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Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Halloween in the Big Ten

By Brian Bennett

It's Halloween, Big Ten fans, so we have a special treat (not trick) for you today.

The Big Ten blog has designed its very own haunted house of horrors for you to tour. So step right in and face your fears -- if you dare!

(Cue spooky organ music).

Joseph Fauria
UCLA soaring past Nebraska in September was surely a frightening sight for the Big Ten.
There's no easing into this haunted house, as our very first room will make you shudder. Why, yes, it's the Big Ten's nonconference season! Our video screens are showing constant highlights of the league's 14 losses outside of league play. There is Central Michigan beating Iowa at home. UCLA running all over Nebraska. Oregon State holding Wisconsin to one touchdown. Ball State and Navy beating Indiana. Virginia topping Penn State, as you watch a constant loop of Nittany Lions missed field goals. Louisiana Tech blowing out Illinois. And now jumping out at you is ... the Notre Dame leprechaun! He is cackling hysterically about his 3-0 record against Big Ten teams this year. Vomit bags are provided on your right.

Let's move on to our next room, one guaranteed to make you break out in a cold sweat: the offensive passing offenses at Iowa, Michigan State and Michigan! See the Spartans drop passes, the Hawkeyes throw for six yards on third-and-8 and the Wolverines give away one of their league-worst 14 interceptions. We know it's frightening in here, but do not be alarmed: we guarantee you those teams cannot hit you with the footballs they're throwing.

Proceed now into our spooky third room, the one coated in orange and blue. That's right, it's Illinois' season! Just try not to avert your eyes as the Illini's six-game losing streak to FBS teams -- by an average of 27 points per defeat -- unfolds before us. That skeletal figure you see in the corner is first-year coach Tim Beckman, who said he has lost 22 pounds during this trying fall. (The smiling spirit on the ceiling? We call him Zooker the Friendly Ghost).

Let's detour now into our haunted house's graveyard and check out the tombstones. "Here lies the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling alliance. Born December 2011. Died July 2012." "R.I.P., Big Ten BCS at-large streak. Taken too soon at age 7." "In Memoriam: Penn State and Ohio State bowl hopes." "Gone But Not Forgotten: Minnesota's future nonconference strength of schedule." "You Are Missed: Northwestern's fourth-quarter leads over Penn State and Nebraska."

We are getting close to the end now, but not before you check out this next blood-curdling chamber. Who's that nervous looking man sitting on a chair that's dangling over burning coals? Why, it's Purdue coach Danny Hope! The temperatures under his seat are rising to blazing levels after the Boilermakers' 0-4 start in Big Ten play, including last week's blowout loss at Minnesota. Those are Purdue fans in the back, offering the executioner's hood to AD Morgan Burke.

Our final rooms are still under construction but are nonetheless horrifying. The first is a replica of Lucas Oil Stadium, which offers a glimpse of a potential Big Ten championship game featuring a 6-6 Wisconsin or a 5-7 Indiana. Goose bumps! The other is a preview of New Year's Day for the league and some terrifying possible postseason matchups. Those green flashes you see are not from a strobe light. That's the Oregon Ducks, who are averaging 53 points per game and could cause nightmares for the Big Ten champ in Pasadena. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Before we leave, let's lighten things up a little bit so your pulse can slow down. Grab some free drinks and appetizers at our Big Ten costume party in the ballroom. Michigan coach Brady Hoke is getting into the spirit of political season by going as New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Hoke's center, Elliott Mealer, is Paul Bunyan. There's elusive Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller as Neo from "The Matrix." Penn State linebacker/warrior Michael Mauti is Braveheart, while his coach, Bill O'Brien, is Bruce Willis. That's Iowa running back Mark Weisman as Vin Diesel, while Hawkeyes quarterback and big-game hunter James Vandenberg is Elmer Fudd. Nebraska's defenders, coming back strong from some bad performances, are the zombies from "The Walking Dead," and Huskers receiver and Mr. Afro Thunder himself, Kenny Bell, is Roots drummer Questlove. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill shows off his school pride by dressing as Goldy Gopher. Michigan State's leaping Le'Veon Bell is a ballerina. And, of course, Adam Rittenberg is Woody Allen.

We hope you had a scary good time at our haunted house and ... wait, what's that loud buzzing sound? Oh, no, it's Urban Meyer coming at us with a chainsaw! He's already 9-0 at Ohio State, and he's just getting started in carving his way through the Big Ten. Run!

Happy Halloween, everybody.