Big Ten

Spartans off to Big Ten title game after crushing Penn State


Spartans off to Big Ten title game after crushing Penn State

Three games after its season looked over following an upset loss to Nebraska, Michigan State is headed to the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Spartans captured the Big Ten East Division crown Saturday with a 55-16 beatdown of Penn State, rendering Ohio State's win over Michigan earlier in the day meaningless when it came to determining the division. Michigan State will face undefeated Iowa next weekend in Indianapolis to determine the conference champ in what will likely be a de facto play-in game for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Connor Cook returned after missing last weekend's win over Ohio State with an injury, and he got things started early. After Michigan State defensive back Arjen Colquhoun intercepted Christian Hackenberg in the end zone, Cook led an 80-yard scoring drive, hitting R.J. Shelton for a 29-yard touchdown pass.

Later in the first quarter, the Nittany Lions had a lengthy drive of their own, reaching the one-yard line, but they had to settle for a field goal when the Spartans defense showed some of the same strong play that allowed just 132 total yards in the win over Ohio State.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern beats Illini for 10th win of season]

In the second quarter, Cook took advantage of a short field, leading another touchdown drive on which Gerald Holmes starred. The running back took a Cook pass 24 yards then ran four straight times for 23 yards, the final a six-yard scoring tote.

Then the defense showed up again, Riley Bullough forcing a fumble that was picked up and returned 77 yards for a touchdown by Demetrious Cox.

Hackenberg threw a touchdown pass to Chris Godwin to make it a 20-10 game at the half.

Michigan State wideout Aaron Burbridge started the second half in jaw-dropping fashion, making a terrific catch before breaking a tackle, spinning around a pair of defenders and leaping past another to dive into the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown to put the Spartans ahead, 27-10.

On the next Spartans drive, LJ Scott and Cook did the damage, going 69 yards in 12 plays. Cook had a 16-yard completion to Josiah Price for a third-down conversion that gave Michigan State goal to go. Two plays after that, Cook did a double play fake, hitting a wide-open Price for a six-yard touchdown to make it a 34-10 game.

[MORE BIG TEN: Ezekiel Elliott, J.T. Barrett run wild as Buckeyes blow out Michigan]

Penn State answered with a huge 77-yard pass play fro Hackenberg to Saeed Blacknall to get the Lions in a goal-to-go situation. After a ton of failed tries and penalties — Penn State ran nine plays with goal to go — Hackenberg found Godwin for a touchdown on fourth and goal, Michigan State’s lead trimmed to 34-16 after a failed two-point-conversion try.

Penn State tried an onside kick from there, which didn’t work, and Cook and the Spartans made quick work of the short field, going on a 44-yard drive that ended in an Scott touchdown run to make it 41-16.

Things got real crazy as the blowout reached epic proportions. Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell came down with a tipped pass and returned the Hackenberg interception for a touchdown. That was followed moments later when, after a Penn State fumble, Michigan State center Jakc Allen was handed the ball at the nine-yard line and ran in for a touchdown, stiff-arming a defender on the way.

The Spartans didn't have a very large advantage in total yardage, out-gaining the Lions just 436-418. But it was the four Penn State turnovers that made the deficit so large. Either directly or indirectly, each one led to a Michigan State touchdown.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Spartans gear right here]

Cook finished completing 19 of his 26 passing attempts for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Holmes and Scott combined for 105 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Hackenberg finished completing 22 of his 39 passing attempts for 257 yards and two touchdowns, plus two interceptions. Saquon Barkley rushed for 103 yards.

The Spartans — who moved to 11-1 with the win — scored a mighty impressive victory and a whole mess of style points, something that should impact their view in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Currently the No. 5 team in the country, Michigan State will face current No. 4 Iowa next weekend in the Big Ten title game. A win there over an undefeated top-five team could give Michigan State the best resume in the country. Whether that would translate to a No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, who knows?

Penn State finished the season at 7-5 and a 4-4 conference record. The Lions will await their bowl destination.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?