Big Ten crowns a champ, clinches playoff spot

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Photo Courtesy of Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields runs through the Northwestern defense in the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.

By Carson Gourdie, Assistant Sports Editor

After a delayed start and canceled games, the Big Ten managed to get through the season and crown a champion. 

Death, taxes and Ohio State winning the Big Ten title game. For the fourth season in a row, the Buckeyes were able to hold off an inferior West Division champion. Now, with a title locked up, the Big Ten moves on to bowl season, although the outlook will look different than most years due to cancelations. 

No.2 Ohio State over No.14 Northwestern 22-10

The 18.5-point favorites didn’t need to win 59-0 to lock up a playoff spot. The 5-0 Buckeyes just needed to win. For 2 and ½ quarters, it looked like the ‘Cats were going to spoil it. 

For the second year in a row, the Buckeyes were trailing at halftime during the title game, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy. To Northwestern’s credit, the defense played phenomenal, holding the Buckeyes to field goals in the endzone.

Trailing 10-6, quarterback Justin Fields was playing his worst game yet with the Buckeyes. But the Buckeyes came alive in the 2nd half, with running back Trey Sermon ran for a school-record 331 yards, sparking a Buckeye comeback. 

While Fields’ Heisman hopes are over, the chase for the national championship is not despite only playing six games. Ohio State is bound to play Clemson in the Rose Bowl, although the traditional Pasadena bowl will be relocated to Dallas because of California banning fans from the stands. 

Northwestern, who played Ohio State as tough as anyone, is ready for another bowl appearance. The West champs should expect an invite to a Florida bowl tomorrow. 

Nebraska over Rutgers 28-21

Quarterback Adrian Martinez is electric at times. He’s also very sloppy at times. Luckily for Nebraska, the Rutgers offense couldn’t cash in. 

Despite four turnovers and giving up a special teams touchdown, the Cornhuskers were able to come back and knock off a resurgent Scarlet Knight team. 

Nebraska outgained Rutgers 620-252 yards and had a 2-1 advantage in time of possession. But it appeared Rutgers was in a position to steal another victory, holding a lead deep into the 3rd quarter.

 Nebraska, however, woke up and two touchdowns within six minutes to hold on for a 28-21 victory.  

With the victory, Nebraska moves to 3-5 and ends another disappointing season for Scott Frost’s program. With Martinez probably coming back for another season, Nebraska will look to meet expectations and earn its first winning season since 2016. 

Rutgers falls to 3-6, but after not winning a conference game for two seasons, they outperformed expectations this season. Head coach Greg Schiano will be a candidate for Big Ten Coach of the Year, although Indiana head coach Tom Allen is the front-runner. 

Wisconsin over Minnesota 20-17 (OT)

The Badgers have managed to keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe for another season while ending a three-game losing streak, knocking off a COVID-infected Gopher team. 

It was a defensive battle between the underachieving teams, and it was the most points the Badgers have scored since early November, as they averaged 6.7 points per game during the losing streak. 

Holding a 17-10 lead late in the fourth quarter, Minnesota quarterback connected with Mike Brown-Stephens for a nine-yard touchdown to tie the game up at 17 all. With Graham Mertz knocked out of the game, Wisconsin had to rely on backup quarterback Chase Wolf for the rivalry victory.

In overtime, Minnesota got the ball first and missed a field goal, giving the Badgers the chance to win with a field goal. Wisconsin would run the ball five straight times before attempting the game-winning field goal. Collin Larsh converted the 30-yard attempt, securing a victory for the Badgers. 

The Badgers moved to 3-3 on the year and await a bowl bid. With returning talent next season, the Badgers expect to compete for the conference crown after a late-season slide this season. 

Minnesota, who’s in line for a bowl bid, falls to 3-4, a far cry from its 11-2 season in 2019. Junior Tanner Morgan is slated to return next season, hoping to recreate the magic from last season. 

In other news

Illinois named Bret Bielema its next head coach, replacing Lovie Smith. The former Wisconsin coach was in attendance for the road game, watching his new team fall to Penn State 56-21. 

The Nittany Lions moved to 4-5 on the season after starting 0-5. The Nittany Lions announced they will not accept a bowl bid. 

Iowa and Michigan’s game was canceled this week due to COVID-19 issues within the Wolverines’ program. Iowa expects to accept a bowl bid after finishing the season on a six-game winning steak. The Wolverines now await whether Harbaugh accepts an NFL job. 

Indiana’s hopes for a Fiesta Bowl appearance took a big hit Saturday, as the Oklahoma victory over Iowa State gained another spot for the Big 12. Indiana will now likely play in a Florida bowl.  

 

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