It is this final week of the regular season and by the end of the day we could know the pairing for the championship game here in Indianapolis. If Nebraska knocks off Iowa in today's Heroes Game the Cornhuskers will get a shot at Wisconsin for a chance to go to Pasadena. As for the rest of the week, it is all about bowl positioning.
Nebraska (9-2, 6-1) at Iowa (4-7, 2-5) Noon Friday, ABC
Michigan will be watching this game with great interest, as will Kent State and Northern Illinois. Michigan needs a Nebraska loss in order to reach the Big Ten championship game. Kent State and Northern Illinois could use a Nebraska loss for a small chance at a BCS bowl bid from the MAC. Unfortunately, they have to rely on a pretty awful Iowa team to get there.
It's unfortunate, but Iowa's one good win over Northern Illinois might be preventing the Huskies from getting a BCS bowl bid.
The Hawkeyes are done. In fact, they've been done for weeks and no one has really realized it. They needed a defensive score and two other fumbles just to stay close with Purdue a few weeks ago. Their offense is doing next to nothing and the defense is not going to pitch a shutout when Nebraska is one of the best running teams in the country. Nebraska 45, Iowa 14
Illinois (2-9, 0-7) at Northwestern (8-3, 4-3) Noon, Big Ten Network
With a New Year's Day bowl berth and possible 10-win season on the line I don't see Northwestern dropping a game to a team that celebrated scoring two offensive touchdowns last week. The truth is that the Fighting Illini are an absolute mess of an offensive football team. The Wildcats also have too many weapons even if Venric Mark and Kain Colter are banged up.
This game is for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which Sippin' on Purple has appropriately named the LOL hat. It looks like an oversized monopoly piece. Some rich alum needs to get Daniel Day-Lewis to appear in character as Abraham Lincoln to present the trophy to the winner. That might be enough to get me to watch what should be a blowout. Northwestern 38, Illinois 14
Michigan (8-3, 6-1) at Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) Noon, ABC
Will it be Devin Gardner of Denard Robinson that plays a quarterback for the Wolverines? If not for the sanctions against Ohio State this could have been a preview of next week's Big Ten championship game. Instead, Ohio State needs a win and then they can sit back and hope for chaos the rest of this week, next week, and in the bowls so they can possibly claim an AP poll National title. It isn't much, but it is a lot more than some people can hope for.
Gardner seems to make the offense work a little more smoothly in terms of passing for Michigan, but the Buckeyes will not make things comfortable at all. This is probably going to be your typical close Ohio State-Michigan game even if the Big Ten title may not be on the line. Points will be precious and turnovers will be the difference. Ohio State 21, Michigan 20
Indiana (4-7, 2-5) at Purdue (5-6, 2-5) Noon, Big Ten Network
Will this be the last football game at Purdue coached by Danny Hope? At the very least it needs to be the last one with Gary Nord on staff. I find it very hard to believe that a loss would allow Hope to stay, while a victory does at least raise the possibility of him staying. I don't think the chances are good, but a win over Indiana plus certain changes with assistants (read: Nord) might be enough to keep him in West Lafayette.
I do predict that we will know by Monday. Even if we go to a bowl game you don't want to wait and make a move after the bowls. The December recruiting period is too important. You want someone in charge, and if we wait until after the bowl game to make a move it would be a huge mistake.
So what will the players do? It is clear they like Hope and like playing for him. The seniors have a ton of pride to play for, as they don't want to be the first group of seniors to lose the Bucket twice under their watch in almost two decades. They want to play in another game as well. Unfortunately, we haven't played well at home since September.
I am feeling a shootout. Indiana's defense is still bad, but that offense scares me. It should be fun. Purdue 38, Indiana 35
Michigan State (5-6, 2-5) at Minnesota (6-5, 2-5) 3:30pm Big Ten Network
This is strictly a bowl positioning game. A win for the Golden Gophers likely gives them at least a look at the Gator Bowl if things break perfectly. With a loss, the Spartans qualify for a bowl game and likely pass the Golden Gophers in the pecking order. This is of interest for Purdue as well. If Michigan State loses they are eliminated from bowl consideration and Purdue goes to no worse than the Meinecke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston, which is sixth in the Big Ten order.
We do know that it is going to be a close game. That's all Michigan State does this year. The Spartans have had only three games all season decided by less than a touchdown, while the Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame games were at least going into the fourth quarter. This Michigan State team just as easily could be undefeated as winless in the Big Ten. I think they pull this one out, mostly because there is the A.J. Barker drama going on in Minneapolis. Michigan State 20, Minnesota 17
Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) at Penn State (7-4, 5-2) 3:30pm, ESPN2
Sadly, if Purdue had just beaten Wisconsin all we would have to do is beat Indiana to reach the Big Ten championship game. If you reverse that game Wisconsin is 6-5, 3-4, and Purdue would have an identical record with the tiebreaker. Unfortunately, we rolled over and died after the early 7-0 lead and blew the opportunity.
It's frustrating, but the Badgers are off to the title game even if this loss drops them to 7-5, 4-4 in the league. it is also Senior Day for a Penn State team that is adored by the fans because they stayed despite all the scandals and sanctions surrounding the program. They will be honored on Saturday, and then they will play like mad bastards to win on the final day of the season. Penn State 17, Wisconsin 14