon with three touchdowns and 229 yards. The Boilermakers will try to earn bowl eligibility Saturday at home against Indiana.
8. Iowa (6-5, 3-5)
The 2017 Iowa Hawkeyes will always have the Ohio State game. But since that game, the Hawkeyes have struggled, especially on offense. The same secondary that stymied J.T. Barrett and scored all of its points at Wisconsin last week allowed Purdue to throw for 229 yards on them this weekend. With so many key players from last season being replaced, this was always going to be a rebuilding season for the Hawkeyes. The good news for Iowa is that its offense will have a much easier task going up against Nebraska on Black Friday in Lincoln.
9. Indiana (5-6, 2-6)
In a battle for survival, Indiana dominated Rutgers 41-0 on senior day to keep its bowl hopes alive. After four close losses, games against Illinois and Rutgers were exactly what the Hoosiers needed to gain some late-season momentum. Indiana will face Purdue on Saturday in a battle for bowl eligibility.
10. Minnesota (5-6, 2-6)
One week after a statement win over Nebraska, Minnesota looked like a completely different team against Northwestern. The Wildcats dominated the Gophers on both sides of the ball and suddenly Minnesota is facing a must-win game at 11-0 Wisconsin next week. Minnesota had some flashes of promise this year, but if its season ends with a pair of blowout losses to the top-two teams in the division, the season will likely be considered a failure.