Another week is in the books and while there are two very familiar faces atop the league standings, everything still appears to be wide open. Iowa and Michigan State snapped lengthy in-conference losing spells, Illinois came back to earth, Northwestern's got the overtime thing down pat, Wisconsin got slapped around by a Penn State team in turmoil off the field and Michigan put together its best game of the season - although it may have suffered a huge loss at the same time (more on that later).
Around the rest of college football, another pair of unbeatens fell (LSU and Cal) leaving Ohio State to slide to the top slot in college football. Yes, the same Ohio State that lost a Heisman trophy QB, eight players to the NFL draft, etc. This may well be the wildest college football season I can remember. We're talking every single preseason Top 10 team with at least one loss so far and South Florida - a program not even in existence a few years ago - sitting in the top 3!
Hang on, there is much jockeying to take place both in the Big Ten and on the national scene. And oh by the way - ENJOY IT! This is like an entire football season that looks like the three weeks of heaven we get each March on the hardwood.
Time for my weekly team-by-team synopsis. This week we work in order of standing:
- Ohio State - wow. On top of college football again. Proof that they don't rebuild, they reload in Columbus. OSU was the beneficiary of two losses ahead of them but are definitely a worthy number one at this point. The defense is eerily similar to the 2002 national title team but the offense is better than that one. Things get tough going forward though with MSU, Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan remaining.
- Michigan - the good news? Michigan is coming off its best game of the season. The bad news? Mike Hart got hurt. How seriously? U-M isn't talking. If he's out for any length of time, Michigan could be in for a bumpy ride with trips to Illinois, MSU and Wisconsin still staring the Wolverines in the face, let alone that season ending battle with OSU.
- Illinois - the loss at Iowa hurt but it doesn't ruin the season. The Illini are still young and were due for a stumble after rising up to beat ranked teams two weeks in a row. Michigan comes to town this weekend in a game that might go a long way to deciding the fate of the title...
- Indiana - another team off to a hot start got pulled back to earth, but with a more resounding thud than the Illini. Indiana was out-everythinged at Michigan State but gets a shot at redemption with Penn State coming into Bloomington this weekend. Get that win and there is a legitimate shot at eight wins this season.
- Penn State - the Nittany Lions wish they could play every game in Beaver Stadium. The myriad off-the-field issues may have been motivating in an annihilation of Wisconsin. Now we need to see if the Nits can get it done on the road. Indiana is an upstart, much like Illinois and is still looking to prove it can beat a big boy.
- Wisconsin - the fall from the 14-game win streak has been hard and fast. The Badgers look suddenly average and have to right the ship to stay in the title mix. There are still ample opportunities available and maybe a week away from conference play will help get things moving back in the right direction.
- Northwestern - call them the cardiac cats. Saturday marked yet another come from behind victory for the Wildcats and was another red letter day for the offense, particularly CJ Bacher. The Wildcats should get a win over Eastern Michigan this weekend, meaning a bowl berth is at their finger tips. If only the defense could stop someone, maybe the 'cats could breathe easy during a game this season!
- Michigan State - the Spartans are playing with a chip on their shoulders right now and at the right time. The schedule gets markedly tougher, starting with a trip to face No. 1 OSU this weekend. State has the players to get it done on both sides of the ball and now that there is some confidence back after the resounding win over Indiana, perhaps we won't see the same 'ol Spartans for a change.
- Purdue - I was flabbergasted when I saw the Purdue score at Michigan this weekend. Purdue won't win a big game in the Big Ten unless the Boilermakers step up and stop someone. The offense is suddenly Sunday church service silent and that doesn't bode well with some decent match-ups still on the slate.
- Iowa - can you believe that the win over Illinois ended an eight game in conference losing streak for the Hawkeyes? The defense rose up after a few less than typical weeks and the team has a renewed vigor for what looks to be a tough stretch run.
- Minnesota - memo to coaches all across the land (yeah, you too Dave Wannstedt) - don't frigging go for two in OT until you have to! I know extra points aren't a total gimme, but 99.9-percent of 'em are good, so why put that pressure on your team? Minnesota has lost some heart-breakers this year, but not because the offense is bad. With time, it'll be even better. But Coach Brewster, go sign 20 defensive players in February because you won't win in this league by simply trying to outscore people - just ask John L. Smith.
Players of the Week:
Offense - Javon Ringer, RB - Michigan State. Ringer ripped off his 4th straight 100-yard plus effort, going for 203 yards and two scores against the Hoosiers.
Defense - Mike Humpal, LB - Iowa. Hard to argue against 18 tackles, 2.5 TFL and a fumble recovery in an upset victory over Illinois.
Special Teams - Austin Starr, K - Indiana. Not much to go with around the Big Ten this week, but Starr kept his streak alive with two more field goals in as many attempts versus MSU.
Lord help us all, B10SportsFan went a perfect 6-0 for the week. Aren't you all excited to be regaled with his commentary? As a back-up, St. Louis Jeff was among those at 5-1 that was closest on the tiebreaker, so Jeff, send me your picks and commentary too. Picks are due by Friday this week since there is a Friday night contest...
Northwestern vs. Eastern Michigan (at Ford Field, Friday)
Michigan at Illinois
Penn State at Indiana
Iowa at Purdue
Michigan State at Ohio State (Tiebreaker)
North Dakota State at Minnesota
Northern Illinois at Wisconsin
Midnight Madness kicked off the college basketball season on Friday. That means previews for the 2007-08 season are coming soon. Stay tuned!