Thanks to a masterful win in The Game, and a win in Lincoln (followed by some help), it will be Michigan vs. Iowa in the Big Ten title game. Here's a look at the full league picture.
1. Michigan (11-1, 8-1)
Previous: 2. Last week: W 42-27 vs. Ohio State.
How about the Wolverines? Jim Harbaugh finally knocked off Ohio State. It was quite a scene at the Big House, with the snow falling and UM pushing the Buckeyes all over the field. Michigan’s run game was powerful — Hassan Haskins wrote his name in The Game’s lore with five touchdown runs — and its defense played the way it has all year: fast, athletic and disruptive.
2. Iowa (10-2, 7-2)
Previous: 4. LW: W 28-21 at Nebraska.
In the final minute of the third quarter Friday in Lincoln, the Hawkeyes were losing 21-6 to a three-win Nebraska team. A little more than 24 hours later, their ticket to the title game got punched. Fitting form for this Kirk Ferentz team, which has not often looked pretty, but has got the job done. Then Iowa got a lift from Minnesota, which knocked off Wisconsin on Saturday, and now it has a chance at a Big Ten title.
3. Ohio State (10-2, 8-1)
Previous: 1. LW: L 42-27 at Michigan.
The Buckeyes stormed into Ann Arbor on a nine-game winning streak and came off back-to-back 56-plus point outings against ranked teams but got bullied by the Wolverines and were eliminated from Big Ten title contention. It was stunning not because of the particular matchup — UM is really, really good — but because of the domination that’s ruled the series in recent years.
4. Michigan State (10-2, 7-2)
Previous: 5. LW: W 30-27 vs. Penn State.
The Spartans weren’t able to get the job done and win the East, but they hit 10 wins with a victory over Penn State. Next up is a plum bowl assignment and the challenge of reloading a roster that is going to lose a bunch of key contributors including, most likely, Heisman Trophy contending RB Kenneth Walker III.
5. Minnesota (8-4, 6-3)
Previous: 6. LW: W 23-13 vs. Wisconsin.
The Gophers lost out on a chance to win the division but took blood on their way out by knocking off Wisconsin and keeping the archrival Badgers from heading to Indianapolis. It’s a solid season for P.J. Fleck and his program, but the elusive division title will have to wait at least another year.
6. Wisconsin (8-4, 6-3)
Previous: 3. LW: L 23-13 at Minnesota.
The Badgers took a seven-game winning streak to Minneapolis and had their sights set on a trip to the title game but had a poor offensive outing and couldn’t slow down UM enough to make up for it. Paul Chryst’s team was held to 62 rushing yards — freshman Braelon Allen had just 47 on 17 carries — and 233 yards overall.
7. Purdue (8-4, 6-3)
Previous: 7. LW: W 44-7 vs. Indiana.
The Boilermakers shrugged off that blowout loss to OSU to finish the year with dominant wins over Northwestern and in-state rival Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket. And how about Aidan O’Connell? The quarterback put together a terrific season after he took over full time in early October. He averaged 351 passing yards per game over PU’s final eight and has a 16-0 TD-INT ratio over the last five games.
8. Penn State (7-5, 4-5)
Previous: 8. LW: L 30-27 at Michigan State.
The Nittany Lions secured a 10-year extension for James Franklin that pays him $8.5 million per year and guarantees $80 million over the lifetime of the deal, but Penn State also finished the regular season on a disappointing note. The Nittany Lions had just 61 rushing yards in a loss against the Spartans and have to figure out a way to run the ball better in the future.
9. Maryland (6-6, 6-6)
Previous: 11. LW: W 40-16 at Rutgers.
The Terps knocked off Rutgers in a heads-up battle for bowl eligibility. That means several more weeks of practice and an extra game for Mike Locksley’s program, which took a nice step from 3-9 in 2019 and 2-3 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Now, can they finish it off and notch a winning season?
10. Illinois (5-7, 4-5)
Previous: 9. LW: W 47-14 vs. Northwestern.
The Illini smacked Northwestern and, though they came up one game short of bowl eligibility, the victory had to feel good. Illinois will lose a bunch of super seniors, but four Big Ten wins for a team expected to finish at or near the bottom of the West is a nice start for Bret Bielema and a sign that his program will not be an easy out in the future.
11. Rutgers (5-7, 2-7)
Previous: 10. LW: L 40-16 vs. Maryland.
The Scarlet Knights had a chance to punch a bowl ticket, but instead got blown out by Maryland. Greg Schiano’s team hits the offseason with a lot of work to do, but also the program’s best win total since 2014.
12. Nebraska (3-9, 1-8)
Previous: 12. LW: L 28-21 vs. Iowa.
The Huskers led rival Iowa by 15 points late in the third quarter and still found a way to lose. It was the story of NU’s season. The program closed the year on a six-game losing streak, the second such streak of Scott Frost’s four-season tenure. He’ll be back in 2022, but his coaching staff (and potentially the roster) will look substantially different.
13. Northwestern (3-9, 1-8)
Previous: 13. LW: L 47-14 at Illinois.
The Wildcats’ long, disappointing season is over. Pat Fitzgerald has had a couple of rough years in his tenure and has always bounced back well, but the noncompetitive nature of several of NU’s games this fall was eye-opening. There’s a long way to go. Next time the Wildcats are on the field, it will be in Dublin, Ireland, next August against Nebraska.
14. Indiana (2-10, 0-9)
Previous: 14. LW: L 44-7 at Purdue.
One more rough Saturday to close out a brutal year for Tom Allen’s team. Then on Sunday morning, he fired his first-year offensive coordinator and took a pay cut. The program’s rise over the past couple of years had been impressive. Now 2022 will be about answering the sustainability question that always looms in the East Division.