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What we know about the Big Ten, and the embarrassment that is Miami.

I am wondering what on earth happened in Bloomington on Saturday. Was that the same Iowa team that steamrolled us last week? Is that the same Indiana team that lost to the mighty Salukis of Southern Illinois? This may have been the biggest upset in the country this past weekend, Georgia was struggling and Vanderbilt has certainly done much more recently to gain more respect than the Hoosiers. This result was completely unexpected, as seen by my assessment that they would lose 48-7 last week.

Simply put, Iowa had to be looking past the Hoosiers. I'll give Indiana credit, as they played out of their minds and James Hardy finally decided to show up this year, but there's no way Iowa loses this game if they are taking it seriously. They had to be looking ahead to Michigan, plain and simple. Granted, we played our worst game of the season in our loss to the Hawkeyes, but they still were very impressive in dispatching us. Now the Indiana faithful is talking bowl game, which they need to stop and remember they would already be in a bowl game had they taken care of business. Heck, if they had taken care of business an eight or nine win season would be possible for them.

Every IU fan is excited right now, and they should be as it was the biggest win this program has had in almost 20 years. Plus they got Eric Gordon in basketball which makes them seem to think they now have a better recruiting class with one five star guy as opposed to Purdue's four four-star guys. Even though they had wrecked their season with losses to Southern Illinois and Connecticut, a bowl is still possible if they can beat Michigan State at home and Minnesota on the road. If they pull even one of those games off, we need to be careful when it comes to the bucket game. One more win means they play with the fire to get to a bowl against us.

When you look at the rest of the conference, things pretty much stayed about as expected. Illinois has lost all the goodwill it could have possibly gained from upsetting Michigan State by dropping a game to Ohio from the MAC. Once again, the Illini lost at home on a last second field goal. What they had hoped to turn into bowl momentum is now done almost before it started.
Speaking of Michigan State, they no longer seem interested in finishing the season. They have completely folded since the fourth quarter of the Notre Dame game. At least they now have company in the 4th quarter chokes category after the Arizona Cardinals last night. I know you're playing the #1 team in the country at home, but at least show up for the game, guys. Drew Stanton has officially entered the pantheon of Ron Pawlus, Ryan Leaf, Jeff George, and other quarterbacks who are praised as great talents, but have actually done nothing of note in their careers. With all this happening, it is certainly looking more and more like the Big Ten will be lucky to get six teams into a bowl, and there is still a severe drop-off behind the top two.

The Championship Division:
1. Ohio State – Cold, deadly and efficient. The schedule leading up to the Michigan game is now squishy soft with Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern before that game.
2. Michigan – If Iowa somehow goes into the Big House and wins I am giving up on trying to figure them out. Northwestern, Ball state, and IU follow to make them also 11-0.

Bowl Division:
3. Wisconsin
– Sorry Wisconsin fans, the only shot you have to get a piece of the pie is an Iowa win this weekend, followed by Michigan beating the Buckeyes plus you winning out. It’s a shame that more than two teams from one conference can’t go to the BCS, because Wisconsin sure looks like it could go 11-1 and get left out.
4. Iowa – Did Purdue simply play that badly against Iowa, or did Iowa play that badly against Indiana? I have no idea what to think of that game, except that there is no way the same Iowa team that pushed Purdue around played Indiana.
5. Purdue – Another chance at a statement game this weekend in Ross-Ade, although a loss can still lead to a 9-4 or 10-3 season, as Penn State has no offense and Michigan State is uninterested in playing football anymore.
6. Penn State – They are here because they simply won’t lose to Temple, Illinois, or Michigan State. Next week’s visit to Purdue will be critical in the bowl positioning for both.

Unbelievably possible bowl Division:
7. Indiana
– With the win over Iowa, the Hoosiers are talking bowl bid with Michigan State and Minnesota left as winnable games. Some fans are even getting cocky and saying that Kellen Lewis is a sure thing to bring the bucket back to Bloomington. Thank you for at least making the game interesting again, but let’s not dust off the trophy case just yet. We’ll be ready on November 18th. Just remember your last visit to Ross-Ade. Why don’t you worry about those Salukis and Huskies next time?

Dead men walking Division:
8. Michigan State
– How can a team that has so much talent be a team full of such head cases? That’s four straight losses now. Sure, they have winnable games left against Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, and Penn State, but if they can’t get up for Illinois what makes you think they’ll somehow win three of those five?

Life Support Division:
9. Minnesota – The Gophers are a better team than this, but a bad call against Penn State and bad coaching against Purdue have them at 2-5. They get a break with North Dakota State this week, but I really don’t see four wins left on the schedule without an upset of Iowa.

Just horrible:
10. Illinois
– Well, that took all of two weeks to destroy the goodwill they had from the Michigan State win. That end of the season contest at Northwestern should be fun for everyone involved.
11. Northwestern – I don’t want to kick a team that has gone through a lot of hardship this season, but when they can’t even move the ball against our defense past the first quarter, that is sad. This offense is simply horrible, and I don’t see how the same Miami team that took us to overtime lost at home by 18 points, aside from the cancer boy game factor.

I know that not much can be said about our schedule at this point, but we have at least gotten he job done, which is more than I can say for Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, and to a certain extent, Minnesota right now. We have won four games we should have win, lost two games we should have lost, and won a game that in all honesty was a toss-up at the time, but looks more and more like it should have been a win all along.

When you look at everyone else in the Big Ten, that is not the case. Iowa lost a game it should have won. Indiana lost two it should have won, but won a toss-up and one it shouldn’t have. Illinois took one it shouldn't have, but lost two toss-ups and a gimme. Northwestern is just a bad football team, and is lucky to have two wins. Michigan State has two gimme wins, a blown gimme in a loss, and a choke to its credit. Minnesota’s travails have been discussed. We simply have done what was expected, and at least got our worst performance to date out of the way in a game we probably weren’t going to win anyway, but still had at least a shot in.

Moving away from the Big Ten for a minute, and on to my horrid 5-3 record in picks last week. Sure, I scored the Illinois loss almost exactly, and the Missouri and Florida games were close losses (I know Florida was 10 points, but seven came on a desperation multiple lateral final play that turned into a fumble recovery for a TD by Auburn), but the Indiana-Iowa game was a bad miss.

I do, however, feel the need to comment on the Miami-FIU brawl since I feel a little closer to the situation than the biased media that always paints Miami as the bad guy. With my wife being the Miami alum and die-hard fan she is, even she was embarrassed and outraged at the actions of her beloved Hurricanes Saturday night. To paraphrase Top Gun for a moment, "Their egos are writing checks their bodies can’t cash."

It is one thing to go out, stomp on an opponents’ logo, take a bow in the end zone, etc when you are throttling every team you play. As Kid Rock says, "It ain’t cocky if you back it up." This team simply is not backing it up on the field, and needs to shut its mouth until it does something again of note. Yes, you have five national championships in the last 25 years, and with that comes a certain amount of pride. It does not, however, give you license to be a bunch of assholes.

I want to address the players themselves today, in case even one of them happens to come across this blog. When you start a fight in the tunnel after you get your ass handed to you 40-3 in a bowl game, you are an asshole. When you stomp on the opposing team’s logo before a game, you are an asshole. That is only going to righteously piss off a team that is already very, very good and is pumped up to be playing a ‘name’ team like Miami in their house. Doing something like that means you had better back it up. Yes, you came out, went up 7-0 and looked like you were severely going to hit them in the mouth with another early TD, but you, the Miami Hurricanes, tucked your tail between your legs and wet yourselves after the fumble on the eight yard-line. It was all over from there and you simply looked like a bunch of idiots in losing 31-7.
While I don’t think James Bryant’s bow was over the top (there were a lot worse things he could have done) he does need to learn a little lesson in tact. Congratulations, you scored to give your team a 14-0 3rd quarter lead over a winless Sun Belt team that had played you to a 7-0 game at halftime in the Orange Bowl. If you’re truly a Hurricane player, you would be flat out embarrassed the score was that close in that situation because of your history, and wouldn’t be celebrating. Again, you just look like an asshole, and call me when you’ve actually done something.

My wife proudly hangs her University of Miami degree on our wall, and proudly displays the U logo and championship memorabilia all over the place. This morning she is embarrassed to display anything representing her University because of your actions. She is embarrassed that you have tainted the name on her degree and one of the things she is most proud of for accomplishing in this life. She is even more embarrassed because of this joke of a proclamation from the University of Miami.

My response to that is this. Grow a pair, president Dona Shalala and Athletic Director Paul Dee. If you’re truly, as the edict says, "not going to tolerate any further violation of this policy," then every single player that overstepped the bounds would no longer have a college football career. This is a knee-jerk reaction and only tells me you care more about results on the field than discipline. The Miami third-string team could beat Duke this week, so a bunch of one-game suspensions will do nothing to deter faint hopes of winning the ACC this year.

This policy should be retroactive, but apparently the athletic department has forgotten last year’s Peach Bowl fracas. I ask you; does the policy start anew and allow one fight each season before the zero-tolerance kicks in? I will even defend Florida International in this. While they were the ones that started the situation by not simply ignoring a dumbass like Bryant, Miami did a whole lot to escalate things by tomahawking with helmets (I thought you hated Florida State?), stomping players, and jumping around with their helmets on the sideline. Kudos to the FIU administration for having a pair and dismissing two players from the team while suspending the rest involved indefinitely.

As my wife said last night, and I agree with her. Miami should do at the very least what Clemson and South Carolina did a few years ago, and refuse any bowl invitation this season. Everyone else involved should be on "seasonal or permanent" suspension. Larry Coker, who is a nice guy, but has clearly lost control of the program, should be fired since he has instilled zero discipline in this bunch.

But I guess all those dollar signs from the BCS are more important.

Moving on to other college football news in a more positive light, my rankings faced a big shake up this week. Missouri and Florida fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, thereby making the Big 12 and SEC no longer players in the national title hunt until there is just one unbeaten left. I heard an interesting proposition this week, that if Ohio State and Michigan are the last two unbeatens left when they play on November 18th, and they play a classic, then they should play again for the title. That’s not a bad idea. I have wondered what would happen if say Florida State and Miami absolutely crushed everyone else they played, only to split close games in the regular season and ACC title game. If they were clearly the two best teams in the country, why not play a third time for the whole damn thing?

Clearly the Big East is going to be a player in things, as its top four teams are all playing very well right now, with three of them being among the magnificent seven. If not for a now inexplicable loss to Michigan State, Pittsburgh would be the fourth unbeaten in this conference. This can only help the Louisville-West Virginia winner as it proves there will be more to the season than just that one game, thanks to Rutgers and Pittsburgh.

The following rankings are based on how the teams will get into the national championship game should they all win out. Obviously that won’t happen, but it is how they will fall and move up in order of the teams above them losing.

My rankings as of right now:
(1) Ohio State
(2) Michigan
(5) USC
(A lot is being said about their close games and who they have left. They are still taking everyone’s best shot and getting it done)
(6) West Virginia
(4) Louisville
(Again, they just got the job done)
(7) Texas (Much disrespect going on here)
(8) Notre Dame (I still hate them, but that offense is very good. I respect that)
(14) Arkansas (Part of the cascade of reasoning here, as each team below lost to the one above for their only loss)
(13) Auburn
(3) Florida
(9) Tennessee
(10) California
(11) Clemson
(12) Georgia Tech
(I bet they wish they had that Notre Dame game back now)
(16) Oregon
(15) LSU
(19) Boise State
(It will be interesting to see if they can play with the big boys)
(20) Rutgers (Statement game this week)
(22) Oklahoma
(24) Wisconsin
(They are getting scary good)
(23) Nebraska
(NR) Texas A&M
(18) Missouri
(NR) Wake Forest
(NR) Pittsburgh

Dropped out:
(17) Iowa, (21) Georgia, (25) Virginia Tech

Also considered: Boston College, Tulsa

So that is where we stand going into week 8. Things could easily change in a heartbeat, because you never know what that crazy Indiana Hoosiers are going to do. I look for them to get brought back to earth in a hurry in Columbus though.

NEXT UP: The week 8 preview as Wisconsin comes back to Ross-Ade for the first time since The Fumble.