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What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 13

11/29/2009

Just a few lessons to take away from Week 13.

1. The Big Ten should once again send multiple teams to BCS bowls: Oklahoma State represented the Big Ten's biggest obstacle in the at-large race, and the Cowboys are out of the running after a disastrous performance at Oklahoma. While Nebraska could shock Texas in the Big 12 championship game, I wouldn't bet against Colt McCoy and the Longhorns at Jerry World. It would be hard to see the BCS bowls passing up Iowa or Penn State at this point, which would give the Big Ten multiple BCS teams for the fifth consecutive season. Those demanding a Big Ten championship should take notice of the streak, because the more money that comes the league's way, the less it will be pushed to expand.

2. Juice Williams can still light it up: Williams' senior season has been a major struggle, but the Illinois quarterback had a strong performance against No. 5 Cincinnati. He became the sixth player in Big Ten history to eclipse 10,000 career yards as he threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns and added 67 rush yards and a score. Williams could have done even more damage but missed a few big-play opportunities. The senior spread the ball well to his receivers and displayed plenty of toughness as his ankle didn't look fully healed. If he got any help from Illinois' defense or special teams, Williams might have notched another win against a top 5 team.

3. Illinois has a lot to fix in the offseason: Ron Zook is still expected back for a sixth season as Illinois head coach, but he'll face some major challenges in the offseason. The Cincinnati game exposed many of the problems that have dogged Illinois all season long, from poor special teams play to missed assignments on defense to a lack of discipline in avoiding the yellow flag. Illinois also lost a key commit (C.J. Fiedorowicz) to Iowa this week, so Zook will need to once again work his magic on the recruiting trail, where he has done his best work. This program is certainly at a crossroads again, and Zook needs to get things right by next fall.