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Week 10 reactions (Know your role, and shut your mouth!)

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There is a deafening silence coming from the general direction of Bloomington today. All the jawing and yapping about a near-certain bowl game, a triumph in the bucket game, and a return to prominence (if prominence can be defined as finishing in fifth place in the Big Ten) for the mighty Hoosiers of Indiana was silenced in the Metrodome on Saturday. It wasn't so much silenced as the Gophers came out; duct tapped their mouths shut, and threw them in the Mississippi to end their bowl talk. Just when Indiana fans were starting to get a smug self-assuredness about football as well as basketball, they got drilled back to reality in a 63-26 ass-whipping handed out by a Minnesota team that struggled with Division 1-AA North Dakota State.

Same old, sorry-assed Hoosiers indeed.

I must admit that I am somewhat enjoying the fact Indiana is getting semi-respectable again. It makes the bucket game seem like a real, live rivalry game for the first time in years. It's not as fun beating them, when we can't beat them AND break their spirits at the same time. I know I spoke in this forum about not wanting to play the Hoosiers with them having five wins and needing to beat us for a bowl bid. After further thought, I do want to face them with five wins. I want them to bring all their fans to West Lafayette on November 18th in the hopes of taking the Bucket with them to Detroit for the epic Motor City bowl, only to crush them as badly as we did the last time they came to West Lafayette. This team couldn't beat a 1-AA team in a cancer boy game, and we're supposed to fear them and they are a rocket rising program?

Sadly, if Michigan plays as badly as they did this past week against Ball State, and Indiana finds a way to defend the rock, we may not get the chance to put their bowl hopes to rest. It would still be a monumental upset, but there is a slightly stronger likelihood of it happening than we thought a few weeks ago. Perhaps Michigan being undefeated is more of an example of how bad the Big Ten is outside of Michigan and Ohio State, rather than how good the Wolverines are.

Meanwhile, I have a wacky proposal for the National Championship game if there are not two undefeated teams left when all is said and done. Have Wisconsin play Ohio State. It wouldn't be a rematch, if the Buckeyes beat Michigan they will already be there, and Wisconsin's only loss was to Michigan (so far). The Buckeyes have to be praying for a Hoosier upset on Saturday, because it suddenly opens the door for them to get into the BCS, and even sneak a share of the conference crown if Michigan then turns around and beats Ohio State. I would argue that the Badgers are BCS worthy this year, but they will be shut out by the rule that no more than two teams from the same conference can be selected to a BCS bowl. It is a shame, but probably a good thing because that would put us suddenly in the Outback Bowl to get drilled by a good SEC team.

There will also be no teams winless in conference play this year, as Northwestern and Minnesota both came up with big wins this weekend to get off the ropes. Illinois played Ohio State very close to show the Illini are much, much better than their 2-8 record shows. I was shocked that Northwestern pulled off the upset in Iowa City on Saturday. Something has happened to Iowa since we played them, and I wonder what it was because it needs to happen before we play them again. It does open the door for us to get to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. They cannot be selected ahead of us if we finish more than 1 game ahead of them in the conference standings, and if we win out and they lose to Wisconsin as expected, that guarantees finishing two games ahead of them. Right now, the Alamo bowl would be perfect for us, but I will get more to that after my Big Ten rankings.

Championship Division:

1. Ohio State – I'll just give them credit for having a bad game on the road. Northwestern won't give them nearly as many fits. Illinois is an up and coming team that could be dangerous if they ever learn how to not turn the ball over.
2. Michigan – Here by default this week. No national title contender should need to hold on against Ball State in the fourth quarter, I don't care how badly you play.
3. Wisconsin – I am moving the Badgers up here this week. I know they likely won't even get a piece of the title because they need a huge upset this week, but they are clearly better than the other eight teams in the league. If they got a shot at Ohio State with that defense, then who knows?

Bowl Division:

4. Penn State – With an offense that could put some points on the board, they could have threatened to win back to back Big Ten title this year. They could end up with four losses, all to top 10 teams that currently have a combined record of 37-2. A big Get Well Soon goes out to JoePa as well. If I was nearly eighty and took that hit with those injuries I wouldn't get up for a week, and he didn't even want to leave the sidelines.
5. Purdue – We're stuck right back in the middle again. Iowa went zooming past us, even though they beat us by 30, and so far we've beaten all the teams we've faced behind us. I would love to play Iowa again this week, and have faced Illinois when we faced Iowa. Can we arrange that?
6. Iowa – Here by default, as they have earned a bowl bid already, but they are doing everything they can to devalue it. This cannot be the same team that destroyed us just a few weeks ago, can it?

Barely Alive for a bowl Division:

7. Minnesota – One week makes all the difference here. The Gophers go on the road for an elimination game against Michigan State, as the winner stays alive but the loser is done, then they get a struggling Iowa team at home in a rivalry game.
8. Indiana – They own the win over Michigan State that out them here, but of all the teams not already bowl eligible this conference they are the one that absolutely should be. Playing us is their best bet to get win #6.
9. Michigan State – They are on life support. They need to beat a suddenly hot Minnesota team and then go into Penn State and win the season finale. Plus, they didn't exactly show much on Saturday against us and they still have a mentally challenge individual as head coach. It's not happening.

Def Leppard's "Too Late for Love" Division:

10. Illinois – I would move the Illini higher, but everyone else above them can still play in the postseason. They will likely pass up Michigan State once the Spartans lose this week. They are dangerous to play right now.

11. Northwestern – At least the Wildcats aren't as deep in the basement as they have been all season. They've at least found the steps on the way out.

As I stated earlier, the Alamo Bowl is perfect for us this season. If we ended up facing one of the big five from the SEC in the Outback we would likely just get crushed. Instead, the Alamo is a respectable middle range bowl that we have been too before and played well in. We're likely to get a more beatable opponent, and after staying at home last year that hunger is bound to be back that we had on the last two Alamo bowl trips. We have to watch out for the Illini this week. They should still be beatable as we are the better team, but I wasn't overly impressed with the win on Saturday. The offense did better, but is still not clicking like it should. The defense is coming along quite nicely and this should be a good test. Even as bad as we were last year we dominated Illinois, and we need to do the same.

I like to think that the Alamo Bowl is ours to lose right now, with a very small outside shot of the Outback bowl in Tampa. Likely opponents in the Alamo Bowl would be Texas A&M, Missouri, and Texas Tech. All three of those are teams very similar to our own in talent level. The nicest thing is that I don't think the Hawaii game can hurt us. The Rainbow Warriors are absolutely smoking everyone they face right now, and it will be a good test for the defense. Also, they may be ranked in the top 25 by then, so it's another chance to beat a ranked opponent. They are already ranked in my poll, and they aren't too far outside the real top 25.

Nationally we have another big Louisville game this midweek. I believe that if the Cardinals get by Rutgers this week, you can put them in Glendale for the title game. If the National Championship were played in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium I have no doubt Louisville would win, because they are scary good at home. Last Thursday night's game was very entertaining, but this week I am honestly cheering for Rutgers. If Rutgers wins this game and beats West Virginia to end the season unbeaten, they deserve to go to the title game. It would be a travesty if they got shut out of it in favor of a one-loss team if they took down two team that have been in the top 10 all year. If the other teams want to bitch, then they shouldn't have lost.

National Rankings:
1. (1) Ohio State
2. (2) Michigan
(They nearly lost it)
3. (4) Louisville (no defense, but a kickass offense)
4. (5) Texas (As a college football writer I am legally bound to describe the Longhorns as "lurking")
5. (11) California (A big jump, but they are playing well)
6. (6) USC
7. (7) Arkansas
8. (8) Auburn

9. (9) Florida (I'd have them higher, but they lost to Auburn, who lost to Arkansas…)
10. (12) Rutgers (I won't discount them until they lose)
11. (3) West Virginia (Get in line)
12. (13) Notre Dame
13. (14) Boise State
14. (16) Wisconsin
15. (15) LSU
16. (10) Tennessee
17. (20) Wake Forest
18. (21) Oklahoma
19. (22) Georgia Tech
20. (23) Oregon
21. (24) Virginia Tech
22. (19) Boston College
23. (25) Hawaii
24. (NR) Maryland
25. (18) Texas A&M
Dropped out: 17 Clemson
Also Considered: Oregon State, Nebraska, BYU

So that is where I think things stand this week. The national slate is pretty set if things go as expected, as well as the Big Ten. There is still plenty of football to be played and some teams are just starting to play their best ball. Hopefully the Boilers are one of those teams.
NEXT UP: The week 11 preview on Thursday.