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Big Ten West teams missed many opportunities

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In his usual upbeat fashion, Minnesota coach PJ Fleck tried to come to terms with how his team’s Big Ten title chances were lost.

“When you look back, you always end up circling a play or two, but none of us wanted it to happen the way it happened, but it happened.” “You have to be grateful for it,” he said.

Minnesota has been eliminated from contention for the conference championship game. The races that represent the Big Ten West are down to Iowa and Purdue, with a slim chance in Illinois. The Hawkeyes, who rank last in the league in both passing and rushing, could secure a spot in the title game with a win over Nebraska this week. If so, his three teams of Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois (who never reached the championship game in Indianapolis) would be a missed opportunity.

For Fleck’s Golden Gophers, these disappointments add up. They went 11-2 in 2019 to finish first in the division, but Wisconsin went to the championship game, where Minnesota then finished last year one game behind Iowa.

“Everyone had a chance in the West. It’s not just us,” Fleck said. “Every team had a chance at some point to beat the West outright and get away with it, which is what makes the West so competitive. ”

Fleck is right about that parity, especially this season, but only four of the West’s seven teams have made it to the title game since it began in 2011. The league was split into a Leaders and Legends division. .

In this respect, the West is no different than the East, which is considered top-heavy. Four teams from Ohio, Michigan, Michigan and Pennsylvania advanced to Indianapolis from the East.

Conditions looked promising for some new blood from the West this year.Nebraska’s program was in a rut and Wisconsin had enough problems that coach Paul Christ was fired in early October. The Iowa offense is still the subject of ridicule, but if the Hawkeyes win Friday, they’ll be playing for the championship against the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game.Same as last year. like.

“It’s our culture,” said quarterback Spencer Petras, after Iowa beat Minnesota 13-10 for a fourth straight win. “It starts with our head coach, his leadership. I can’t say enough about the leader on defense. It was easy to turn on, right? But they didn’t.”

After losing 54-10 to Ohio State, the Hawkeyes defeated Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to reach this point.

If Iowa loses to Nebraska, Purdue could beat rival Indiana on Saturday to reach the title game. is trying not to pay too much attention.

“I know it’s Friday. We have big things in front of us in a big rivalry game, so we need to focus on that.”

Illinois needs both Iowa and Purdue to lose. In that case, Illini can beat Northwestern and reach Indianapolis. Illinois actually beat both Iowa and Minnesota, but the Illinois need help on a three-game losing streak.

This season was a big step forward for Illinois State and coach Brett Bierema, but the road to the Big Ten title will be tougher after Southern California and UCLA join the league.

For Minnesota, the road will be even more difficult than that. His Gophers schedule next year includes crossover games against both eastern Michigan and Ohio. So maybe this season was the division title chance they needed to capitalize on.

“Not disappointing, but disappointing. That’s how I sum it up,” Fleck said after the loss to Iowa. “You know, I was told a long time ago that if you get too close you’ll get caught and you’ll be fired.”


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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