Last weekend, the Big Ten managed to escape a couple of embarrassing close calls, as Ohio State needed a 2-point conversion interception to get past Navy, while Iowa needed to block two field goal attempts in the final seconds to defeat Northern Iowa.
And wouldn’t you know it, some of the Big Ten’s big boys had their hands full against lesser competition again this weekend. Michigan State was expected to take care of in-state MAC foe Central Michigan without much problem. But the Chippewas had other ideas.
Down 27-20 with less than a minute to go, CMU QB Dan LeFevour led his team down the field & connected on a TD pass to Paris Cotton with 35 seconds left. Then Chippewas coach Butch Jones decided to gamble on a 2-point conversion - unfortunately, LeFevour’s pass flew out of bounds. So it looked like the Spartans escaped with a 27-26 victory.
But not so fast. On the ensuing onside kick, the Chippewas got a great bounce and recovered the ball. And LeFevour led his troops downfield again to give CMU kicker Andrew Aguila a shot at a 47-yard game winner, but he pushed it just wide left. So the Spartans finally escaped.
Again, not so fast. Officials had stopped the play when a Spartan had jumped offside. Now give a second chance 5 yards closer, Aguila booted another squeaker - but this time got it on the inside of the goal post. And just for a final insult, CMU’s ensuing kickoff bounced off a Spartan front-line player and right into the hands of a Chippewa. The Chips down MSU, 29-27.
Field goals almost did in another favored Big Ten team this weekend, as Fresno State managed to boot one at the end of regulation to tie Wisconsin. But the Badgers did prevail with a FG winner of their own, but it took 2 OTs to do it. Meanwhile, Northwestern needed a last second kick to get past Eastern Michigan, 27-24 (the Eagles really could have used those 3 points the Big Ten Network gave them), while Indiana managed to hold on against Western Michigan, 23-19. And Penn State wasn’t so super impressive in 28-7 win over Syracuse.
In fact, the only Big Ten team to make an impressive showing so far today has been Iowa - the same Iowa who needed those two FG blocks to escape 1-AA UNI. But the Hawkeyes are soaring again after a 35-3 wipeout of the Iowa State Cyclones.
So it seems the Big Ten still needs to work on its image problems.