Here we are, the end of the regular season in sight and nothing is decided in either division. There are a lot of scenarios, as many as 10 teams could be bowl eligible, and there are seven teams with a mathematical chance at a trip to the Big Ten championship game in a couple of weeks. If that’s not parity, I don’t know what is.
The deciding factor could end up being which team is the healthiest or at least which team dealt with injuries the best. There are a lot of key injuries around the conference, so let’s take a look:
Tommy Armstrong, QB, Nebraska
Tommy Armstrong has done nothing but deal with injuries all season, and deal with them well. Knee? Hamstring? Head? Ankle? Yep, he’s had all of them injured and he’s come through them all with the team still firmly in place for a high ranking, a nice bowl invitation and maybe even a shot at the Big Ten West championship (with some help). Armstrong injured himself late in last week’s game, limping out with a sprained ankle and a strained hamstring. Both are low grade, but there’s definitely some worry that he’ll be diminished and a worry that he’ll reinjure one or both by playing through them. Armstrong is going to have to play smart, but Maryland will want to test his mobility early.
Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State
Weber is proving himself an able replacement for Ezekiel Elliott, but one key will be whether Weber is as durable as the now-Dallas Cowboys star. So far, mostly so good, though Weber’s shoulder injury that held him back last week is a bit of a concern. It’s not a major injury and he should play normally — unless coach Urban Meyer starts looking ahead. The shoulder soreness, likely a bruise rather that any sort of structural issue, will only come into play when Weber lowers his pads and dishes out the kind of physical hits that have made him effective. Meyer might start looking ahead to next week’s key showdown with Michigan and cut back on some carries for Weber, especially if his team gets a lead.
Shannon Brooks, RB, Minnesota
Shannon Brooks came back last week but was ineffective. That would certainly indicate that whatever injury he’s dealing with is still bothering him. He had no push and no burst. Rodney Smith is a good option, though the team is better and more balanced with both backs healthy. Brooks is back at practice this week, which would at least indicate he didn’t have a major setback by playing.
Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois
As highly touted as Jeff George Jr. was in coming to Illinois, he’s showing himself to be not even close to ready. The downside is that Wes Lunt is still dealing with painful back spasms that the medical staff has not been able to relieve. Lunt has practiced on a limited basis but he’ll be a true game-time decision this week. It would be Lunt’s final game at home, a bit more motivation to play, but this isn’t about want. This is about whether Lunt’s back will allow him to be functional.