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Watt helped push the Badgers to victory over No. 1.
The king is dead. Now what?
Say what you will about Jim Tressel’s inability to keep his team in the nation’s No. 1 spot; his teams have regularly contended on a national scale during his tenure in Columbus — something no other coach in the conference can claim.
For the past decade, Ohio State has been the target of the other 10 schools every fall without fail. And it has been the flagship program come January. The Buckeyes earn the Big Ten respect from the other corners of the country, and they bring exposure to a league in desperate need of it.
It appeared for a blink that Tressel’s Buckeyes would be back in another BCS Title game when they jumped into the No. 1 spot following Alabama’s loss to South Carolina. But no sooner did Ohio State get used to its new title than did Wisconsin deliver a blow that Tressel and company will feel for the next nine months — one that all but eliminated the Buckeyes from that national title talk.
So, the question for Big Ten fans is, ‘Now what?’
This week, the league boasted the fact that it was the only conference with four schools to rank among the top 15 in the initial BCS rankings — Michigan State (No. 7), Ohio State (No. 10), Wisconsin (No. 13) and Iowa (No. 15) — but so what? Of the four, only Michigan State can reach the pinnacle of college football, and does anyone really believe the Spartans will remain undefeated through the rest of October and November? Didn’t think so.
It began as a season of promise for the Big Ten, with Heisman talk (Denard Robinson, Terrelle Pryor), regained pride for Michigan, and a heartfelt story in East Lansing. But this week crushed much of that promise. Unfortunately, it appears this season could end like so many in recent years have — with outsiders dubbing the Big Ten a second-rate league with second-rate citizens.
The Week That Was
Michigan gets too little, too late from its offense
The mighty Michigan offense was out-gained on its home turf, 522-383, by an Iowa unit that had success on the ground and in the air on Saturday. At one point in the fourth quarter Iowa held a 35–14 lead. Tate Forcier helped to jumpstart the Wolverines after replacing an injured Denard Robinson. Forcier got Michigan within seven points, 35–28, before Michael Meyer’s 30-yard run put the game away. It was Iowa’s first win in Ann Arbor since 2002.
Conroy’s four field goals lift Spartans
Michigan State’s terrific tandem of Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker combined for just 36 yards on 18 carries against Illinois’ underrated defense. Kicker Dan Conroy helped to bail out Michigan State on its many stalled drives by nailing all four of his attempts in the 26–6 victory. Three of Illinois’ four turnovers led to 13 points for Michigan State.
Burgess rises up for Indiana
Senior running back Trea Burgess hadn’t been used much in his first four years in Bloomington. That changed on Saturday when he was asked to replace Darius Willis and delivered with a 102-yard effort. The offense fed Burgess 21 times (19 carries, two receptions) in a 36–34 victory over Arkansas State. Burgess fumbled twice, but helped to make up for it by averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Indiana 36, Arkansas State 34
Purdue 28, Minnesota 17
Michigan State 26, Illinois 6
Iowa 38, Michigan 28
Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 18
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
For the fourth time in school history, the Badgers knocked off the No. 1 team in the country. Saturday’s win over Ohio State wasn’t really close other than the Buckeyes’ push in the third quarter. The Badgers controlled the contest with their 1-2 rushing attack of John Clay and James White, and gained early momentum with a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Disappointment of the Week: Minnesota
The Gophers are clearly the worst team in the conference, but Purdue was at least a beatable opponent. The Boilermakers led 21–0 at one point in the third quarter and out-gained Minnesota, 393 to 279. It was an ugly performance in an ugly season for Gopher fans.
Offensive Player of the Week: John Clay, RB, Wisconsin
The Buckeyes hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since September 2008 until Clay pounded his way for 104 yards on 21 carries. The senior also scored twice in the opening half. The Buckeyes had no answer for the big back’s physical style, and ultimately their defense wore down.
Defensive Player of the Week: Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State
For the 20th time in his career, Jones recorded a double-digit tackle effort. His 14 tackles on Saturday helped secure Michigan State its seventh win of the season.
Freshman of the Week: Rob Henry, QB, Purdue
The Boilermakers quarterback had his best passing effort of the season (13 of 20 passes for 163 yards) and scored three times on the ground in his team’s win over Minnesota.
The Week Ahead
Upset Alert: Michigan State
It would be a mistake to call Ryan Field an intimidating place for opponents to play, but this weekend it will provide Northwestern with enough of an advantage to be dangerous in their contest with the Spartans. The well-rested Wildcats own the conference’s third most takeaways this year (14) and have one of its best passers in Dan Persa.
Player to Watch: Adam Robinson, RB, Iowa
The Badgers have a solid run defense, but it is a unit that can be run upon, evidenced by Dan Herron’s 4.8 yards per carry and two touchdowns last week. Robinson enters this contest coming off of a week in which he set personal bests for carries (31) and yards from scrimmage (204). If Robinson can help his team control the football, Iowa will put an end to the Badgers’ Rose Bowl dreams.
• Minnesota’s decision to fire Tim Brewster was expected. The program has invested heavily in its facility and image, but has not achieved much change on the field. Firing Brewster now rather than at season’s end allows the athletic department an opportunity to extend its evaluation period as it scouts for a new coach. Gopher star and Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy has already eliminated himself as a possible candidate.
• Whatever company made the goal posts for Camp Randall Stadium should start to think about its next marketing campaign. Approximately a dozen students were hanging from one of the posts following Saturday night’s win over Ohio State, doing all they could to bring the posts down. No such luck. After 15 minutes, local law enforcement got everyone off the post safely.
Penn State 31, Minnesota 13
Illinois 24, Indiana 20
Ohio State 51, Purdue 17
Michigan State 28, Northwestern 24
Iowa 28, Wisconsin 21