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Plenty Of Drama — On The Field And Off — In Big Ten’s Last Season Before Westward Expansion – News18

Consider this Big Ten season the end of an era in many ways.

Starting next year, if Michigan and Ohio State enter their November matchup unbeaten, both teams would presumably be in good shape to reach a 12-team playoff regardless of the result. That’s not the case now, with only four teams qualifying.

We can also bid adieu to the Big Ten West, a division full of … parity? Mediocrity? Whatever word you choose, it’s been an unpredictable group over the years, although this season No. 20 Iowa has wrapped up the West’s spot in the conference title game with room to spare.

In 2024, the Big Ten welcomes Southern California, UCLA, Oregon and Washington to the fold — two teams that are still in this season’s playoff race and another that’s a traditional power.

It’s fair to say the current version of the Big Ten is going out with a bang. There’s been just enough excellence on the field — and more than enough drama off it — to put the league in the spotlight.

Not only are No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan national title contenders, but the interest in that matchup this weekend has been stoked by the Wolverines’ sign-stealing scandal that led to coach Jim Harbaugh’s late-season suspension.

Even Iowa’s march to the Big Ten championship game — while averaging 14.8 points per game in league play — has been entertaining in its own way. The Hawkeyes’ matchup against Nebraska on Friday had an over/under total of just 26 1/2 points per FanDuel Sportsbook as of Tuesday afternoon.

Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is the top Heisman Trophy candidate among non-quarterbacks. He leads the league in yards receiving (1,093) and touchdown catches (13).

Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean is now out for the season, but when he was healthy he looked like the Hawkeyes’ best scoring threat at times. In addition to his work on the defensive side of the ball, he was also an excellent punt returner.

Michigan (11-0, 8-0, No. 3 CFP), Ohio State (11-0, 8-0, No. 2 CFP), No. 11 Penn State (9-2, 6-2, No. 12 CFP), Iowa (9-2, 6-2, No. 16 CFP), Maryland (6-5, 3-5), Rutgers (6-5, 3-5), Northwestern (6-5, 4-4) and Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4) have already reached the six-win mark for bowl eligibility. Nebraska (5-6, 3-5), Minnesota (5-6, 3-5) and Illinois (5-6, 3-5) can join them.

The coaching carousel has already started, with Michigan State firing Mel Tucker following sexual harassment allegations and Northwestern ousting Pat Fitzgerald before the season due to a hazing and abuse scandal. Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is out after this season.

David Braun did well enough replacing Fitzgerald that the school removed the interim label from his job title.

Indiana’s Tom Allen is in last place in the Big Ten East — not a good spot for a coach in his seventh full season at the helm.

Even the coaches at the top have potential problems. Harbaugh’s future at Michigan is cloudy amid various NCAA-related matters, and James Franklin’s inability to beat Michigan or Ohio State lately has him facing some tough questions at Penn State. If OSU’s Ryan Day loses to the Wolverines for a third straight year — with Harbaugh suspended — expect plenty of grumbling among Buckeyes fans.

Minnesota running back Darius Taylor rushed for 529 yards in three games in September, but injury problems derailed his season and he’s played only once since. Purdue defensive back Dillon Thieneman has won Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors four times.

Nothing’s changed much here. Ohio State leads the way in the Big Ten according to 247 Sports, which ranks the Buckeyes’ class at No. 2 nationally. Penn State is No. 13 and Michigan is No. 15.

Ohio State appears set to land five-star receivers Jeremiah Smith and Mylan Graham.

Among the new additions to the Big Ten, Oregon’s class is ranked No. 6 and USC’s is No. 18.


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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)

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