Tuesday afternoon QB...
Back from a needed respite in the warmth of Florida, ready for a Big Ten championship weekend. There are now seven teams eligible to extend their seasons with one more in the mix - Illinois. There are three teams tied at the top with one solely in control of its destiny - Penn State.
Just as the conference race has come to a crescendo, so is the Get Gamm race. Dan has made a nice move of late to tie me at the top. St. Louie and Buckeye Nation are right behind. Who knows, had Andrew not missed a week, he might be right there too. Speaking of the latter pair, you both get to pick with me this week, so send those my way by Friday.
Player of the Week... I was out of Big Ten country but well aware of what went on around the Big Ten this weekend. Shonn Greene had another monster weekend and locked up, in my book, the second first team spot at running back with Javon Ringer. In my estimation, both should be finalists for the Doak Walker. Greene is also my hands down POTW for his 211 yards, 2 scores and now 11-straight games over the century mark.
Around the Big Ten... Penn State and Ohio State got big wins to set up the final weekend. Wisconsin got a critical comeback, rivalry game win and should have no trouble finding its way to a bowl game unless it gets beat at home by Cal Poly. Iowa made strides towards grabbing the fourth best bowl slot in the Big Ten with a win over Purdue. Northwestern withstood the weather and Michigan and could get to nine wins. Minnesota is reeling but gets another crack at a rival. Illinois must win at Northwestern and hope enough slots open up to get an invite. No small task.
Penn State - It seems that Daryll Clark might be having some issues with his head (not due to the hit at OSU). How will that play into what is a HUGE game in Happy Valley this weekend? It is Senior Day. Penn State can win the Big Ten title and still stay (although not realistically) in the national title hunt. We'll see if the team is fully recovered from that gut-wrenching loss to Iowa or not. PSU is playing for the Rose Bowl, an at-large BCS berth, or worst case, the Capital One Bowl.
Michigan State - How will the week off affect the Spartans? Will the down time, and limited practice during the first week allow some rust to build and slow the momentum, or was it exactly what the team needed to refill the tank and finish this improbable run at a Big Ten title? State certainly needed the time to heal the wounds, the key will be to avoid any timing issues early at State College - a place where MSU has been close but hasn't won since 1965. MSU is playing for the Rose Bowl, an at-large BCS berth (long shot), the Capital One or Outback Bowl.
Ohio State - The Buckeyes are on a mission. Since the loss to Penn State, OSU has been firing on all cylinders and has a wounded, horrible Michigan team coming to town. OSU will look to avoid the same fate it faced in first meetings against Fritz, Bennie, Bump, Bo, Mo and Lloyd - that is a loss to Michigan. Chances are slim to none this year, but hey, strange things happen in these rivalry games, especially because this is U-M's bowl game. OSU is playing for the Rose Bowl, an at-large BCS berth or the Capital One Bowl.
Northwestern - Pat Fitzgerald has worked wonders with the Wildcats this year. After locking up a rare win at Michigan, the 'cats get to come home for a chance to officially send Illinois home without a bowl game. Despite injuries and setbacks against the better teams it has faced, NU is on track for nine wins - something that doesn't happen that often in Evanston. This weekend, it is all about a rivalry win and bowl positioning. NU is playing for the Outback Bowl, Alamo Bowl, or Champs Bowl.
Iowa - The Hawkeyes may look back at this season and wonder "what if". As in what if they'd closed the deal in those four games lost by a total of 12 points? The Hawkeyes travel to Minnesota to battle for the big pig - Floyd of Rosedale - and are fighting for optimum bowl position. A win could shoot the black and gold as high as the Outback Bowl, though more likely somewhere before New Year's. Iowa is playing for the Outback Bowl, Alamo Bowl or Champs Bowl.
Minnesota - The Golden Gophers are officially slumping. Three straight losses have marred an otherwise brilliant year. The last one was particularly painful but there is one more shot at re-taking a rivalry prize. The Gophers are playing for bowl positioning though seem pretty locked into one of the lower bowl spots at this point. Minnesota is playing for the Alamo Bowl, Champs Bowl, Insight Bowl or Motor City Bowl.
Illinois - The Illini are just a step ahead of Wisconsin based on conference record to date, but are stuck in a dog fight for their bowl lives. This team has talent but has struggled to retain last year's momentum and now must go on the road, beat a rivalry having a solid season and then HOPE it gets an invite to a bowl. Fortunately for the Illini, there appear to be spots available outside of the Big Ten rotation, because even with a win, I'm not sure there will be enough reason for the Motor City Bowl to take the Illini over say, Wisconsin. Illinois is playing for the Motor City Bowl or an at-large fill in berth.
Wisconsin - The Badgers won a game that they may have had little business winning last weekend. Their bowl lives on the line, UW came back from a large second half deficit to beat rival Minnesota and re-secure Paul Bunyan's axe. That win may have been the shot in the arm this team needed to finish the season strong. Take care of Cal Poly and a bowl outside of the Midwest looks feasible. The Badgers are playing for the Champs Bowl, Insight Bowl or Motor City Bowl.
Michigan - Welcome to the Big Ten Rich Rod. You just put up the worst season in the 129 year history of the winningest college football program of all time. That said, you have one shot at erasing all of the bad from this season. Beat Ohio State, in C-bus and the U-M faithful may throw a parade for you! Heck, the folks in East Lansing probably would, so long as the Spartans beat Penn State... How often is that the case?!
Indiana & Purdue - May as well lump these disappointments together. They are playing the official Tidy Toilet Bowl in West Lafayette this weekend. Is it basketball season yet (oh, sorry IU!)? What is there to say about this game?