As we head into the 2016 college football season, it’s understandable that you might be having a tough time remembering all of the crazy things that happened last year, which ended with Alabama holding off Clemson 45-40 in the College Football Playoff championship. So with a new season upon us, we’ve decided to give you a recap of everything you may have forgotten from last year for all five power conferences in 2015. After recapping the SEC yesterday, and the Pac-12 Tuesday, here are 25 things you may have forgotten from the Big Ten last season.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
A thrilling Big Ten title game win for the Spartans
Michigan State is the defending Big Ten champs. OK, so you probably didn’t forget that, but what you might have forgotten is just how thrilling the road to the title was. There was plenty of regular-season drama for Sparty (more on that coming) but how about that Big Ten title game win? Again you might have forgotten, but just remember this: The Spartans needed a thrilling 22-play, 88-yard drive that lasted almost eight full minutes to clinch the win. It gave Michigan State their second Big Ten title in three seasons.
Followed by a soul-crushing college football playoff loss
Unfortunately for Sparty, as thrilling as that Big Ten title game was, their college football playoff semifinal was equally as depressing. The Spartans got steam-rolled by Alabama in a game that was never really close and ended with the Crimson Tide cruising to a 38-0 victory. And as bad as it was, it could be worse this year in East Lansing. How the heck does Mark Dantonio replace a class that included quarterback Connor Cook, wide receiver Aaron Burbridge and defensive end Shillique Calhoun, all of whom are currently in NFL training camps?
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
A historic draft night for the Buckeyes
Speaking of "replacing players in the NFL," no one will deal with that quite like Ohio State this year. While it didn’t really happen "last season" it’s worth noting that the Buckeyes had a near-historic draft weekend with 12 selections overall, including five of the Top 20 selections.
Getty ImagesJon Durr
Ohio State's unfulfilled expectations
That’s also what makes how Ohio State’s season actually played out even more depressing. Remember, the Buckeyes entered the season as the first ever team to earn a unanimous No. 1 preseason ranking and looked unbeatable in an opening weekend game against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes never could regain that rhythm though, capped off by a stunning loss to Michigan State at home on a last-second field goal. Ezekiel Elliott also made national headlines by questioning his coaching staff after the game.
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Ohio State's dominant finish
Despite the disappointing loss to the Spartans, the Buckeyes closed the season in style. There was a 42-13 bludgeoning of rival Michigan and a dominant Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame (even after Joey Bosa was ejected just a few snaps in). Those wins also forced college football fans to ask themselves one simple question: Regardless of who won the national championship, were the Buckeyes college football’s best team by the end of the season?
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
A successful Year 1 of the 'Harbaugh Era'
There’s no doubt the Buckeyes' biggest rival -- the Michigan Wolverines -- have made plenty of headlines since Jim Harbaugh took over in Ann Arbor 18 months ago, but what people forget is the Wolverines were actually really good in 2015. Michigan ended Harbaugh’s first season on campus with an impressive 10-3 record overall, which included a bowl game beat down of the SEC East champion Florida Gators.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
The ones Michigan let get away
Still, that doesn’t mean things were perfect in Harbaugh’s first go around in Ann Arbor (few things ever are). There was an opening night loss to Utah (in a winnable game) and that blowout to Ohio State. Plus, who can forget the last-second loss to Michigan State in which the Wolverines had the game won … until the final play of the game.
Getty ImagesAndrew Weber
Then, there was this guy
While that Michigan-Michigan State game was devastating for all Wolverines fans, it was especially tough for one fan. No, not the guy in the picture. We're talking about this guy. This list is, after all, supposed to be full of "stuff we forgot." And while you probably forgot that guy since last season, we can guarantee you never will again.
A season to remember for Iowa
Of course for all the talk about the Wolverines, Spartans and Buckeyes, there was only one team that finished the Big Ten regular season undefeated. That was Iowa, which rode a historically easy schedule into a Big Ten West championship. Although they couldn’t close out the year with a victory over Michigan State, they played admirably in the Big Ten title game, holding the lead into the final minute.
Getty ImagesMichael Hickey
Iowa's bowl season, though ...
Then again for all the excitement the Big Ten title game brought, Iowa -- like Michigan State -- was embarrassed in the bowl season by Stanford. You remember that game, right? When the Hawkeyes fell down 21-0 after one quarter, 35-0 at halftime, and Christian McCaffrey scored more points and had more total yards than the entire Hawkeyes team? But yeah, other than that, the loss wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Speaking of Stanford, the single strangest result from all of college football last year might have come when the Cardinal lost to Northwestern on the opening weekend of the season. Stanford bounced back to win the Pac-12, but for Northwestern it also served as a springboard into a monster season. It ended with the Wildcats winning 10 games for the first time in two decades.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY SportsJerry Lai
Bowl bonanza for the Cornhuskers
One of the few Big Ten teams that did have a successful bowl season was Nebraska, which was ironic since at 5-7 overall, they only got to play in the postseason because of a lack of eligible teams. Still, Mike Riley’s club took advantage, beating UCLA 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Bowl win aside, it was a crazy first year for Mike Riley
That bowl win for Nebraska also wrapped up what was truly a wild first season for Mike Riley in Lincoln. It included an opening weekend loss to BYU on a last-second hail mary and a 36-33 overtime loss to Miami, where the Cornhuskers rallied after trailing 33-10 in the fourth quarter, only tie the game, then lose in overtime. On the bright side, who could forget their last-second, controversial win over Michigan State where the game-winning touchdown was scored after the receiver stepped out of bounds. Say this about Nebraska and the Big Ten in general: It didn’t lack for drama in 2015.
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A goodbye to Jerry Kill
Like Nebraska, Minnesota also made a bowl game after finishing the regular season at just 5-7 overall, but sadly their path to get there was much tougher. Former coach Jerry Kill was forced to retire mid-season due to seizures, with former coordinator Tracy Claeys taking over from there. The Gophers did take home a bowl win, though, beating Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl.
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Illinois fired two different head coaches
Staying in the Big Ten West, did anyone have a stranger season than Illinois? Former coach Tim Beckman was fired just days before the season and replaced by Bill Cubit, who went just 4-7 overall with Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt leading the charge at quarterback. Like Beckman before him, Cubit was then fired three months after the season actually ended.
Of course the reason that Cubit was fired was because Illinois’ new AD had Lovie Smith lined up as the school’s next head coach. Yes, that Lovie Smith. The guy who coached in a Super Bowl a decade ago. That’s also why for whatever happened on the field last year, off the field the Illini had the best offseason of anyone in the Big Ten.
Not so happy in Happy Valley
One team that didn’t have a good offseason, or a good regular-season for that matter, was James Franklin and Penn State. Things started off with a loss to Temple (after which Franklin, quite literally, destroyed the game tape) and never really got better from there. The Nittany Lions finished 7-6 for a second straight year, and while Franklin doesn’t quite enter the season on the hot seat, there are plenty of folks in Happy Valley who aren’t all too happy with him.
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Penn State closed the Christian Hackenberg era
Still despite the bad news, there is plenty of good for Penn State. That includes the return of Saquon Barkley, who set a Penn State freshman rushing record with 1,076 yards on the ground. Even better for Franklin might be the departure of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Yes, Hack put up reasonable numbers in his two years under Franklin, but based on his comments on the way out, it sounds like it was best for both parties for him to leave town.
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Don't judge a football team by its record
There’s no hot seat talk in Wisconsin, where the Badgers went 10-3 under first-year head coach Paul Chryst last year, which included a bowl game victory over USC. Still, as they say, "not all 10-win seasons are created equally" (OK, no one says that, but still). That’s because for all excitement about those double-digit wins, what’s easy to forget is the Badgers had a cushy schedule and didn’t have to play Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State last year. Well, not only do they play all three this year, but they do it in the first six weeks of the season. Add in an opener against LSU, and it’s going to be hard to hit that 10-win plateau again.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
But Wisconsin does have its star RB back
There is one saving grace for Wisconsin: Corey Clement will return to their lineup. The Badgers star running back was limited to just four games last year with a sports hernia but the year before was a monster, tallying 949 yards as Melvin Gordon’s back-up. For Wisconsin to have any hope in the Big Ten West, they’ll need a monster year from Clement.
Getty ImagesMike McGinnis
Same old Purdue
There’s no brutal schedule this year for Purdue, just more brutal football where the Boilermakers are coming off a 2-10 record that included a 1-7 finish in the Big Ten. Maybe the most notable news out of West Lafayette last year was no news at all: Despite a 22-40 record overall at the school, Darrell Hazell was retained as the team’s head coach.
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY SportsSandra Dukes
An Ohio State feel in Piscataway
There is a new head coach at Rutgers, where Chris Ash replaced Kyle Flood in Piscataway. Ash -- a former Ohio State defensive coordinator -- has already brought Urban Meyer’s mentality to Piscataway, but sadly he needs more of Urban Meyer’s talent. Rutgers finished just 4-8 overall last year, but they did have a thrilling win against Kansas. Hey, that’s got to count for something, right?
Fear the turtle?
Things were also bad at Maryland last year, which led to the firing of Randy Edsall mid-season. Like Rutgers however, it appears as though the Terrapins made a major upgrade with the arrival of former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. In his short time in College Park, Durkin has put together a monster coaching staff and nabbed one of the top recruits in the country. Now comes the tough part: Competing consistently with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big Ten East.
Getty ImagesG Fiume
Don't doubt the Hoosiers!
One team that held up well against the league’s best teams in 2015 was Indiana -- yes, Indiana! They lost by a mere touchdown to both the Buckeyes and Wolverines and lost by eight to Iowa.
Getty ImagesMichael Hickey
Still, for the Hoosiers it wasn’t about close losses but big wins. After losing six straight games in the middle of the year (including the three mentioned above), they won their final two and clinched the school’s first bowl appearance in eight years. This season, they will try to go to back-to-back bowl games for just the second time in school history.