Does this feel like the 1970s or what? I was just a kid in the 70s (born in '73) but a peek back in time reminds me that for a decade, two teams ruled the roost in the Big Ten - Ohio State and Michigan. It feels an awful lot like that again this season (last year too). The teams stand alone, unscathed at the top, two games clear of the nearest competition.
The Big Ten is however, getting ZERO national respect this year. Many feel OSU will be the next giant to fall from the top. Michigan did lose to a 1-AA team and got hammered in week two as well, so that doesn't help. Meanwhile, prior to this past Saturday, perennial doormats Illinois and Indiana were still a big part of the conference race. So, while on one hand I can see where the disrespect comes from, I still think it has as much to do with overall infatuation with the SEC, their gorgeous women and thunderously loud night-time crowds.
Let them look past the Big Ten. What they might miss is the best defense I have seen on TV or in person - maybe ever. Yes, Ohio State's defense is that good and yes, I think it is better than the one the national title team fielded back in 2002. They'll also miss a Michigan team that is finding a way to get things done, despite an array of bumps, bruises and in some cases, much more serious injuries. They'll look past the fact that Illinois, Indiana and Michigan State are simply getting better and not that the league is just mediocre. I say, let 'em do it.
The Big Ten will get a chance to prove its worth (and me right) come bowl season. For starters... there are five teams eligible and four one game away. Might the B10 send nine bowling this year? That very well may happen indeed...
- Illinois - the Illini blew a tremendous chance to prove they are totally back. Self-inflicted destruction kept the orange and blue from a season-making win.
- Indiana - the Hoosiers have come crashing back to earth the past two weeks. IU was much better against PSU than MSU but fumbled (4 times) away its chance to get a marquee win.
- Iowa - yikes! The Hawkeyes are bad on offense. Really bad. Iowa may only have one more "sure" win on the slate - a rivalry date with Minnesota.
- Michigan - just when you thought the Wolverines were dead, the maize and blue extended an impressive streak at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. They haven't lost there since 1983!
- Michigan State - the Spartans fought hard in Columbus but found out first hand how good the OSU defense is. State is improved, but needs to show it in a key trip to Iowa City this weekend.
- Minnesota - I don't wanna say I told you so (against NDSU) but, I told you so. This is not a good football team. The defense is as bad as I've seen in years and the offense is still in growth mode. 1-11 is very, VERY realistic.
- Northwestern - don't look now but the Wildcats have won three in a row. Think they might still be kicking themselves over the loss to Duke as they sit one win away from a bowl?
- Ohio State - best Buckeyes defense I've seen. The difference between this version and 2002 is that the offense seems to be on more solid footing. Is a repeat trip to the title game possible? You bet. Maybe even likely.
- Penn State - a nice road win for the Nits at Indiana. The defense rose up and the offense was sound. Good timing to be firing on all cylinders with OSU coming to Beaver Stadium.
- Purdue - Iowa was just what the doctor ordered for Purdue. Still not convinced that the Boilers are a great team, but they can be very good with a chance to get a few more quality wins down the stretch.
- Wisconsin - see Purdue. NIU was just what a wounded Wisconsin team needed. Particularly with a brutal two game stretch coming up (OSU and U-M sandwiched between Indiana and Minnesota).
Players of the Week:
Offense: Chris "Beanie" Wells, TB - OSU. Wells nailed the Spartans' coffin shut, picking up three first downs late to salt away a win. Oh yeah, he also racked up 221 yards on the ground.
Offense: James Hardy, WR - IU. 14 catches, 2 scores, 142 yards against PSU.
Defense: Maurice Evans, DE - PSU. The guy was a stats machine. 6 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 PBU and 1 fumble recovery.
Special Teams: Kevin Kelly, PK - PSU. 3-3 on field goals in a 5-point PSU win over IU.
Plenty of 6-1 records for the week - 7 to be exact. However, most called for an OSU blowout of MSU. FWIW, I nearly nailed that score and picked the NDSU upset but got burned by two home teams - Illinois and Indiana. The winner in back-to-back fashion was St. Louis Jeff. Jeff picked the Bucknuts by 4 and was closest to the 7-point final margin.
Ball State at Illinois
Purdue at Northwestern
Michigan State at Iowa
Indiana at Wisconsin
Minnesota at Michigan
Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker)