It’s hard to believe we’ve only got three weeks left in the regular season and four until the B1G title game in Indy, but the bowl stratas are starting to take shape here in the conference. Let’s take a look at where everyone stands.
Tier 4: Staying home in December
14 (tie). Michigan State
14 (tie). Rutger
You may be thinking, wait Ben, shouldn’t these teams be tied for 13th? Wrong! This was intentional. And guess what? They play each other this weekend! I won’t be able to watch so I really hope someone live-tweets this epic matchup between two teams who are both 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the B1G.
The Boilers have now strung three really good first halves together in their last three games. The problem is, they can’t seem to find a rhythm once the second half begins.
This week it was the Illini’s turn to ride the “hand Sparty a loss” carousel, as Illinois moved to 3-6 on the season with a 31-27 victory.
Tier 3: Just get to a bowl game
I have no reason, unlike he did with Rutger, to believe that Jim Harbaugh would hold a grudge against Maryland and his former assistant, DJ Durkin. Doesn’t matter - the Wolverines still pulverized the Terps on Saturday by the count of 59-3. At 5-4, all Maryland needs to do to make a bowl is beat Rutger over Thanksgiving weekend, but the next two games with Ohio State and Nebraska could be rough.
A year removed from a Rose Bowl berth, the Hawkeyes are now limping towards the finish this season. Iowa didn’t stand a chance against Penn State on Saturday, and now they host a Michigan team firing on all cylinders this weekend. With Illinois still left on the schedule, the Hawkeyes should reach a bowl, but a 6-6 season in a year when Kirk Ferentz got another mega-extension has to be a disappointment.
The Hoosiers went to New Jersey and finally slayed the Rutger dragon. But of course, they dropped seven spots overall in the S&P despite putting up big numbers on both sides of the ball, probably thanks to how bad the Scarlet Knights have been this year. Just like last season, a win against Purdue now clinches a bowl berth for the Hoosiers, which would be the first year with consecutive bowl berths for Indiana since 1990 and 1991.
Tier 2: Capital One or Outback bound?
The Gophers may be 7-2, but that schedule is nothing to get excited about. With the meat of its B1G schedule remaining, including the $5 Bits of Broken Chair game against Nebraska, Minnesota finally has the chance to prove itself over the course of these next three weeks.
The Wildcats are 4-5, but they end with three winnable games against Purdue, Minny, and Illinois. Not to jump too much on Swick’s territory, but I’m sensing we could see a rematch of last year’s “body clock” game in a potential Foster Farms Bowl matchup for the Wildcats against Stanford.
I’m going to give the Huskers a pass on their 62-3 loss at the Horseshoe this weekend. After seeing Tommy Armstrong get knocked unconscious and lay motionless on the ground for several minutes, it would have been hard for me to get motivated to go back and play again as well. Luckily, Armstrong is okay, and rejoined his teammates on the sideline in the second half, but it was still a scary moment for a player who’s been having a pretty good season.
Tier 1: CFP and New Years Six dreams
4. Penn State
Dominated Iowa under the lights in Happy Valley for their most complete victory of the season. Joe Moorhead has been one of the best coordinator hires in the conference this year, and if the Nittany Lions don’t get tripped up on the road in Bloomington this weekend, they should finish the season 10-2 as they close out with Rutger and MSU.
Won a very on-brand game against Northwestern, 21-7. If the Badgers can take care of business in their final three games, they’ll be heading back to Indy, where they’ll likely have a chance to extract some revenge on their losses earlier this year to either Ohio State or Michigan.
2. Ohio State
You think Urban Meyer saw the Michigan score Saturday evening, and felt he just had to one-up Harbaugh? Anyway, those OSU offensive concerns that I had last week are long gone, and the Buckeyes still control their own B1G and CFP destiny. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the CFP Committee ranked them 4th this week.
The takeaway from this blowout? Wilton Speight is pretty dang good. The Michigan QB hasn’t gotten too much hype yet this season, but his solid play is pacing the Wolverines, and he had almost 300 yards of passing in the first half alone against the Terps. Michigan travels to Iowa then hosts Indiana before their big matchup with THE Ohio State in Columbus.
Three (or four) non-B1G teams I liked
Louisville - On Saturday, I got to see the Cards play at Boston College. With no stake or rootin interest in BC, I was really there just to see Lamar Jackson, who should be the Heisman winner this season. And boy did he deliver, throwing for four touchdowns and running for three more. All in all, Louisville won 52-7, and I got to see the Heisman winner play for only $20. Not a bad way to spend an unseasonably warm November afternoon here in Beantown.
Arkansas - For the past couple seasons, Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks teams have peaked in the last full month of the season, leading to college football Twitter coining the term “NovemBERT” to describe Arkansas’s late-season resurgences. Last weekend was no exception, as the Hogs beat Florida, 31-10. Their hardest remaining game is against LSU, but Bielema has dominated them the past two years, as both of those games were played in NovemBERT as well.
Washington/Washington State - Another week where both schools in the Evergreen State dominated their Pac-12 opponents. Washington destroyed Cal in a #pac12afterdark special, 66-27, while Wazzu took care of Arizona, 69-7. Both schools are undefeated in conference play, and are on a collision course for what should be a highly entertaining Apple Cup to end the season.
Three non-B1G teams I didn’t like
Texas A&M - Last Tuesday, the CFP selection committee ranked A&M 4th in their inaugural rankings of the season. As a result, the Aggies promptly laid an egg against a Mississippi State team that is having a down season, while Washington, OSU, and Louisville - all ranked right behind the Aggies - dominated their opponents.
Baylor - With all the issues pertaining to the sexual assault cover-up surrounding Baylor’s football program, as well as some of their fans’ reluctance to let go of the Art Briles, it was cathartic to watch rival TCU come into Waco and deliver a demolition over the Bears, 62-22.
Notre Dame - When it rains in South Bend, it pours. Notre Dame is 3-6 thanks to a 28-27 loss to Navy, who used the final seven and a half minutes of the game to run out the clock after Notre Dame kicked a field goal to get within one of the Midshipmen. To reach a bowl, the Irish now have to beat Army, Virginia Tech, and USC. Because, you see, they’re 3-6 this season. Notre Dame is 3-6.