Well, well, well. As Bama Hawkeye noted in his Bowl predictions story, there was quite an upheaval in the upper tier of the BCS--again--but the Big Ten was pretty much status quo. There were some scares, and were it not for an Indiana drop in the end zone, Iowa would be in the BCS equivalent of Siberia.
That's right, it's time for the Delayed Kneejerk Reaction, the most unanticipated story that we publish here at OTE!!
Iowa 18, Indiana 13. Everyone talks about trap games, and for the most part, I think that's a bunch of crap. Of course, Iowa tends to fall prey to an inferior opponent every year, and as this game began to unfold, I fully expected the Hawkeyes to piss this one down their leg. Maybe that's why they wear gold pants, because they do this so frequently. And yes, you can say Ricki Stanzi pulled out a clutch drive to win it, but the fact that this game was so close in the fourth quarter that he HAD to is more damning than the drive itself was impressive. Oh, and if Demarlo Belcher holds on to that throw, Indiana would not only be playing for the Old Oaken Bucket in two weeks, but also a bowl game. As impressive as Iowa's win against MSU was last week, their clunker against Indiana wiped out all of that goodwill they had built up with me. For Iowa, it all comes down to the Ohio State game--if they don't lose to Northwestern. For Indiana, I can't see a path to six wins, as much as I'd like to.
Minnesota 8, Michigan State 31. I read yesterday that Minnesota had won 6 of the last 8 meeting against Michigan State, so I thought that maybe the Gophers had a chance. In all reality, this game was over at halftime, and MSU is still very much alive for the Rose Bowl, and a possible at-large berth, which is more of a long shot. Mark Dantonio has done a tremdous job at eradicating the John L. Smith era, and wherever Michigan State lands in the post season, they will be a formidable opponent. They have a very balanced offense, a swarming, attacking defense, and a coach that is not afraid to do whatever is necessary to win a football game. As for the Gophers, well, at least they had the foresight to get rid of their horrible coach when it became apparent that he was unfit to hold the job, unlike the professional Minnesota football team. And when that is all you really have to hang your hat on achievement wise, you need not only a new hat, but a new hat rack. Fortunately, that will be addressed in the off-season.
Illinois 65, Michigan 67 (3 OT). Um, where to start. Greg Robinson needs to be fired, how's that? I'm not sure what to make of that game. On one hand, it was Michigan's offense at it's best, but their defense at it's absolute worst, which is a statement. They became bowl eligible, which is good, but if Illinois can put 65 on them in triple overtime, what could a mid-tier SEC, Big XII, or Pac-10 team do to them? Denard Robinson didn't play for a good portion of the game (again), and Tate Forcier played well in relief (again). But that defense...I just can't get past how bad it is. For the Illini, you can call this game an aberration, both on offense and defense. Nathan Scheelhaase is continuing to mature, and I don't see the Illini defense getting 67 hung on it every week. They obviously have things they need to work on, but their defense is better than it showed yesterday, and should cause fits for whoever they meet in the post season.
Wisconsin 34, Purdue 13. Where Iowa struggled on the road against an inferior opponent, Wisconsin methodically dismantled an overmatched Purdue squad, although Purdue put up a good fight in the first half. For Wisconsin, I am beginning to believe that they could put anyone in the tailback spot and run all day long. Yesterday, it was third stringer Montee Bell, who ran for over 120 yards. Scott Tolzien didn't have his best game, but Wisconsin had a good day running the ball and another good game defensively. They might be the most well-balanced team in the Big Ten. Might be. For Purdue, they just don't have the talent or depth to compete for a full game. That said, they don't give up, which is something I don't know I can say about Minnesota, for example, and if they can get healthy for 2011, there is no reason to believe that they won't be a bowl team next season.
Northwestern 21, Penn State 35. First of all, congratulations to Joe Paterno on his 400th coaching victory. That's a hell of an achievement, and the manner that they did it in was quite dramatic. And after Matt McGloin's four touchdown day, is there a quaterback controversy in Happy Valley? This was a great win for Penn State, because I feel that they've found a great rhythm on offense, and their defense bowed up after spotting Northwestern a big early lead. For the Wildcats, this is a game that they could have, and probably should have, won. Dan Persa played very well, but turned the ball over at the absolute worst possible time, and the defense collapsed and could not make a stop when they had to. And that's Northwestern football in a nutshell. They can compete against the top level talent in the Big Ten, but when it comes time to make a statement and step up, they stub their toe. They are still a mid tier bowl team, but with games like that you wonder if they can ever get over the hump.
So there were no surprises on the field in week 10, although Iowa was given quite the scare. The big game next week is Penn State-Ohio State, and then the following week will be a conference title elimination game between the Buckeyes and Iowa--assuming both OSU and Iowa take care of business.
It's coming down to the wire, and I see a photo finish, much like the Breeder's Cup yesterday.