10 Things We Learned from the Big Ten in Week 10
The Big Ten has certainly been underperforming this year, to say the least.
With Ohio State undefeated, yet unable to go bowling after the end of the regular season, the conference will undoubtedly have an average team playing in a BCS Bowl that they are likely to be the underdog in. But a BCS bowl means BCS status, and these teams still have some hope of making it to the top.
But what things did we see from the Big Ten this week?
Nebraska Has a Chance to Clinch Division
Nebraska currently sits at 4-1 in the Legends Division of the conference, thanks to its victory over the Michigan State Spartans. It's the main force to take the division and is atop with the Michigan Wolverines right below it.
Its win against the Wolverines puts it in control of the division and is likely to win should it not falter these last few weeks.
Wisconsin Can Repeat in the Leaders Division
Ohio State and Penn State are, technically, at the top of the Leaders Division.
At least, they would be were they not facing sanctions, with Ohio State facing a one-year ban to Penn State's four.
Because of that, an underperforming Wisconsin team, sitting at 3-2 in the conference, is the top threat in the division. Losing its three games by a combined nine points, this Badgers team's biggest inconsistencies have come on offense, especially at the quarterback position. In this final stretch, the Badgers have the capability to win the division.
Michigan Looks to Be Left out of the Big Ten Picture
The Michigan Wolverines are experiencing a bit of a slump in the Big Ten and are completely out of the rankings, and thanks to their loss against Nebraska, sit second in the division and are unlikely to win the division as a result.
Denard Robinson was exposed as a quarterback, and his effectiveness was limited. He also struggled with nagging injuries. The Wolverines will be bowling, currently sitting at 6-3 overall, but not for the BCS.
The Big Ten Is Way Down
Last season, the Big Ten had three solid teams in Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin contending for BCS bowls. Michigan went on to the Sugar Bowl while Wisconsin got to the Rose Bowl. Michigan State got a quality bid to the Capital One Bowl.
At this point in the season, Nebraska is the highest-ranked Big Ten team at No. 16, while Northwestern is ranked at No. 24. Both of these teams also have the best overall records at 7-2. The Big Ten has been one of the poorest quality conferences of 2012, with Ohio State and Penn State hit by sanctions and banned from postseason play.
Nebraska Still Has a Strong Game
In a down year, the Cornhuskers have taken advantage and have still shown they have a penchant for running the ball, which they did quite well against the Michigan State Spartans, whose defense usually does well against the run.
Nebraska had 313 total rushing yards, with 205 of them coming from quarterback Taylor Martinez on 17 carries and 110 yards on 22 carries from running back Ameer Abdullah. Martinez added two rushing touchdowns while Abdullah added one.
The key to beating this Nebraska team will be to certainly contain its ground game.
Michigan State Has a Pretty Good Ground Game of Its Own
The Spartans have a pretty good thing going on the ground, thanks to their bruising running back Le'Veon Bell. Bell, despite the loss against Nebraska, had 188 yards on 36 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Bell is the catalyst of the Spartans' running game and is one of the Big Ten's best running back with 1,249 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Ohio State Would Unquestionably Be a BCS Favorite...If They Were Eligible
In Urban Meyer's first year as head coach, his Buckeyes have seen a resurgence under his guidance and have an unblemished record at 10-0. They should easily be BCS favorites...but they're not, thanks to sanctions by the NCAA as a result of the Jim Tressel incident a couple of seasons ago.
Quarterback Braxton Miller has had a Heisman-like year and has thrived under Urban Meyer. His dual-threat ability has been an invaluable asset for the Buckeye offense this year. And giving him a year to grow under it will make him even better after their year-long sanction.
Devon Gardner Could Find Himself at QB Next Season
Due to the injury to Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner had to move from his position at wide receiver back to his original position as quarterback. Gardner started off rough at first but ended up with 234 passing yards and threw for two touchdowns and a lone interception.
Depending on the injury to Robinson, Gardner could find himself here for the rest of the year and possibly into next year. It could be a sneak peek as to what Wolverine fans will see next year with the departure of Robinson leaving a void at the quarterback position.
Gardner's solid play has certainly left plenty of intrigue for Wolverine fans.
Indiana Is Actually a Competitor in the Leaders Division
Despite being just 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the conference, Indiana is technically in second place, thanks to the sanctions placed upon Ohio State and Penn State. Thanks to their 24-21 win over Iowa, if they beat Wisconsin, the Hoosiers would be even with the Badgers for the "top" spot in the conference.
But this year, the Hoosiers actually have some talent on offense and a defense that has made stops the past couple of weeks. Indiana has momentum at just the right time, and it could have them playing for a Big Ten championship.
Fewer Big Ten Teams May Be Bowling This Year
So far, the current bowl-eligible teams out of the Big Ten are Nebraska (7-2), Michigan (6-3), Northwestern (7-2) and Wisconsin (6-3). Without Penn State and Ohio State, who would both be bowl-eligible were it not for sanctions, it looks as though the conference could have less teams bowling this year.
The other teams not eligible include Michigan State (5-5), Indiana (4-5), Minnesota (5-4), Iowa (4-5), Purdue (3-6), and Illinois (2-7). Michigan State has dropped off since the beginning of the season and could miss out on a bowl bid.
Indiana has a tough road ahead of them and must win two of their last three. Minnesota has a better chance than most of these teams to get that fifth bid, while teams like Iowa, Purdue and Illinois are effectively non-factors when it comes to their chance of getting a bowl bid.