Greetings from the land of lost playoff football games, where we got a lot of rain last night that is going to freeze and be covered by six to 12 inches of snow today. When it rains, it pours. A predictable, and yet still disheartening, Vikings’ loss aside, six of the Big Ten’s seven teams were in action this weekend. Here’s how the games played out:
- Minnesota swept Michigan State
- Notre Dame split with Wisconsin
- Michigan swept Penn State
And here are my three thoughts from the weekend:
1. Down goes Notre Dame
Wisconsin handed Notre Dame its first defeat in 87 days on Sunday at the United Center in Chicago and snapped Notre Dame’s winning streak at 16 games. The Badgers won 5-0 and outshot the Irish 46-40, Jack Berry picked up the shutout for Wisconsin.
The win improved Wisconsin’s record in games played in Illinois to 11-0-0 since 1963. That’s a pretty useless stat, but I thought it was interesting. The Badgers are 5-0-0 in Chicago and will host a game at United Center against the Irish next year.
The Badgers also became the first team to deal the Irish a Big Ten loss. Notre Dame started its Big Ten tenure with 13 straight conference wins. The Irish have 39 conference points, Ohio State has 25, Michigan has 34, Penn State has 23, Minnesota and Wisconsin have 20 and Michigan State has 11.
It’ll be interesting to see if anyone can make the race at least relatively close. The way Notre Dame has played it’s hard to see the Irish dropping too many points down the stretch. However, Jeff Jackson said after Sunday’s loss that he’s expecting a lot of fight from every opponent from here on out.
“Wisconsin played like the team that everybody picked to be second in the conference tonight,” he said. “They looked that good. We may see the same thing next week against Minnesota. Everybody’s trying to jockey for position conference-wise for playoffs and the NCAA tournament.”
2. Minnesota rebounds and sweeps Michigan State
It took a wild back-and-forth game on Friday and some late magic at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, but the Gophers were able to sweep the Spartans this weekend and maybe get back on track following Michigan’s sweep at Mariucci last weekend.
Thursday’s game had a little of everything. Michigan State took the early lead before Jack Ramsey tied the game with a bouncing goal from the neutral zone. The two teams combined for five goals in the second period and each scored one in the third to give Minnesota the 5-4 win.
Saturday’s game in New York was closer. The Gophers held a 1-0 lead going into the third period before Cody Milan scored to tie the game. Brent Gates picked up the game-winner for the Gophers with three and a half minutes left in the game.
Minnesota will welcome a motivated Notre Dame squad to Minneapolis for a two-game set next weekend.
3. Michigan keeps rolling
As an impressive encore to their sweep at Minnesota, Michigan shut down and swept Penn State at home this weekend. The Wolverines won 4-0 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday.
Jack Becker gave the Wolverines a 1-0 lead in the first period on Friday and doubled the lead halfway through the third period. Josh Norris and Brendan Warren rounded out the scoring. Norris, Dexter Dancs and Dakota Raabe gave the Wolverines a 3-0 lead on Saturday night. Penn State managed to score twice in the final two minutes of the game but couldn’t manage a tying goal.
Penn State has now dropped three consecutive games after going undefeated for 11 straight. They will travel to Madison to face Wisconsin next weekend. Michigan will play at Ohio State.