Only ten B1G teams in action this week, paired off neatly across five games. Which means another truncated CARNAGE REPORT.
- The obvious is out of the way first: not only did Indiana lose on the road to Iowa, they lost starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld to a shoulder separation. While the exact timetable for his return has not been established, I'll be projecting the Hoosiers as if he will not be returning, as shoulder separations always seem to require AT LEAST six weeks of recovery.
- Illinois looked more football-like against Wisconsin, but that didn't change the result. Unless you take away all those points Wisconsin scored, then it would have been a much different result.
- Northwestern's loss to Minnesota is a damaging blow to their newly revived bowl hopes, but not a death knell. The Wildcats looked a lot less like the team that beat Wisconsin and a lot more like the team that lost to Northern Illinois. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 5-1 and in control of their own destiny in the B1G West. And they get Purdue AND Illinois as their next two games.
- Speaking of Purdue, they looked fairly plucky in a loss at home to Michigan State, who kept their CFP hopes from flatlining in West Lafayette. Purdue has looked good for two straight weeks, and the Bucket game could get a lot more interesting with the upstart Boilermakers and the Hoosiers without Sudfeld.
- Michigan ended the skid by defeating Penn State in the Big House. Penn State recovered an onside kick with a little over a minute left and down by 5 points but a player who was onside by roughly 2 yards was deemed offsides. It's about time the Wolverines got a dubious call in their favor to seal a win in the Big House.
B1G in the CFP?
Michigan State: The Spartans have to avoid any losses the rest of the way to have a chance at the CFP, especially with FSU likely not dropping any games on a baby blanket soft schedule and the SEC likely taking two spots one way or the other. It'll probably come down to who blinks first between MSU and Baylor, and come to think of it, that game would be amazing.
B1G Bowl Tears
Tier 1 (New Year's Worthy): Michigan State
Tier 2: Ohio State, Nebraska, Minnesota
Tier 3: Wisconsin, Iowa
Tier 4: Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers
Won't Have to Lose a Bowl Game: Northwestern, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois
One win over a cratering Penn State team isn't enough for me to project three more wins for the Wolverines, but them and the Wildcats are close. Northwestern needed that win at Minnesota a lot more than the Gophers did, and I don't know if they can scrape together three more given that the only "gimme" left on the schedule is a home game against Illinois. A road date to Purdue and a home game against Michigan are certainly winnable, but I'm having a tough time figuring out how good this Wildcats squad is. Plenty are projecting Northwestern into the postseason and I can't disagree with their reasoning, but I still see them falling just short at 5-7.
Penn State's arrow is pointed about as furiously down as Indiana's. They've looked non-competitive in two straight weeks and I would drop them out completely if not for a soft remaining schedule that just got softer with Nate Sudfeld's injury. As a Hoosier fan, and this is tough to do, but I only have them down as winning one more game this year, to retain the Bucket against Purdue. I can only go off what they looked like with Chris Covington for the majority of the game on Saturday and I can't see Tevin Coleman dragging this team to six wins. So those with Indiana left on the schedule are likely getting a boost. (Hey Rutgers, welcome to the party.)
I'm sure the Hoosiers won't be as bad as they looked with Covington coming in as an emergency option than when they have a week to prepare as him (or someone else) as the starter. It's tough for any team, especially in college, to adjust the gameplan once the quarterback goes down with an injury. It's certainly nothing to fire an athletic director over. So, again, it's not the lost at Iowa that cost the Hoosiers (necessarily), but the projection of them without Sudfeld. If Suds comes back sooner than anticipated or the QB position otherwise recovers, we'll reassess.
Welcome to Tier 2, Gophers. No earthly idea how you're here, but you've earned it.
MICHIGAN STATE: At-Large Bid to the Cotton Bowl against Baylor
OHIO STATE: Citrus Bowl against Alabama
NEBRASKA: Outback Bowl against Texas A&M
MINNESOTA: Holiday Bowl against Arizona
IOWA: Music City Bowl against Tennessee
WISCONSIN: San Francisco Bowl against Arizona State