Minnesota head coach P. J. Fleck, right, and Nebraska head coach Mike Riley greet each other on the field before the Gophers took on Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. (Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

No problems, except for performance

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The Big Ten has been a wild landscape this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some more twists over the final two weeks.

By Courtney Baumann
courtney-baumann@uiowa.edu

Since 1968, the Nebraska football team has missed just two bowl games — one in 2004 and again in 2007. Currently sitting at 4-6, it is likely that the Huskers will make that No. 3.

After a 54-21 beatdown by Minnesota, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley had his weekly press conference on Monday, and said, “We have very few issues, except for the games.”

Riley’s statement is an interesting one, considering most teams’ No. 1 goal is to win games.

Many took to Twitter to joke about Riley’s statement, with such comments as, “The restaurant was great, except for the food,” and “He’s a great salesman, except for the numbers.”

Despite Riley’s struggles with the team’s game performance, new Athletics Director Bill Moos plans on sticking by the coach’s side through the rest of the season.

The rest of the Huskers’ schedule makes it unlikely that they will win out — Nebraska faces No. 13 Penn State on Saturday and will close out the season with a visit from Iowa the day after Thanksgiving. Still, Moos believes it best to keep Riley at the helm until then, at least.

“It’s not like I’ve got a coach to hire this afternoon at 3:30,” Moos said on Monday. “Mike Riley deserves to finish the 2017 season. That’s how I operate.”

Michigan State

Two weeks ago, Michigan State gave Penn State its second-straight loss. Last weekend, the Spartans essentially handed Ohio State the Big Ten East title.

After a 48-3 loss at Ohio Stadium, the Spartans dropped to 7-3 (5-2 Big Ten), and although they have a relatively easy two games to end the season, would lose the tiebreaker against Ohio State, should the Buckeyes drop one of their final games.

Michigan State will take on Maryland at home on Saturday with a visit to Rutgers to close the season.

While the Spartans are guaranteed a bowl game, neither of their upcoming opponents are — both sit at 4-6 and will bring an extra something to the upcoming games to try to earn bowl eligibility before the season is up.

“I do factor it,” head coach Mark Dantonio said about the mindsets of his opponents. “I think we all factor that in exactly where every football team is, including ours right now.

“They have two big games left … We do factor that in, absolutely.”

Indiana

Another team still vying for bowl eligibility, Indiana, is set to take on Rutgers at home this weekend to try to earn its fifth win of the season.

The Hoosiers handed Illinois its eighth-straight loss this season, and although the win was over the worst team in the Big Ten, Indiana head coach Tom Allen was pleased with his players.

However, that does not mean he was particularly impressed with the way they played.

“I didn’t think we played our best game, but we did what we needed to do,” Allen said Monday afternoon. “Got three takeaways in the fourth quarter defensively. Those are the kind of things you’re looking for to be able to finish out a game, so encouraged by that. Just got to continue to work to be at our very, very best on game day and eliminate some of the mistakes and continue to grow.”

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