The Rivals, Part XII: The End is Near

It wasn’t as dominating of a win as fans would have liked it to be, but that’s true of pretty much every game Ohio State has played this year. Regardless, the Buckeyes are still undefeated after holding off the pesky Minnesota. Today, OSU visits an Illinois team that while not great, isn’t terrible either. They tend to blow out much worse teams and get blown out by much better teams. There was a stretch where the Illini won close games against Middle Tennessee and Nebraska, then lost close games against Iowa and Wisconsin.

J.T. Barrett will be back in the starting QB spot today after his one-game suspension, and—barring injury or further disciplinary action—that’s unlikely to change for the rest of the year. Even though it took way longer than anyone expected, the Ohio State Quarterback SituationTM appears to finally be resolved. The Illinois defense is surprisingly not awful, so don’t be shocked if the Buckeyes take another quarter or so to get going this week.

Michigan had little trouble dispatching the woeful Rutgers last week, and are likely feeling good heading into their road match up against Indiana. Like Illinois, the Hoosiers saw a promising early season derailed once they got into conference play. In fact, Indiana is 4-0 this year against non-Big Ten teams and 0-5 against Big Ten teams. Those records can be a bit misleading, however. Only one of their non-conference wins was by more than a touchdown, and their losses to conference front-runners Ohio State and Iowa were only by a combined 15 points.

Jake Rudock finally had a showcase game last week throwing for 337 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as adding another touchdown (and a completely unnecessary 2-point conversion) on the ground. That this explosion came against Rutgers, one of the worst passing defenses in the country makes it a little less impressive, but for the first time this season, Rudock has proven that he can contribute significantly to the offense, and that’s going to be important going forward.

The key for both Ohio State and Michigan today is to not get caught looking ahead. The Buckeyes’ next two games are against Michigan State and Michigan, while the Wolverines take on Penn State before this year’s edition of The Game. Those three games are going to decide the Big Ten East. Penn State is out of the running. Ohio State and Michigan State can win the division by winning out. Michigan needs to win out and another Michigan State loss, which means they’ll be cheering hard for Maryland today, so they don’t have to cheer for Ohio State next week.

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