10 Things We Learned from the Big Ten in Week 9
It's amazing how much you can learn from a single week of football, but each week, we figure more and more out. We begin to separate the "pretenders" from the "contenders" and the Heisman race becomes more and more clear.
The Big Ten is no alien to these week to week revelations, and we learned quite a bit from week 9.
This being said, we probably could've learned a few more things, considering how unclear the Big Ten championship picture is, but nonetheless, let's pore over the results of another college football Saturday in the Big Ten.
Nebraska Is the Legends Division Front-Runner
In a conference with an extremely blurry championship future, the Cornhuskers have emerged as the favorites in Legends division following a convincing victory over Michigan.
Nebraska looked great throughout the entire game and handled a fellow division opponent with ease. Michigan is most likely going to be one of the teams near the top of the division with the Huskers, and the fact that Nebraska was able to take care of business against the Wolverines so emphatically has to make them the favorites in their division.
Now as long Nebraska can handle its business against MSU this Saturday, the Huskers should easily cruise into the Big Ten championship Game.
Michigan State Isn't Rolling over
Heading into the 2012 season, Michigan State was supposed to be the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Now approaching Week 10, the Spartans are anything but that and have had a rough couple of games in the past few weeks. They dropped a terrible game to Iowa two weeks ago and fell to their rivals, Michigan, for the first time in quite a few years the next week.
These two losses brought the Spartans to 4-4, and many people expected MSU to roll over die against a decent Wisconsin team. This was not the case as Mark Dantonio's squad pulled out a huge win over Wisconsin yesterday and proved to the conference that it was still a force to reckoned with.
Michigan Is Just Not That Good
Remember when Michigan had one vote to be No. 1 in the preseason poll? Yeah, I'm sure whoever made that vote would love to take it back because it's pretty obvious that Michigan just isn't that good.
The Wolverines got completely blown out by Alabama to begin the season and haven't looked good since. With the exception of their win over MSU, anytime they have faced substantial competition they have lost, and it's not a coincidence.
The Wolverines benefited from a ridiculously soft schedule last season, and they're finally being revealed for who they really are: a mediocre team with an exciting QB.
Northwestern Can Finish a Game
If Northwestern had been able to hold on to its leads against Nebraska and Penn State, it would still be undefeated. But, alas, the Wildcats blew both leads and entered this weekend with a solid 6-2 record anyway.
Once again, Fitzgerald's squad zoomed out to a 28-3 lead and everything was going great. Then all of the sudden, following a few poor possessions on offense, the Hawkeyes had brought the game to a close 28-17 score and history looked sure to repeat itself.
Fortunately for Mike Wilbon and Northwestern fans all over the world, the Wildcats exorcised their past demons and held on to notch another nice, in-conference win.
Braxton Miller Is Still in the Heisman Race
Following a rough game against Purdue in which he exited with an injury, Braxton Miller lost a great deal of Heisman hype. The sophomore QB needed a big game against Penn State on national television in order to insert himself back into serious Heisman discussions. Well, he did just that.
Miller finished the game with 143 passing yards and one TD through the air, along with 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. He consistently made big plays throughout the game and proved that he still belonged in the Heisman race as a serious contender.
Now of course, Miller is certainly not at the top of the Heisman watch, but with his solid performance yesterday, his stock is definitely rising.
Bill O'Brien Is a Serious Contender for Coach of the Year
Despite falling to the Buckeyes yesterday, Bill O'Brien's case for coach of the year just got a lot stronger. Happy Valley was electric and the atmosphere was fantastic, something I never expected to see at Penn State so soon.
O'Brien has managed to field a competitive team against all odds and keep fans interested. This type of a home crowd showing proves that Penn State is striving towards the future and should do wonders for recruiting.
The fact that this rookie head coach has managed to salvage the Penn State program for the time being is reason enough to award him the coach of the year.
Illinois Is a Lot Worse Than We Thought
This is saying something too, because I thought they were pretty bad to begin with.
The Fighting Illini haven't played a single Big Ten team close this year and their two wins come from games against Western Michigan and Charleston Southern. This past week, they were completely blown out by a mediocre Indiana team that shouldn't really blow out any teams in the Big Ten.
Many people including me, expected Illinois to be relatively solid under Tim Beckman, but they have been dismal. They can't compete with the worst of the conference, and a bowl game is now out of the question.
Wisconsin Has Some Unresolved Issues
With the return of Montee Ball, many expected Wisconsin to take the Leaders division by storm, but every so often, the Badgers lay a complete egg.
It all started at the beginning of the season when the Badgers dropped a big game to Oregon State simply because they couldn't move the ball. Following that, the Badgers reeled off a few wins in a row before understandably dropping a tough game at Nebraska.
Since then, it seemed as if the Badgers had finally hit their stride, but of course yesterday they had to fall to the Spartans in a tight 16-13 loss.
It's obvious that Wisconsin doesn't have everything figured out on offense, and if they don't improve, they have no shot against the Buckeyes in two weeks.
Ohio State Is the Best Team in the Big Ten
It seems like the Buckeyes are the only sure thing left in the Big Ten. Every other team in the conference has its fair share of blemishes on its record, but the Buckeyes remain a perfect 9-0. They have handled every test on their schedule, and a big win on the road over Penn State just adds to OSU's resume.
Urban Meyer knows his way around a big game, and it seems like the Buckeyes always bring it at the right times. Ohio State still has Wisconsin and arch rival Michigan left on its schedule, but as of right now, there's no team close to it in the Big Ten.
We Still Have No Idea Who's Going to Win This Conference
The only problem with my previous slide is that Ohio State is ineligible for postseason play. Had the Buckeyes dodged a bowl ban following "tattoo-gate," it would be a no-brainer to pick them to win the championship game this year, but of course life is never that easy.
I guess you could say Nebraska is the favorite "eligible" team as of now, but it seems like these teams are just going to continue to beat each other up. With the exception of OSU, no Big Ten team has less than two losses and everyone is clumped into the middle of the standings so for now, we really have no idea who's going to win this conference outright.
I guess only time will tell, but as one of your sources for college football news and opinion, I wish I had some sort of answer for you, but the best I can do for now is "Nebraska... I guess?"