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Week 9 in review (The worst weekend of college football, ever)

There’s a sad and lonely comfort
In the hollow of your eyes
But don’t you let it take you over
Because it’ll eat you up inside.
– House Carpenter, Hurt

I have had a few days to try and digest the results for this Saturday, and it still hurts. We knew Notre dame was going to win because one of the few constants in life is Notre Dame beating up on a Service academy. That result wasn’t so much depressing as realizing they are still on the outside of the national title discussion with one good win (Georgia Tech), a blowout loss, and a bunch of wins over mediocre teams.

What is more depressing is looking at the Big Ten standings, the Indianapolis Star, and pretty much every other college football publication out there and seeing Indiana above us. We have dominated them over the course of the past decade and I know the law of averages states that eventually, they will overtake us, even temporarily. That still does not make it any easier when both teams have identical records, yet Indiana fans are talking about their team with hope, while we are talking about ours with despair. This is something that is just eating me up inside, because I know we are better than this. As the song above suggests, many Purdue fans have that haunted look in their eyes, and I don’t blame them.

The only other time this has happened in recent memory was in 2001 after the bucket game. Even then, there was no hope of Indiana going to a bowl because of losses they had had during the year. This time it is different. This Indiana team is dangerously close to being 7-2 right now instead of 5-4. They are playing with momentum, energy, and they have the benefit of being very young. Getting to any bowl game would be a huge boost for them as a program.

They have a coaching staff that is building a fan base and an attitude of excitement about the program that has been missing for several years. As a Purdue fan, I am tired of Purdue fans mocking IU, saying they have no chance of taking the bucket back this year, and calling their coach, "Coach Hype-ner." IU’s coach is doing a great job of building a program where it was thought to be impossible to build one, and right now he’s beating us badly in that department. We need to take the Hoosiers very seriously right now. While we need to take care of our own business with Michigan State and Illinois before the bucket game, the tables can turn on us in a huge hurry if we don’t. They may already be turning.

We are plummeting right now. We need a win this weekend in the worst way, and a loss to a team that Indiana thoroughly dominated is the worst thing that can happen right now. A loss this weekend, and no bowl game this year coupled with an Indiana win over Minnesota and a bowl for them will reverse the recruiting edge we have held in the state over the Hoosiers we have had for some time. I know Indiana is not the hotbed for high school football that Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, and other states are, but as a journalist that covers the game every season, I can see it is improving.

I will give Indiana all the credit in the world for not quitting after the Southern Illinois and UConn losses. If they were to play those two teams right now, they would beat them handily. Something happened in that Illinois game and aside from the loss at Ohio State, which Ohio State will do that to all but about four teams right now, they are rolling with that momentum.

I don’t blame them either. Coach Hep has instilled an energy that Purdue has been sorely lacking for years now. Tiller brought that energy with him at first, but somewhere along the line we have lost it. We had a chance two years ago to rise above and cement ourselves in the middle of the Big Ten if not higher, but in the aftermath of The Fumble we have let that event get in our heads and grow to the point that we can’t even compete with good teams on Saturdays anymore.

There is still a chance to turn things around. The talent and ability is there to not only still make a bowl game, but to win each of the remaining four games. We are more than capable physically of beating Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, and Hawaii. If we win out we still make the 9-4 prediction I had at the beginning of the season, only trading a Michigan State win for not getting the split with Wisconsin and Penn state I predicted. We cannot undo what has been so far, but we can still take a step in the right direction. Qualifying for a bowl game is that step.

This Saturday two teams that are absolutely desperate for a win and something positive will play in East Lansing. Both teams are spiraling downward, but have the ability to not only beat the other, but also thoroughly dominate them based on how the other has played. Michigan State probably needs it a little more than we do, but that is not saying much. One team’s season will effectively be over after Saturday, and honestly I am just not that excited about the game because of the direction we are going. Purdue needs to decide that they are not going to be that team.

Week 9 Big Ten Rankings:
Championship Division:

1. Ohio State – As usual, no change at the top. That was simply a demolition in Columbus on Saturday.
2. Michigan – They certainly did not look as impressive as they should have against Northwestern. Can one receiver really make that big of a difference?

Bowl Division:
3. Wisconsin
– The Badgers get pulled back to the pack this week with a way too close game against Illinois. The road to Orland and the Capitol One bowl goes through Madison this week against Penn State.
4. Penn State – Maybe their defense really is that good. I will give the Lions credit, they played very well and that linebacking corps was all over the field. Still, horrible play calling and execution had a lot to do with Purdue’s struggles.
5. Iowa – this was my pre-season pick to win the Big Ten. Now they may be lucky to make it to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. This certainly does not look like the team that destroyed us right now.

Bowl Playoff Division:
6. Indiana
– Things are that serious. Indiana has beaten one team above them, and two of the ones below them right now. This is not the same team that struggled early on, and even the Western Michigan win looks good with the Broncos being 6-2 and leading the MAC. They control their own bowl destiny, and a 7-5 finish is very possible.
7. Purdue – we have a very tenuous hold on this spot only because right now Michigan State has more injury issues and is playing worse than us. What is worse that because of the Hawaii game a bowl is still not assured with a win Saturday. I’m just not excited about us anymore, and that is bad.
8. Michigan State – They are honestly very lucky to be here. Still, I don’t want to play them right now because the way we are playing, they could have a breakout game and demolish us. Still, they are a team we SHOULD beat.

It’s basketball season time Division:
9. Illinois
– I am moving the Illini up because they have played well in each loss. For a 2-7 team they have played some decent teams like Wisconsin, Penn State, and Iowa close. They will be dangerous for us next week, and next year could be a breakout year.
10. Minnesota – the Gophers need to do us a favor and lose to IU this week, so the Hoosiers won’t be playing for a bowl against us. This may be the best team ever to go winless in the Big Ten, as no NW of Illinois on the schedule hurts them.
11. Northwestern – Not a bad job by the Wildcats going into Michigan and holding the Wolverines to 17 points. Still, it’s been a long season in Evanston.

On a more national scale, I was dead wrong about the Canes this past week. I found it ironic that there was a posting on the Purdue football board about who said what between Larry Coker and Joe Tiller. Things are progressing nicely for a stumble-fest in the Champs Sports Bowl between my wife’s Canes and my Boilers. I’ve always wanted to see us play Miami, but this year it could be a real comedy of errors. Needless to say, things aren’t too happy in my household football-wise right now.

Adding to that misery is the fact that my wife is an Oregon Ducks fan, and Oregon’s main rival is Oregon State. The Beavers did a huge favor this weekend for the triumvirate of Big East unbeatens by knocking off USC. One of those unbeatens is the same Louisville team we saw demolish the Canes in person. Oregon State’s win was very impressive, as it was a true example of a team coming together and playing together to beat a much better, more experienced team.

It kind of makes you wish for Mike Riley to come to West Lafayette, doesn’t it?

National Rankings:
1. (1) Ohio State
2. (2) Michigan
3. (4) West Virginia

4. (5) Louisville (That will be a great game Thursday night)
5. (6) Texas (It gets really messy after this)
6. (3) USC
7. (7) Arkansas
8. (8) Auburn
9. (9) Florida
10. (11) Tennessee
11. (12) California
12. (14) Rutgers
(Expect a huge jump if they finish unbeaten)
13. (13) Notre Dame
14. (15) Boise State
15. (16) LSU
16. (17) Wisconsin
17. (10) Clemson
18. (18) Texas A&M
19. (21) Boston College
20. (22) Wake Forest
21. (20) Oklahoma
22. (24) Georgia Tech
23. (25) Oregon
24. (NR) Virginia Tech
25. (NR) Hawaii
Dropped out:
(19) Missouri, (23) Tulsa

I didn’t have many changes in this week’s rankings, but with there being only six undefeated teams left, it is starting to look like there will be a one loss team in the championship. You can go to hundreds of different places that are hazarding a guess as to who that would be, but I will be honest. I don’t have a freakin’ clue. When a team like Wisconsin can finish with one less and not even be in a BCS bowl because of the rules, how are we supposed to even guess?

NEXT UP: Week 10 Preview on Thursday. It’s going to take me that long to get over the sick feeling I have from Purdue.