It is very clearly a two-horse race to the finish in the Big Ten race. Yes, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois are all technically alive, but I'm here to tell you, Ohio State won't lose more than one time the rest of the way. The key is where that loss takes place - if at all - and how Michigan fares as it hits its most brutal stretch of the season (at MSU, at Wisconsin, vs. OSU). Sorry rest of the conference, but like I said last week, this two or three year run is a little throwback to the 1970s - i.e. it's all about the scarlet and gray & maize and blue.
So what about the rest of the conference? Well, only one of the four that were vying to get a sixth win and bowl eligibility did so - Illinois. The other three wait another week and meanwhile, Iowa stayed alive. Can you imagine? The Big Ten could have as many as ten bowl eligible teams. TEN! My prediction is that it will happen. But unless a few bowls are lacking a team due to eligibility issues within their conference ties, two of the ten could be staying home...
Outside of the Big Ten - if you didn't see this ending, it is MUST-SEE!
Time for the weekly team by team, this time with Bowl Predictions:
- Ohio State - statement win in Happy Valley on Saturday night. That place was a mad house on TV - can't imagine what it was like to be there. The Buckeyes have Wisconsin this weekend, followed by Illinois and Michigan. Suddenly this team looks better to me than last year's. Prediction - 12-0 (8-0), BCS Title Game
- Michigan - the Big House was deathly silent as Minnesota waltzed to a 10-0 lead, but then the future of Michigan football took over. Mallett, Manningham, Minor and Brown ruled the second half and Michigan cruised to its seventh straight W. It gets immediately and progressively tougher each of the next three weeks. Prediction - 8-4 (6-2), Capital One Bowl.
- Purdue - the Boilers are mighty tough, as long as Michigan and Ohio State aren't the opponent. What it means is that the gold and black are looking at a decent bowl bid with a nice final record. Penn State is a wounded opponent that could have a hang-over, but from there, the schedule gets a little easier. Prediction - 9-3 (5-3), Outback Bowl
- Wisconsin - the Badgers have a chance to get right in the BCS berth mix with back-to-back contests against the leaders - Michigan and Ohio State. But, with PJ Hill dinged up, I just don't see it happening. Prediction - 8-4 (4-4), Champs Sports Bowl
- Illinois - the Illini are in good shape. Two very winnable games remain sandwiched around a chance to send a message to No. 1 OSU. Illinois is young and sometimes fragile, but should get to a nice game this postseason. Prediction - 8-4 (4-4), Insight Bowl
- Penn State - the Nittany Lions have to get right and quick. Purdue and Michigan State remain (as well as Temple) and there is still a lot to be played for. I see one slip up the rest of the way. Prediction - 8-4 (4-4), Alamo Bowl.
- Indiana - the Hoosiers have been stuck on five wins for three weeks now. Ball State is the best remaining chance to get over the hump, thought the NU game could be the true bowl elimination game for both teams. Prediction - 6-6 (2-6), No Bowl.
- Northwestern - The Wildcats have two of the last three at home and probably need to win two to go bowling if for no other reason, because MSU will be more attractive to the Motor City Bowl than either the 'cats or Hoosiers. Prediction - 6-6 (3-5), No Bowl.
- Iowa - The Hawkeyes got new life with the come back win over the Spartans. Three winnable games remain and it might take all three to make a bowl. Prediction - 7-5 (4-4), Armed Forces Bowl
- Michigan State - the Spartans were stung by Iowa in the process likely saw any hopes for a bowl berth outside of Michigan fade away. The Motor City Bowl is not what anyone in green and white wants, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Prediction - 7-5 (3-5), Motor City Bowl.
- Minnesota - well on its way to 1-11, the Gophers did put up a fight for a half at Michigan. Can be a spoiler with games remaining against Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Prediction - 1-11 (0-8).
Players of the Week:
Prediction - look for someone that plays for Michigan to get a nod next week as five of MSU's opponents have garnered POTW honors from the Big Ten after playing against the Spartans.
Offense: OSU QB Todd Boeckman. Hard to argue against the pick by BigTen.org this week. Boeckman was in control and sharp all night long in a big win for the Bucks.
Defense: Purdue secondary. Held CJ Bacher, previously white hot, to 209 yards and a 50-percent completion percentage while picking off three passes.
Special Teams: Iowa Punter Ryan Donahue. An 82-yarder. An average of 51.6 yards per punt. Critical in Iowa's comeback as he fueled the field position game.
Most everyone nailed five of six for the week, but only BruceS thought OSU would have the easy time they did in Happy Valley. The race for the top is tight, with three regular season weeks to play and bowl season too boot.
Iowa at Northwestern
Purdue at Penn State
Ball State at Indiana
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Michigan at Michigan State (Tiebreaker)
Illinois at Minnesota