We’ve come to the end of the Big Ten football season. Hard to imagine that we’ve gone 14 weeks already. Alas, some good things happened along the way and Week 14 didn’t disappoint for drama and craziness.
I mean, what else would you expect from one of the wildest seasons we’ve seen in recent college football history. Wisconsin and Minnesota battled to the bitter end for the Axe, newcomers shot it out for bragging rights and there was always “The Game” to talk about as well.
Let’s get right in to the best and worst of Week 14 in Big Ten football..
Biggest Winer: Tim Beckman
Winning on Saturday was important to keeping his job in Champaign, but the ease with which the Illini dismantled Northwestern was impressive. Beckman’s bunch won
The win gave the Illini bowl eligibility, and with it at least one more year of job security for Beckman. It’s hard to fire a guy whose team has improved every year in three years at Illinois. Now, will he do anything about that god awful defense?
Biggest Loser: Ohio State’s National Championship hopes
Yes, everyone counted Ohio State out at the start of the year when Braxton Miller went out and they proved everyone wrong. But, with the news of J.T. Barrett being gone for the season the hope of getting in to the College Football Playoff rests on the shoulders of a third quarterback this season.
Cardale Jones may have some experience, but it’s one thing to play in a relief role and a whole different animal to make your first start in the Big Ten championship game against the Big Ten’s best defense (sorry Penn State and Michigan).
I’m not saying the hopes for Ohio State to make the College Football Playoff are dead, because the team is full of weapons to help Jones out, but there’s no denying the chances with just one week to get Jones completely ready are significantly lower.
Should OSU beat the Badgers in Indy, then they are truly worthy of the College Football Playoff. It will be an interesting week ahead, that’s for sure.
Game of the Week: Rutgers vs. Maryland
Who knew that the two newcomers would play easily the most crazy matchup of the weekend? Not many were likely paying attention given what was on the line between the Badgers and Gophers out West (and that was a hell of a game as well), but those that tuned in for the whole thing saw a crazy thing happen.
Maryland was up 35-10 with two minutes, 52 seconds left in the second quarter and cruising to an easy win to establish themselves as the third-best team in the East division. Then Rutgers went and scored a TD with :09 left on the clock to make it 35-17.
That was the beginning of 21 unanswered points and a Rutgers team that was down by 25 points suddenly was within a single touchdown…just past halfway through the third quarter no less. The Terps added a 50-yard field goal from Brad Craddock and the lead was 38-31.
Rutgers didn’t stop scoring touchdowns though, and they tacked on two more of them to take a 41-38 lead thanks to a Kyle Federico field goal with six minutes, 14 seconds to go. It was all the Scarlet Knights needed down the stretch, as they hung on for a huge victory and had the largest comeback in school history in the process.
Standout Player: Gary Nova, Rutgers QB
In a season that was marred by injury and a few very inconsistent weeks, Nova went out in his final regular season game and pulled his team out of an embarrassing situation. He led his team to the biggest comeback in school history by completing 28 of 42 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he didn’t throw a single interception.
He hit three receivers for six or more catches on the game, with all three going over 100 yards and Leonte Carroo and Andre Patton grabbing a pair of TDs each. What a way to finish one’s career and end a Big Ten season, huh?
Best Video: Jump Around…Gopher style?
Biggest Surprise: Wisconsin finding a passing game
Everyone came in knowing the Wisconsin Badgers needed to run the football to beat the Minnesota Gophers for the 11th time in as many tries. Too bad it was the passing game that was actually key, as the Badgers got the second-most passing yards out of Joel Stave this season (215) and he tied his season best with two passing touchdowns.
Few saw him being able to be anything more than a game manager in this one, instead it was his three hook ups with Alex Erickson in crucial situations that led to Wisconsin’s comeback from a 17-3 deficit. If that part of the game is there against Ohio State it could be real trouble for the Buckeyes.
Quotable coach: Mark Dantonio on Spartans’ chances to make a New Years Six bowl game…
“I don’t think there’s any question we’ll be chosen,” Dantonio said. “With Georgia losing. With UCLA losing. We’re up there in the top 10, for sure. That should get us to one of those bowls. That was our goal. When we had to bounce back, that was our goal.”
Best TD: Andre Patton 10-yard catch for Rutgers
It may not have been spectacular by itself, but considering it was the game-tying TD and Rutgers did what it did…Yep, TD of the Week in our book.