Monday afternoon QB ...
It is officially a two horse race to the finish for the Big Ten title. Illinois is the only team still within two games of the top, but cannot do better than a tie for second place. Several teams remain in the chase for bowl eligibility with seven already qualified and three on the brink. It was a weekend with some good football and epic plays but in the end, it still looks like this: Big Two, Little Nine.
Michigan held its spell on the Spartans by staging the third late game comeback win in the past four seasons. The common denominator in all three? Chad Henne. He was brilliant down the stretch with two pinpoint TD tosses to steal away a win from the desperate Spartans in the waning moments of the game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin stayed with Ohio State for three quarters before a late onslaught pushed the scarlet and gray to another impressive win. Those same Badgers and the aforementioned Illini are all that stand between the two meeting at 7-0 on November 17.
As for the rest, well ... Indiana finally got to the six-win mark and can breathe a little easier. Iowa got back to .500 with a late comeback and suddenly looks to be a seven win team. Penn State held off the potent Purdue offense long enough to get back to winning ways. Illinois hammered Minnesota - the one team the Spartans don't get that they so wish they did! NU, MSU and Iowa are perched at five wins, in a season where six might not be enough anyway. It all makes for an interesting last couple of weeks of the season...
- Illinois - the Illini ran their record to seven wins and have a huge game at Ohio State this coming weekend. While out of the title hunt, a win would be enormous in terms of a final destination for bowl season.
- Indiana - after several weeks of coming up short, the Hoosiers finally got to the six-win mark. The cream and crimson might need a seventh win, however, to actually garner an invitation. Northwestern and Purdue remain, both winnable, but equally as lose-able.
- Iowa - the win over MSU sparked something in the Hawkeyes. Beaten and battered, the Hawkeyes have an easy road to two more wins and a bowl game. If any team deserves it, it might be Iowa.
- Michigan - the Wolverines found a way against the Spartans - again - and won their sixth straight in the rivalry. Chad Henne has a magic when it comes to playing MSU. Wolverines fans hope that magic somehow appears against OSU for a change.
- Michigan State - that's five losses this season, each by less than a TD. At the half, the Spartans looked left for dead but dominated the first 23 minutes of the second half. Unfortunately, the green and white haven't learned how to seal the deal and now are in a corner when it comes to bowl eligibility.
- Minnesota - the Golden Gophers are just playing out the string. Two rivalry games remain but it seems like the maroon and gold has packed it in. Illinois ran roughshod on the Gophers at home. Tough first year for Coach Brewster.
- Northwestern - with three i's to try and "dot" over the last three weeks of the season (Iowa, Indiana, Illinois), the Wildcats are down to two more chances to get to six wins. With only seven bowls (maybe eight) to go around, six wins might not be enough.
- Ohio State - the Buckeyes continue to answer and need to do so for two more games to get back into the title game. Illinois will be no picnic but I'm telling you, I like this team more than I liked last year's - even with as loaded as that team was...
- Penn State - the Nittany Lions are playing for destination now. Win two more to get to nine and Florida will come calling. Lose to lowly Temple and embattled Michigan State, and it might be Arizona at best. My guess is they will split the difference...
- Purdue - the Boilers have yet to beat anyone this season. There is a bowl in the gold and black's future, but the next two - not unlike PSU - will go a long way in determining the final destination.
- Wisconsin - see Purdue and Penn State. Wisconsin has a grand opportunity this weekend with Michigan coming to town. Win that and the Capital One Bowl is all but a certainty.
Players of the Week:
Offense - Kellen Lewis, QB - Indiana. 406 total yards. 354 passing with 4 TDs. He led IU to its sixth win - a first for the program since 1994.
Defense - James Laurinaitis, LB - Ohio State. 19 tackles, 2 for a loss. 1 sack. A fumble recovery. This guy is an animal.
Special Teams - Aaron Bates, P - Michigan State. He was the unsung hero of the first half against Michigan. Three punts downed inside the 10 - one on the one. A long of 67 yards.
St. Louis Jeff hit the jackpot with a perfect week and stands alone at the top. His three wins is tied with Bruce S with three picking weeks remaining.
Indiana at Northwestern
Minnesota at Iowa
Michigan at Wisconsin (tiebreaker)
Michigan State at Purdue
Penn State vs. Temple (Philly)
Illinois at Ohio State
A reminder that my Big Ten preview for basketball is live. A link can be found in the right nav at all times during the season.