I'll say something that I know Bill Lynch and Mark Dantonio want to say (as well as most of the rest of the coaches who have been hosed by absolutely horrible calls, no-calls or reversals this season): it is time for the Big Ten to publicly reprimand the hack jobs its officials are producing this season. Not a writer, broadcaster, coach or non game official has been able to explain how Indiana's TD got reversed, or how one could overturn a catch, football move, two steps and fumble at a critical juncture in the MSU - Minnesota tilt.
Since my team has been burned by it in particular the last two weeks, I say it is more than past time to suspend, fire or hang the culprits that are ruining the game in effigy.
Now that I have that off my chest... we have a clear separation of the top four, middle four and bottom three these days in the Big Ten. That didn't stop one of the bottom feeders from finally getting it done, or another from coming very close - again - to another upset win but in the end, there is a clear delineation in the league right now.
Team of the Week: Illinois. The Fighting Illini finally got up off the mat and put together an impressive win. It all started with a critical four down stand at the one and catapulted the beleaguered Illini to a much-needed victory.
Player of the Week: Adam Weber, Minnesota QB. No Decker? No problem. Adam Weber threaded the needle all night against what had been an air tight MSU pass defense to the tune of 416 yards and 5 TD passes.
Around the Big Ten
This week, I'll focus the team-by-team capsules on bowl possibilities and projections. Note that the picking order is as follows: Rose, Capital One, Outback, Champs, Alamo, Insight, Little Caesar's. There are also a handful of bowls that will be looking to fill slots, so even if the Big Ten doesn't get two in the BCS, there will be room for anyone 6-6 or better.
Illinois - Saturday was sweet for the Illini. A hustle play and subsequent goal line stand turned the tide and gave Illinois its second straight win over the Wolverines. The Illini are 2-6 and while not officially eliminated from bowl eligibility, it will take a minor miracle for that to happen. Illinois may spring up and take another couple of wins, but no bowling for the Zookers this season. At least the Illini play their last game December 5, so it will feel like a bowl game.
Best case is 6-6. Worst case is 2-10. Prediction is 3-9. Next up: at Minnesota
Indiana - Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts, they got screwed. Indiana was on its way to extending the lead against what felt like a lifeless Iowa team until an inexplicable reversal of a clear touchdown. That gave Iowa life and that was all the Hawkeyes needed. IU is 4-5 (1-4) and needs two more to go bowling. That's a daunting task with Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue left.
Best case is 7-5. Worst case is 4-8. My prediction? 5-7 (2-6) and no bowl. Next Up: Wisconsin
Iowa - Apparently, Iowa does have major magic. It can throw five picks, get booth reversals that make about as much sense as wiping before you poop and pop you with big plays as quick as lightning strikes. Amazing. Iowa is 4th in the BCS standings and has one more major hurdle to a perfect record. That said, Northwestern and Minnesota could sting the Hawkeyes at home if they don't arrive a little earlier. I can't see the magic carrying this team all the way to 12-0, at least not with the level of mistakes made against IU.
Best case is 12-0. Worst case is 9-3. Prediction is 11-1 (7-1), a share of the title and a Rose Bowl berth. Next up: Northwestern
Michigan - Ouch. The spiral continues. Was it smoke and mirrors in September? Maybe so. The Wolverines turtled up in a major way in Champaign and the rest of the slate isn't exactly loaded with Delaware State's. In fact, this weekend's game is probably the best shot to get something done.
Best case is 8-4. Worst case is 5-7. Prediction is 6-6 (2-6) with the Champs, Alamo, Insight and Little Caesar's Bowls in the mix. That 2-6 record and head-to-head loss to another 6-6 team (MSU) means Michigan slides to the Insight Bowl. Next up: Purdue
Michigan State - Another week, another bad call by the officials (replay in this case) another 8-point or less loss for Dantonio and crew. For those keeping score, that's 12 of 15 losses in Dantonio's tenure by 8 points or less. Spotting a seemingly down and out Gopher squad 14 points before running a play hurt - BAD. The schedule eases up a tad the next few weeks, but there isn't an automatic path to six wins.
Best case is 7-5. Worst case is 4-8. Prediction is 6-6 (4-4). Based on the wins over Michigan and Northwestern (fellow 6-6 teams) and MSU being well-traveled, San Antonio and the Alamo Bowl call. Next up: Western Michigan
Minnesota - It seems like teams who lose the big offensive star always step up. Maybe because others get a look. Perhaps it is because the players rally for the downed teammate. In this case, I think it was both. The Golden Gophers came alive in a major way against MSU, and more or less sealed bowl eligibility with a couple of easy home games left.
Best case is 8-4. Worst case is 5-7. Prediction is 7-5 (4-4). The Champs Bowl might think about MSU despite the head-to-head result because MSU has traveled well to Orlando the last two years, but I think newness prevails and Minny invades Disney. Next up: Illinois
Northwestern - The Wildcats hung tight with Penn State for three quarters, but the loss of Kafka put a lid on any upset hopes. Northwestern sits in a precarious position. It still has two road games left, including a rivalry game and closes with Wisconsin at home. One more win is needed, is it there?
Best case is 8-4. Worst case 5-7. Prediction is 6-6 (3-5). Northwestern will get hosed by the Michigan factor a bit, moving down to the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl despite a better conference record than Michigan. No head to head hurts as well as that even easier than Michigan's OOC slate. Next up: at Iowa
Ohio State - Ohio State got it's third shutout of the season and a chance to work more kinks out of the offense. The Buckeyes have a grueling stretch run remaining, but live for these moments. We'll see what Pryor and the offense is made of in the next few weeks.
Best Case is 10-2. Worst case is 7-5. Prediction is 9-3 (6-2) and a trip to the Capital One Bowl. Can you believe it has been since 1996 that the Buckeyes have been in Orlando for New Year's Day? Next Up: at Penn State
Penn State - The Nittany Lions had a battle on their hands for a little more than a half last weekend, but have set themselves up nicely for a run to the finish. Ohio State comes calling, followed by Indiana and then a potential trap in East Lansing. It's simple, win out and the BCS will likely come calling. Slip once or twice and it'll be warm and sunshine for New Year's but not with the payout desired.
Best case is 11-1. Worst case is 8-4. Prediction is 11-1 (7-1), Co-Champs and a likely berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Next up: Ohio State
Purdue - Just when I thought Purdue was over the hump, the Boilers got "Badger-slapped" in Madison. That goose egg performance leaves no margin for error in the quest for bowl eligibility. The next three are winnable games, but the Boilermakers have been way too up and down this year for that to happen.
Best case is 6-6. Worst case is 3-9. Prediction is 3-9. Tough losses at Michigan and to Michigan State followed by a loss of the Old Oaken Bucket to rival IU. Next up: at Michigan
Wisconsin - The Badgers are back. Wisconsin bullied and battered the Boilers on Saturday en route to a 37-0 shutout win. UW has four games left and none of them should create much fear. It all sets up for the Badgers to enjoy some warmth and sun for the holiday's.
Best case is 10-2. Worst case is 6-6. Prediction is 10-2 (6-2). The head to head loss to OSU coupled with the fact that UW travels to Hawaii in December knocks the Badgers back to the Outback Bowl. Next up: at Indiana
Get Gamm Winner:
Seems that going out on the limb for the Illinois-Michigan game paid off. I was the only one to go 5-1 meaning no one "Got Gamm" for the week.
Illinois at Minnesota
Northwestern at Iowa
Purdue at Michigan
Western Michigan at Michigan State
Wisconsin at Indiana
Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker)
Wisconsin at Indiana
Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker)