Tuesday afternoon quarterback...
It was another exciting weekend in the Big Ten, with upsets all around and a final definition of top, middle and bottom tiers in the conference. It is now officially a three team race to the finish and there are still two teams fighting, scratching, clawing for bowl berths. It should be a fun final two weeks...
Before I get to the team by team and POTW honors, a congratulatory note to Buckeye Nation for being the only one to foresee the upset and therefore the only one not to go 3-3 on the week. BN, I am hitting FLA for some vaca this weekend, if it's okay with you, why don't you pick with me and this week's winner next week. That way I can cover my predictions in this one blog...
Phats, the win by BN leaves you as the only one so far not to Get Gamm... how's that for incentive?! Hint - don't pick your Boilers to win any more games. :)
Get a recap from the Big Ten and see who they picked for POTW.
Player of the Week Honors: I'm going to go with the Tailback Trifecta of Beanie, Javon and Shonn this week. Each went over the century mark. Each tallied two scores. Each led their teams to critical wins. The Big 12 may be the QB Conference, but the Big Ten is TB Central.
Around the Big Ten (in order of current standings)...
Top Tier Teams:
Michigan State Spartans - 6-1 (9-2): Who would have thunk it? For the first time in 18 years, Michigan State has a shot at the Big Ten title. Talk about the fast track to success. This season's success will only further solidify what Mark Dantonio is doing with the program and should ensure year-in and year-out challenges for the top spot in the league. State gets a much needed week off before heading to State College for what will be the biggest game for the program in years. MSU has to root for Illinois or - gasp - Michigan, to pick off OSU and beat Penn State to smell the roses. Bowl picture: Rose, Capital One or Outback.
Penn State Nittany Lions - 5-1 (9-1): Iowa flat out owns Penn State of late, especially coming off of an extra week to prepare. Saturday marked the first time that Penn State beat itself on offense (credit does go to the Iowa defense of course) with three field goals when TDs would have been the norm early in the season. Indiana should be the perfect rebound game for the Nits and emotions will run high for the finale. Win out and PSU smells the roses. Bowl picture: Rose, Other BCS, Capital One.
Ohio State Buckeyes - 5-1 (8-2): Ohio State put the Penn State loss behind it and took it to Northwestern over the weekend. Pryor had his best game to date, Beanie Wells was dominant and the scarlet and gray defense opportunistic. OSU needs to win out and get some love from the Spartans to smell the roses but is still very alive. The road trip to Illinois is a potential trap with Michigan looming and never sleep on that rivalry game, but something tells me the Bucks waltz to a tie for the Big Ten crown. Bowl picture: Rose, Other BCS, Capital One
Middle Tier Teams:
Northwestern Wildcats - 3-3 (7-3): Northwestern is dinged up and took a big blow to the ego last weekend when the Buckeyes pushed them around like a rag doll. The Wildcats still have an outside shot at New Year's Day but are likely playing for the Alamo Bowl at this point. Michigan and Illinois remain and both are very winnable, but at the same time, could cause problems too. Michigan is back on track - finally - and playing for its seniors. Illinois might be clinging to it's bowl life. Here's hoping NU gets at least one more for posterity. Bowl picture: Outback (long shot), Alamo, Champs, Insight
Minnesota Golden Gophers - 3-3 (7-3): Minnesota is facing adversity for the first time all season and so far, not responding well. The pick-six that took the wind out of their sails against NU was apparent against nemesis Michigan. Two rivalry games remain - at Wisconsin and home against Iowa. The Badgers are looking better and Iowa is currently riding high. 7-5 seems imminent at this point. Bowl picture: Outback (long, long shot), Alamo, Champs, Insight, Motor City
Iowa Hawkeyes - 3-3 (6-4): Iowa is on top of the world right now after getting the biggest program win in years last weekend against then No. 3 Penn State. The trick will be to get past that and hunker down, with two very winnable games remaining. Purdue comes to town wounded and with nothing to play for but the dignity of lame duck coach Joe Tiller. Iowa certainly could play a factor in the New Year's Day chase, though they would likely be hard-pressed to pass an MSU team that beat them earlier in the season. Bowl Picture: Outback, Alamo, Insight
Illinois Fighting Illini - 3-3 (5-5): Illinois continued its season-long ride on the world's most topsy turvy roller coaster with a semi-shocking neutral site loss to Western Michigan. The Broncos are a good team (beat Iowa on the road last season too) but this was a major blow to the psyche of the Illini. With Ohio State and Northwestern looming, the prospects of a bowl berth at all are maybe a bit of a stretch. I'll give them some benefit of the doubt though. Bowl picture: Champs, Insight, Motor City
Wisconsin Badgers - 2-5 (5-5): Wisconsin has found its ground game. A week after blowing a game it had no business losing and rushing for nearly 300 yards in the process, Wisconsin followed up with 440 yards on the ground in a swamping of the Hoosiers. Wisconsin gets a reeling Minnesota squad at home, followed by Cal Poly. That gets them to seven wins and a shot to hit a respectable bowl. Bowl picture: Alamo (long shot), Champs, Insight, Motor City
Lower Tier Teams:
Michigan Wolverines - 2-4 (3-7): Nope, not a typo. Michigan is a bottom feeder this year. Don't get used to it. It may be a few more years before Michigan is back at the top, but this is likely a one-year trip to the basement. The Wolverines finally got a win last weekend after five straight on the losing end. Northwestern won't be easy and Ohio State is a daunting task, but hey, first year Michigan coaches flat out know how to beat the Buckeyes. Spartans everywhere hope it doesn't come down to it, but might have to secretly hope for the maize and blue to pick off OSU in the finale. That game IS Michigan's bowl game...
Indiana Hoosiers - 1-5 (3-7): One hit wonder it is. IU is limping - literally - to the finish line with the only real hope remaining a win over rival Purdue. The trip to State College could get really ugly, particularly if Indy truly has to start its fourth string QB. Can Bill Lynch turn things around next year? Will he get the chance?
Purdue Boilermakers - 1-5 (3-7): Right up there with Michigan as one of the biggest disappointments in all of college football this year. Purdue was pegged to be at least a middle of the pack team and has been on a free fall since blowing a big lead against Oregon. A trip to Iowa makes life even tougher, with all eyes on the Old Oaken Bucket Bowl on 11/22.
This week's schedule:
Penn State 52 - Indiana 10 (Indiana at Penn State)
Michigan 24 - Northwestern 23 (Northwestern at Michigan)
Ohio State 31 - Illinois 24 (Ohio State at Illinois) - Tiebreaker
Iowa 27 - Purdue 14 (Purdue at Iowa)
Wisconsin 33 - Minnesota 13 (Minnesota at Wisconsin)