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Some BIG Answers and Questions In The Big Ten

With only two weeks remaining in the college football regular season, some BIG questions have been answered, but some still remain. Let’s look at a few of them.

ANSWER: Wisconsin will play in the BIG Championship game. The Badgers officially clinched first place in the West division with their 38-14 stomping of Iowa. Wisconsin has a two-game lead over Northwestern with two games left to play and owns the tie-breaker after defeating the Wildcats in October.

QUESTION: How can Iowa go from rolling up 487 yards of offense and hanging 55 points on Ohio State to eking out 66 (no, I didn’t drop a digit, that’s sixty-six total yards) and scoring no offensive touchdowns against Wisconsin? The Hawkeyes’ two touchdowns were on pick-sixes and they averaged just under one yard on their 26 rushing attempts. Seriously, how does that happen from one week to another? I’m sticking with the influence of the pink visiting locker rooms at Kinnick Stadium until I hear a better reason-Iowa had to travel to Camp Randall Stadium this week which clearly did not work out well for them.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

ANSWER: Ohio State is in control of their own destiny in regards to winning the East Division. If they win at home vs. Illinois (they will) and at Michigan (they probably will) they will face Wisconsin in the BIG Championship game.

QUESTION: How does Ohio State go from their biggest loss ever to Iowa to their biggest win over Michigan State (48-3) in a week? I don’t know these things, and I bet you don’t either. We’ll just have to live with that and enjoy the unpredictable weirdness of college football.

ANSWER: Michigan State was not exposed as a fraud in their humbling loss to Ohio State. I expected the Buckeyes to bounce back from the Iowa loss with a vengeance, and they certainly did, although the score was much more lopsided than I expected. The Spartans have lost three games this year, all on the road, to Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Ohio State. Those are three good football teams, and with games remaining against Maryland and Rutgers, the Spartans will still have an outstanding bounceback from last year, turning a 3-9 record around to 9-3 with a decent bowl bid coming.

QUESTION: Can anyone other than Ohio State win the BIG East? Yes, but it is quite unlikely. Assume the Buckeyes win at home against Illinois-no disrespect to the Illini, but seriously? That means a loss at Michigan in the regular season finale would leave them with a conference record of 7-2. According to analysis I saw on the Maize N Brew website, the Buckeyes would win all but one conceivable tiebreaker scenario-a head to head tie with Michigan. This would require the following in addition to a Wolverine win against Ohio State; Michigan must win at Wisconsin, Penn State must lose to either Nebraska (at home) or at Maryland, and Michigan State must lose to Maryland or Rutgers.

ANSWER: The above ain’t gonna happen.

QUESTION: Why does Northwestern wait until October to get things in gear? I’m sure Coach Pat Fitzgerald will be pondering that this offseason, but this year part of the Wildcats’ 2-3 start was scheduling, taking them to Wisconsin and hosting Penn State early. After those losses (and an inexcusable loss at Duke), Northwestern has run off a five-game winning streak which could stretch to seven with games remaining against Minnesota and Illinois. A 9-3 record was probably the upside of pre-season predictions for the Wildcats and should be considered a very successful year.

ANSWER: Nebraska must make a coaching change. This is not exactly breaking news, but was emphatically brought home after the Cornhuskers suffered a 54-21 drubbing at Minnesota. For diehard Nebraska fans, this had to be the final insult, especially giving up 409 yards rushing to the Golden Gophers a week after they managed only 164 total yards against Michigan. New Athletic Director Bill Moos faces a decision that will likely define his tenure at Nebraska.

QUESTION: Did the chaos in the national Top Ten help the BIG’s chances for a playoff berth? Yes, but there is still much to be done. Ohio State may still have a slim, slim chance but the most likely scenario would have an undefeated BIG Champion Wisconsin getting in. The Badgers were 8th in the playoff rankings last week, and will certainly move ahead of TCU after their loss at Oklahoma. Notre Dame may also fall behind Wisconsin after their 41-8 thrashing at Miami. That could put Wisconsin at 6th, with Clemson and Miami likely headed for a showdown in the ACC Championship game that could knock one of them down further. Georgia, Alabama, and Oklahoma all have games left that they could realistically lose, and if Auburn wins out that could screw everything up.

ANSWER: A one-loss Wisconsin team does not make the playoff. A two-loss Ohio State team does not make the playoff, even winning the BIG, unless there is total carnage amongst the top six teams. Saturday’s results were a start, but much more is needed for Ohio State to sneak in.

QUESTION: How good, or bad, is Maryland? I wish we knew. Any team down to a QB that started the season as 5th-string is in deep trouble and nearly impossible to evaluate. If I had one wish for the Terps next year, it would be for health at the quarterback position so we can find out how much progress they have really made.

BIG PREVIEW:

This week’s big game is Michigan at Wisconsin. Although the Badgers have clinched the West, they have no margin for error to keep their playoff hopes alive. Michigan has been pounding teams with the running game in recent weeks, but aired it out early on against Maryland as QB Brandon Peters showed he is getting settled in at the helm of their offense.

Wisconsin has been getting off to slow starts, then wearing teams down and pounding them in the second half. They are also still susceptible to mistakes, as Iowa showed with the two pick-sixes, but their defense is underrated. Northwestern is the only team to score more than 17 points against the Badgers in their 33-24 win over the Wildcats. Then again, Northwestern and Florida Atlantic are the only teams with a winning record Wisconsin has faced this season.

Michigan has not defeated a team with a winning record, losing to Michigan State and Penn State. I see them continuing that trend in an ugly, defensive oriented game, with Wisconsin moving to 11-0 after a 19-13 victory.

BIG NOTES:

Wisconsin shocked previously undefeated Indiana to win the BIG men’s soccer championship. Maryland, after such a strong start to the season, fell apart and lost their last five games, including a first-round exit in the BIG tournament. They are still hopeful for an NCAA tournament bid.

QB Trace McSorley set a new Penn State career record for total touchdown responsibility against Rutgers. He now has 68, breaking Darryl Clark’s previous record of 65.

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @The_BIGBlog and reach me by e-mail at [email protected] I also hang out on the message boards, mostly in the University of Maryland & NCAA sections You can also go there to find the Deified Dozen football national rankings by the experts (?) here at BSL.

Next week I’ll update the BIG playoff chances and bowl outlook, and preview the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry and see what is still at stake. Until then, live large and have a BIG week everyone.

 

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Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is a life-long Maryland Terrapins and college sports fan and a proud U of Md. alum. Jim started writing about the Terps on his own blog during the Steve Francis season of 1998-99. He then moved on to cover ACC hoops and football across the Internet, adopting the moniker "The Courtmaster" and becoming a frequent "expert" guest on Bob Haynie's old WNST show and other sports radio stations across the country. You can find some of his classic (?) work on his old blog. Jim laid down his gavel in 2007 and is returning to sportswriting after a sabbatical he spent furthering his career as a non-profit executive and senior accounting professional, becoming an ordained minister, and gnashing his teeth/sulking about Maryland joining the Big Ten. He figured the best way to scratch his sportswriting itch was to dive in head first to learn about the Big Ten, the current teams, schools, and history, and share what he learns with our readers. Jim enjoys interacting with readers, exchanging ideas, and most of all having fun. You can chat with him on the message boards or by e-mail at [email protected]

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