That means it’s time for the inaugural edition of the Block ‘M’ Big Ten football recap, brought to you by yours truly, Ben Estes.
The Big Ten is one of the most renowned and respected athletic organizations in all of American sport. Its origins date all the way to 1895, when representatives of seven schools, including Michigan, held a conference — see that? — to try and figure out a way that they could change college football rules in the Midwest to make the game safer and fairer.
The Big Ten is also laughably bad in football this year.
There’s one team — Ohio State — that could feasibly be considered elite, but really we don’t know much about the Buckeyes because they’ve looked their best in beating up on subpar competition within the conference. (And, like Penn State, they’re not even eligible to play in the postseason due to sanctions.)
And there are plenty of teams that make you want to scratch your eyes out with how ugly and uninspired they play from week to week. (Looking at you, Illinois.)
But it’s my job to bring you all things Big Ten in this space from here on out, and I will boldly sacrifice my mental well-being to look at the conference in depth. Fair warning, this blog will likely be more humorous than intriguing — just like Big Ten football itself this season.
This week, though, there wasn’t too much that made you sad to be a Big Ten football fan, other than Michigan State’s meltdown against Nebraska. It was a classic 'Sparty No!' day on Saturday for the team from East Lansing.
Mark Dantonio’s squad had momentum after toppling Leaders Division-favorite Wisconsin in overtime last week and was looking to pull another upset over the Cornhuskers, who sit in the driver’s seat in the Legends Division.
Michigan State looked to be in excellent shape when running back Le’Veon Bell ran for a touchdown in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to put his team up 24-14. Nebraska came back with a score of its own with about seven minutes left to cut the deficit to 24-21, but thanks to a fourth-down stop on the Cornhuskers’ next drive, the Spartans found themselves with the lead and the ball with 3:12 left in the game.
With Bell, perhaps the conference’s best running back, they were poised to run out the clock and score another big win.
But then Michigan State remembered that it is Michigan State. Nebraska marched right down the field and scored the winning touchdown, aided by a 38-yard completion on 4th-and-10 and a pass interference call on safety Darqueze Dennard in the end zone. (Admittedly, it was a questionable penalty.)
If there’s one thing the Spartans can do well, it’s cause controversy with questionable tweets. See earlier this season, when a bevy of players took to Twitter to make fun of Michigan and Denard Robinson’s performance against Alabama.
After the Nebraska loss, Bell tweeted this gem. In another tweet (both of which were later deleted), he called the referees the “toughest team we played all year.”
Thank you, Michigan State, for making this initial blog easy to write.
Elsewhere, Indiana remained in control of its own destiny for the Leaders Division championship with a 24-21 home win over Iowa. Yes, you read that right: Indiana — Indiana! — will get to play for the Big Ten championship if it can beat Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue in its final three games.
It was the Hoosiers’ first home conference win since 2009. Clearly, it’s not just a basketball school anymore in Bloomington. (Okay, still a basketball school.)
Besides Michigan-Minnesota, the other two conference games were blowouts. Ohio State demolished Illinois, 52-22, with Big Ten offensive player of the year favorite Braxton Miller tallying three touchdowns. And Penn State topped Purdue 34-9, as Matt McGloin threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns.
Only two questions arose from those games: How is Illinois, which has more NFL talent than many teams in the league, so astonishingly bad? And how in the world could Kirk Herbstreit ever have thought Purdue was the team to beat in the Leaders Division?
— Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @benestes91