A little late this week. On the rack with a bulging disc in L5-S1 territory. Not fun! But I figured in between pain killers I should check in seeing how it is definitely crunch time in the Big Ten. Some key losses - and victories - last Saturday helped clear up the title race picture... well, kinda sorta. And it put to rest the 24/7 PSU coverage that was all consuming.
Speaking of which, great scene at Beaver Stadium with the teams coming together at midfield. Keeps it all in perspective. Also the game reminds us, these players are collateral damage. So any talk about canceling the season, as ludicrous and down right stupid as it sounded, can go away too...
Michigan State. What an impressive answer to last season's debacle in Iowa City. Cousins atoned for his shocking failure in 2010 and MSU solidified its position as Legends leader.
Michigan. Okay, I'm buying more and more into that D. Vastly improved over a season ago. And the run game was sound. The coaching staff finally figured out they need the right QB to truly become a two-dimensional team and stopped trying to throw so much.
Nebraska. No one talked much about the task the Cornhuskers faced last week as the first Penn State opponent post program apocalypse! NU fared very well and stayed right in the race, while also making the Leaders Division race a little more fuzzy.
Northwestern. Nice win to keep up the momentum. But beating Rice won't get you much more than that from this blogger!
Purdue. Nicely done. When another devastating defeat seemed imminent, a big right paw bats away the oft taken for granted PAT to send the game to OT where the Boilers once again shocked the Buckeyes and threw a monkey wrench into the race!
Wisconsin. Left for dead after two straight losses, the Badgers control their destiny and sent a message in the romp over rival Minnesota: despite the losses, Wilson and Ball never slowed down and can hardly be contained...
Iowa. Despite some head scratching losses, the Hawkeyes controlled their own destiny. Note the past tense. Iowa was bullied and smacked around in a defeat that nearly resembled the beat down Iowa put on MSU a season ago.
Penn State. Hat's off for the effort of the players, fans, etc. But the lack of offense bit the Nittany Lions once again and may well keep them from Indy.
Ohio State. Squarely in the race, OSU inexplicably sleep walked through the first 59 minutes, scored and then had the simplest of plays blown up, leading to a loss and all but NO chance at a division title.
Minnesota. The Gophers are improving and will be dangerous next year. The fake field goal was sweet. But that was about the only bright spot.
Iowa fans. Booing injured players? Nice show of sportsmanship there. Way to send a message to young kids at the game and watching on TV. Flopping in the 4th quarter of a close game? Maybe. But in the 3rd quarter of a blowout? Please.
Illinois. That offense - or lack thereof - is quite possibly the nail in the Ron Zook career coffin.
Division Races and Bowl Projections
The races took some funky turns last week, notably in the Leaders Division. With two weeks to play, here are my thoughts on how things will shake out...
Penn State and Wisconsin are in the driver's seat. They go head to head in the last week in what should be a defacto title game. Both have tough roadies this weekend, but we should get a doozy in the final week of regular season play.
I put Wisconsin at 80% likely to represent in Indy; Penn State at 20%. OSU and Purdue need way too much help and are playing for bowl position not the division title.
Michigan State is the only team that controls it's own destiny. Nebraska and Michigan play an elimination game this week. Iowa needs a lot of help.
I put Michigan State at 80% likely to make it to Indy; Nebraska at 19% and Michigan at 1%. Michigan needs to win against NU and OSU and see MSU lose twice more. Nebraska just needs to win out and get one MSU loss. Iowa has really no shot.
Looks like we will have a whopping ten teams eligible this year. Shows the depth of the conference if not a clear hierarchy.
Big Ten Title Game: Wisconsin over Michigan State
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin
BCS Bowl: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl: Michigan State
Outback Bowl: Michigan
Insight Bowl: Ohio State
Gator Bowl: Penn State
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Iowa
Ticket City Bowl: Northwestern
Little Caesars Bowl: Purdue
At Large: Illinois
We all went 4-2 with Mayo closest on the tiebreaker...
Minnesota at Northwestern
Indiana at Michigan State
Nebraska at Michigan (Game of the Week)
Wisconsin at Illinois
Iowa at Purdue
Penn State at Ohio State