Teams atop the conference handle business, setting the stage for an electric final weekend of Big Ten Football.
Another cold November Saturday of Big Ten football answered raised the stakes even further as we enter rivalry week. Here’s a breakdown of what Week 12 had to offer Around the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes embarrass Sparty behind CJ Stroud’s Heisman-caliber performance
The Ohio State Buckeyes could legitimately be the best team in the country. Led by CJ Stroud, who is the current Heisman favorite on many betting sites, the Buckeyes should have the college football world on notice.
Michigan State had 224 total yards of offense on Saturday; CJ Stroud had 225 in the first quarter. You read that correctly, the freshman had 225 in the first and 168 in the second, with six total touchdowns at the break, to put the Buckeyes up 49-0 at halftime. The 59-7 final scoreline doesn’t do justice to how badly the Buckeyes obliterated Mel Tucker’s defense, as Ryan Day was able to take his foot off the gas early in the second half.
This isn’t the same Buckeye team that lost at Home to Oregon in September, and this has a lot to do with the stellar play of Earth (Jaxon Smith-Njigba), Wind (Chris Olave) and Fire (Garrett Wilson). The trio combined for 371 receiving yards and five touchdowns on Saturday, despite getting limited action after the intermission. With Stroud playing at the level he is, accompanied by this superstar trio, and the Buckeye’s deep running back room, it is clear why Day’s team is the best offense in the country.
On Nov. 17, 2021 the Detroit Free Press broke the news that the Michigan State Spartans plan to sign head coach Mel Tucker to a 10-year contract extension worth $95 million. Four day’s later Tucker’s team lost in Columbus by 49, ending the Spartan’s Big Ten title hopes, in a game in which Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III received only seven touches. In defense of Tucker, it wouldn’t have mattered who was coaching Michigan State on Saturday, with the talent gap being so wide, but it raises the question on whether making Tucker the highest paid coach in the conference could be a bit of an overreaction to a single successful season and a home run transfer.
Looking forward the Spartans will face Penn State to conclude their season, in which they may situate themselves into a New Year’s Six bowl with a victory. On the Buckeyes’ end, they head to Ann Arbor for The Game where the winner will head to Indy with their College Football Playoffs hopes still intact.
The Wolverines handle business in definitive fashion in College Park
The Wolverines were unranked coming into the year with fans coming for Jim Harbaugh’s neck following their poor 2020 season. A year later the tides have turned, as the Wolverines have a chance to go to Indy for the first time since the Big Ten Championship game was established.
Despite being far from the flashiest quarterback in the country, Cade McNamara has delivered all year for Michigan, including at Maryland this past week, where the junior finished with 259 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. More importantly, McNamara didn’t turn the ball over once again to keep his season interception total at just two out of a total of 265 passing attempts. This allowed Hassan Haskins to have a productive afternoon once again.
The biggest surprise for the Wolverines this weekend was the emergence of running back Donovan Edwards in the passing game, with the freshman finishing with 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. If Blake Corum isn’t able to suit up once again against the Buckeyes this Saturday, the freshman will be tasked with delivering on the big stage, so this performance should only bode well for his confidence moving forward.
For Maryland, Taulia Tagovailoa struggled a bit with accuracy and was kept contained for the most part, finishing with 178 yards with a sub-60% completion percentage. The main issue on Saturday for the Terps was the issue that has plagued them for the past seven weeks — their defense cannot string together stops. Since their 4-0 start, they’ve given up an average of 37 points a game, a huge reason as to why they’ve gone 1-6 in their last seven games.
Now, the Terps head to Piscataway for their final game of the year, in which the winner will become bowl eligible. For the Wolverines, the stakes are much higher, as the Jim Harbaugh same who was ridiculed last year is now two wins away from the College Football Playoff.
The Badgers squeak one out to remain atop the West
Following their 21-point home loss to Michigan, the Badgers were sitting at 1-3 with Graham Mertz performing far worse than the player many thought he’d become. Though he hasn’t improved drastically as the years have gone on, the play of freshman Braelan Allen has catapulted the Badgers to atop the Big Ten West.
Allen has rattled off seven straight 100 yard rushing games, all of which have resulted in wins for Paul Chryst’s team. This Saturday against the Huskers, Allen topped the career-high 173 rushing yards he had set the week before by rushing for a ridiculous 228 yards and three touchdowns on just 22 carries. The freshman now has over 1,000 rushing yards and was once again the difference for the Badgers to put them only one win away from Indianapolis.
Despite keeping it close against a ranked opponent once again, Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers team is trending downward yet again. Nebraska suffered their fifth straight loss on Saturday to put it at 3-8 overall. All of the Cornhuskers’ losses have been by 10 points or less.
With one game left against No. 17 Iowa left on the schedule, Adrian Martinez and company will have one final shot to beat a ranked opponent this season and bring a glimmer of hope to the Husker fanbase.
Iowa 33, Illinois 23
Minnesota 35, Indiana 14
Penn State 28, Rutgers 0
Purdue 32, Northwestern 14