Saturday marked a record setting day in the Big Ten as Indiana and Michigan combined for 100 points and 37 million yards – a rough estimate. The back and forth affair reinforced something about the league though: It has glaring weaknesses. Even Ohio State, who was lucky to beat Iowa, is not a complete team. The Big Ten may be better than the dark ages of a few seasons ago, but it is a long way off from the days that it went toe-to-toe with any conference in the nation.
Not helping the conference on Saturday was Michigan and Purdue’s snooze fest, Northwestern’s gaffe against Minnesota, and Wisconsin and Illinois playing in the rods and cones bowl. If anyone’s corneas is still functional after that game, congratulations. I planned ahead by changing my television display to black and white.
Michigan - It hasn’t been pretty, but Michigan is 6-1 (2-1) and in great shape to win the division. The Wolverines travel to MSU after the bye for a huge showdown. Following State, they host Nebraska. I think the two upcoming games played into the Indiana contest. The Wolverines were looking past the Hoosiers to the next two dates, which will make or break the season. UM then races out to a 28-14 lead and decides its over. For as many flaws as Indiana has, they can still score points in a hurry. It was a perfect storm because once you lose your intensity defensively, it is impossible to regain. Week eight grade: C+
Michigan State - Michigan State’s season also hasn’t been pretty, but the Spartans are also 6-1 (3-0) and in fantastic shape to win the division. They host arch-rival Michigan in two weeks, but first have to deal with a pesky road trip to Illinois. It would be classic Spartan heartbreak if MSU somehow lost to the Fighting Illini. The offensive worries have to be creeping back in after the Spartans’ horrible 14 point showing against Purdue. Of course, when you have a defense that can shut out opponents, 14 points is all you need. Week eight grade: C-
Nebraska - Idle
Ohio State - The Buckeyes ended up winning by 10 points, but it wasn’t pretty. Anyone who thinks this is the fourth best team in the nation is insane. I would take Stanford over Ohio State in a heart beat. Baylor would be a lock for 50 points on the Buckeyes’ defense. Would Ohio State even be able to score that much on a solid team? I doubt it. Miami’s defense would cause problems. Texas A&M would stand a good chance of beating them. I’m not sure OSU is even a top-ten team. Here’s the thing with the Buckeyes, though, you never just play them – you also play the refs. The zebras came up huge for the Bucks against Iowa. After the Roby ejection in the first quarter, OSU was penalized ZERO times – 49 minutes of football without a flag. That is nearly impossible. Late in the third, a phantom holding call on Iowa extended an Ohio State drive that ended with the Carlos Hyde spin-o-rama TD. That was awfully convenient. You know what, even if it hurts the league, I hope Ohio State gets Alabama or Oregon in the title game. I would love to see the BCS go out in a 63-10 beatdown of this team. Week eight grade: D
Wisconsin - At this point, Wisconsin is praying for Michigan and Penn State to knock off Ohio State. Sadly they won’t, since an obscure penalty from the 1920s will be called against Michigan and the NCAA will levy penalties against PSU the day before the game, allowing OSU to escape undefeated. Meanwhile, the Badgers will do Badgers things, like rush for 289 yards and clobber opponents. Week eight grade: A
Illinois - Hear me out for a second, I know dropping Illinois would be the smart thing to do, but looking back at their preseason expectations, a bowl wasn’t one of them. They have three wins and still face Purdue, Indiana and reeling Northwestern. Those games are all manageable. I’m giving them the Michigan State game to show me something…and then I’ll sell. Week eight grade: F
As for the UW/Illinois game…OH THE HUMANITY:
Indiana - Indiana is another team that still has a shot at a bowl thanks to games against Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue (all at home, too!). Obviously their offense makes the Hoosiers dangerous, but can they do anything with their explosiveness? Week eight grade: C+
Penn State - Idle
Iowa - I’ve already harped on the refs, but Iowa deserves some blame too. Poor defensive end play allowed Braxton Miller to run freely, poor safety play led to a 58 yard touchdown pass, and poor coaching also didn’t help. No “spy” on Miller was one thing, but I think Iowa missed a chance to gamble. Down seven points with a little over 11 minutes left, Iowa had a 4th-and-6 from midfield. The game had already shifted Ohio State’s way and the Hawks offense was sputtering in the second half. Why not take a shot there? Iowa hasn’t attempted a fake punt since the Taft administration, so you know the Buckeyes wouldn’t expect it. Even if not from a punt formation, run a classic Greg Davis bubble screen that gains three and a half yards – something to at least either fire up the team or make fans even more mad. Week eight grade: B-
Minnesota - I’ve never been more upset to lose a winless prediction than with the hated Gophers. Even with five wins, I’m not sure they can get to a bowl. Maybe they’ll beat Indiana, but at 6-6, would you take them if you were a bowl? I wouldn’t. Week eight grade: C+
Northwestern - The Wildcats have gone from Big Ten contender to Big Ten chump. At 0-3 in league play and just four wins overall, the Wildcats are in danger of not even making a bowl. They still have to face Michigan, MSU and Nebraska. If they lose those three, they will need to sweep Iowa and Illinois. Both are improved and both are road games. Yikes. Injuries have absolutely robbed this team of their offensive explosiveness, but the 70th-ranked defense would be an issue even without the injuries. Week eight grade: F
Purdue - Hats off to the Boilermakers defense for holding Michigan State to just seven offensive points, but the result was still the same in a 14-0 defeat. Week eight grade: D+
Buy That Kid Dinner (if the NCAA allowed it)
Michigan’s Big Three - Talk about video game numbers: 751 yards and 63 points. Here are the three players most responsible for them:
- Devin Gardner, QB: 21/29, 503 yards, 17.3 avg, 2 td, 0 int, 95.1 qbr AND 15 carries, 81 yards, 5.4 avg, 3 td, long of 18
- Jeremy Gallon, WR, 14 catches, 369 yards, 26.4 avg, 2 td, long of 70
- Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, 32 carries, 151 yards, 4.7 avg, 4 td, long of 27
Denicos Allen (LB, MSU) - 8 tackles, 1 fumble recovery (45 yard return for six). His touchdown was all the offensively-challenged Spartans needed.
Mike Sadler (P, MSU) - 7 punts, 266 yards, 38.0 avg, 1 tb, 3 inside the 10, long of 53.