Livin' in the Future

I have always loved this point in the season.  When October ends, you don’t need to guess to figure out which teams are really good (like PennState) or really bad (toot toot…Boil Up!).  The truth is though, that most everybody else falls in a gray area in between.  These teams won’t win a national championship.  They likely won’t win a conference championship.  But in the final four weeks, they will put the stamp on the season.  They will determine their bowl game.  They will plant the seeds for next year.  Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin are all in this group.  Here are the best, worst and most likely scenarios for each.

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It's the Trophy time of  year.

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Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-1, 3-1)

How Did This Happen?

Good things happen when you beat bad teams.  Minnesota has done that.  They have played one good team.  They lost that game badly (although the final score got closer).

Where Do They Go From Here?

Not too far from their air-inflated gopher hole.  Northwestern and Michigan visit the next two weeks.  Minnesota then crosses the border into Wisconsin.  Iowa puts an end to the Gopher indoor-era on 11/22.

What’s the best that could happen?

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"Happy New Year!  You are looking LIVE at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California where the 11-1 USC Trojans are about the face off against the upstart 11-1 Minnesota Golden Gophers." 

I’m not kidding.  Minnesota could represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.  Follow along with me: Can they beat Northwestern?  Yes.  Can they beat Michigan?  Yes.  Can they win at CampRandall?  Haven’t done it since 1994, but it could happen.  Can they beat Iowa?  Yes.  There you go.  11-1 Minnesota.

They’ll need help to get to the Rose Bowl, but there are two possible scenarios:

1)      If PennState gets invited to the National Championship game, the Rose Bowl will look to pick a Big Ten replacement first.  If OhioState loses again (maybe in a certain rivalry game where records don’t matter?), Minnesota would be that team.

2)      If PennState loses to Iowa or Indiana, the Big Ten tiebreakers would send Minnesota to the Rose Bowl.  The fourth tiebreaker is longest drought without earning the Big Ten’s BCS/Rose Bowl bid.  And you Gophers thought that your futility wouldn’t come in handy…

What’s the worst that could happen?

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"Welcome to the 2008 MotorCity Bowl!  11-1 BallState from the Mid-American Conference is set to challenge 7-5 Minnesota from the Big Ten."

Look at those last four games and be honest.  You can see how Minnesota loses each of them, can’t you?   Northwestern breaks some tackles and turns five yard patterns into 47 yard touchdowns.  Michigan scares the youngsters with the winged helmets.  Wisconsin runs it’s home winning streak over Minnesota to 7 by running over Minnesota.  Iowa repeats the Wisconsin blueprint. 

What’s really going to happen?

9-3 sounds right for Minnesota this year.  I don’t think that they can win at CampRandall.  I don’t think that they can sweep the three home games.  That said, 9-3 and a visit to either the Outback or Alamo Bowl is a lot better than anyone predicted before the season.

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Iowa
Hawkeyes 
(5-3, 2-2)

How Did This Happen?

It took five games to settle on a starting QB, and another two before he started becoming a small asset instead of a medium-sized liability.  Shonn Greene has pulverized everyone.  The defense is as good as hoped. 

Where Do They Go From Here?

A fairly tough closing stretch.  The Hawkeyes travel to Cham-bana this weekend, return home for PennState and Purdue, and then close the season in the Cities.

What’s the best that could happen?

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"Happy New Year!   Here at the Capital One Bowl, it’s 9-3 Iowa facing off against 10-2 Georgia." 

Can they win these four games?  Friday last week, I would have said no.  Now, I can at least see the way it could happen.  Iowa beats Illinois when Zook does something stupid.  Again.  The Clark concussion/benching becomes a distraction for Penn State, and Iowa wins on turnovers and field goals.  Purdue gets rolled.  Momentum carries them past Minnesota.  To top things off, the fans get these out of the dome this time.

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What’s the worst that could happen?

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"Welcome to the 2008 MotorCity Bowl!  11-1 BallState from the Mid-American Conference is set to challenge 6-6 Iowa from the Big Ten." 

Illinois is better than they played last week, and Iowa has always had trouble with mobile QBs.  PennState rolls the Hawks by 27.  They beat Purdue, but Minnesota is actually (gasp!) better than the Hawks.  And then Shonn Greene goes pro early.

What’s really going to happen?

Right now I’m thinking 8-4, with only PennState beating the Hawks.  That will put them in the muddle with the other mid-packers looking for bowl games.  I can see them going as high as the Outback, but 7-5 and the Champs Bowl might be the most realistic. 

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Wisconsin Badgers (4-4, 1-4)

How Did This Happen?

Wisconsin found out why K-State wasn’t sad to see Allan Evridge go.  Dustin Sherer is an improvement, but is still a year away.

Where Do They Go From Here?

They travel to MichiganState and Indiana before closing the season with home games against Minnesota and the California-Polytechnic Dreamcoats. 

What’s the best that could happen?

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"The Alamo Bowl has seen some classics before.  We may well be in for one tonight as the 8-4 Wisconsin Badgers face the 9-3 Oklahoma State Cowboys." 

Yes, MichiganState is good. They are not Buckeye or Nittany Lion good though.  The styles match up well for Wisconsin, and the Badgers can win a low scoring game.  The Badgers then roll the Hoosiers, maintain their home field dominance over Minnesota and waltz through Senior Day.

What’s the worst that could happen?

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"Welcome to the 2008 MotorCity Bowl!  11-1 BallState from the Mid-American Conference is set to challenge 7-5 Louisiana-Lafayette from the Sun Belt.  They were selected when the Big Ten was unable to qualify enough teams to fill this spot." 

Javon Ringer goes all Shonn Greene on the Wisconsin defense.  Indiana plays another feisty game at home and catches Wisconsin sulking.  Minnesota is actually (gasp!) better than the Badgers and wins.  Senior day is much more bitter than sweet as the Badgers close out 5-7 and are listed with Clemson among the biggest disappointments.

What’s really going to happen?

I actually think that Wisconsin is going to run the table and go 8-4.  You don’t think MichiganState is going to have a letdown after beating Michigan?  Have you watched 20 year-olds play football before?  Indiana and Cal-Poly are walkovers.  The Minnesota game will be tough, but I think home field carries the Badgers to 8-4.  Whether it’s the Alamo or Champs Bowl is decided by the other teams around them in the standings.  Wisconsin will be picked ahead of Minnesota and Northwestern if the bowls have their choice. 

So what did we learn from this?  That like in all aspects of life, worst case scenarios inevitably lead you to Detroit.

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