Sunday, October 17, 2010
What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 7
By Adam Rittenberg
Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football. Study up.
1. The Big Ten title race goes through Iowa City: Iowa's impressive performance at Michigan combined with wins by both Michigan State and Wisconsin increase the likelihood that the 2010 Big Ten championship will be decided at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes host Wisconsin and Michigan State the next two weeks and still have a Nov. 20 home date against Ohio State, which isn't out of the race despite Saturday night's loss in Madison. The wild card is Purdue, which still has trips to both Ohio State and Michigan State. If Iowa can defend its home turf, it likely will be going to Pasadena for the first time in 20 years.
The Big Ten title will likely run through Adam Robinson and Iowa.
2. Bret Bielema can win a big game: Bielema's record looked a little hollow before Saturday night. He had won 43 games with the Badgers, but only one against a ranked opponent from the Big Ten. In leading Wisconsin past Ohio State, Bielema accomplished something not even his predecessor and boss Barry Alvarez can attest to: a win against the nation's No. 1 team. The Buckeyes were the only Big Ten team Bielema had yet to beat (0-3 before Saturday night). Wisconsin took a big step toward elite status again, although things don't get easier this week at Iowa.
3. Michigan State has a playmaking defense: One of the few small numbers attached to Michigan State's defense in 2009 was interceptions. The Spartans had only six all season, tied for the second fewest in the country (Illinois, Florida Atlantic, Tulane and UNLV each had five). They have reversed the trend in impressive fashion this fall, recording 12 interceptions, including three in each of the past two games. Michigan State's secondary had a hand in all four takeaways against Illinois, despite playing without suspended cornerback Chris L. Rucker. "The kids are making plays," Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "There is no magic to it."
4. Change is in the air at Minnesota: The official announcement hasn't arrived yet, but Tim Brewster appears on his way out as Golden Gophers coach after four seasons. The Gophers dropped their sixth consecutive game Saturday, falling behind 21-0 at Purdue, and team officials appear ready to act sooner rather than later. Despite a contract extension this winter, Brewster entered the season on the hot seat and has done little to help his cause. If Brewster is finished, it will be interesting to see how the school handles the search. Will athletic director Joel Maturi, who hired Brewster, get another chance to tab the man to lead the football program?
5. Ohio State's streak of league titles in jeopardy: The Buckeyes now need to win out and get some help to extend their streak of Big Ten titles to six. Ohio State not only lost the No. 1 ranking on Saturday night, but also control of its own destiny in the league title race. Jim Tressel's team must win out and hope Michigan State stumbles at least once to ensure a co-championship. To get back to the Rose Bowl, Ohio State should root for Iowa to keep winning until Nov. 20, when the Buckeyes visit Iowa City. Every Saturday can change the picture in college football, and Ohio State's picture just got a lot cloudier.