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Week 11 Review (Our country, huh? Well it’s OUR BUCKET!!)

Everyone is entirely sick of the Chevy adds with noted Indiana supporter John Mellencamp singing about how this is our country. As if Indiana has not already done enough to fill this state’s void of annoying. The only thing that could get more annoying would be their self-satisfied remarks if Indiana somehow wins in West Lafayette this coming Saturday to get to a bowl game. Sorry fellas, but Mellencamp can’t save you by singing the opposing team into delirium like he did during the Michigan State game. If I were a Spartan player I two would have folded up the tent and not bothered to play after hearing that annoying song live.

The Indiana fans that were running their mouths a few weeks ago after they drubbed Michigan State are conspicuously silent today after they got drilled by Michigan. Apparently someone forgot to tell their offense to show up in the loss to the Wolverines. The only way it would have been the "Darkest day in the history of Michigan football" would have been if the lights at Memorial Stadium had malfunctioned.

It has been interesting to see this year that Indiana football fans are a lot like their basketball fans. When the team is doing well, they think they have one of the best in the country and can’t see their own shortcomings. They crowed and puffed out their chests after upsetting Iowa, saying a bowl game was a given and the bucket was theirs. There have been numerous postings on the Purdue message board this week bemoaning our lack of wins over teams with winning records, with one going so far as to say that if we had played Michigan and Ohio State we would be right where they were, needing a win to get into a bowl.

Need I remind you of Southern Illinois? At least Connecticut is slightly more respectable of a loss after they knocked off Pitt this week. Iowa is doing its best to make Indiana’s crowning achievement of the season look worse and worse. I don’t know what happened to the Hawkeyes, but they are making our loss to them even more embarrassing each week, while devaluing Indiana’s win over them.

Still, I have not been this excited about a bucket game in a long time. The fact that Indiana has managed five wins against a fairly weak schedule of its own means they are punchy. They have actually decided to show up and make the game worth talking about aside from how badly we’re going to beat them this year. They have something else to play for other than watching us sing Hail Purdue with the bucket. They have enough of a team that we need to take them seriously.

We already have a bowl bid locked up, and as I will address here in a few paragraphs, we can probably guess with about 75% certainty which bowl it will be win or lose. The only thing we have to play for is the bucket, and the fact that we will ruin Indiana’s season and dreams should we win it. Yes it’s been fun to win the bucket by large margins in each of the Hoosiers’ last four visits to Ross-Ade, but it’s more to win it AND crush their hopes and dreams in the process. Isn’t that what college football is all about?

As I said, we can probably guess which bowl we are going to with about 75% certainty. We’re not going to the Capitol One bowl. That is reserved for Wisconsin or possibly the Michigan-Ohio State loser if the game ends up being a blowout. We’re also probably not going to the Outback bowl. The only way we get there is if we win convincingly against Indiana AND Hawaii and Michigan State upsets Penn State. Even then, I still look for the Nittany Lions to go instead of us. That leaves the next selection to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. They are alternating the #4 selection with the Alamo bowl and I have read where this is the year they get #4. If I am wrong, then substitute the Alamo Bowl for everything I say about the Champs Bowl and vice versa. With Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State all out of the equation that leaves only us and Iowa as guarantees to be available right now. We currently hold a two game lead on Iowa in the standings despite losing to them head-to head (and badly). If this stays true they cannot be chosen ahead of us, no matter how well they travel.

Should Minnesota win to reach bowl eligibility they will finish at 3-5 in the conference, while Iowa would stumble to 2-6, but still eligible thanks to a 4-0 non-conference mark. At worst we can finish 4-4, maintaining that two game buffer. Even a loss to Indiana would make things look like this:

Indiana 4-4 (Wins over Purdue, Iowa)

Purdue 4-4 (Win over Minnesota)

Minnesota 3-5 (Wins over Iowa, Indiana)

Iowa 2-6 (Win over Purdue)

If you’re a Big Ten conference official, this is what you want because it means you get an extra team into the BCS and still fulfill all seven bowl slots. Should that scenario happen, the Champs Sports Bowl basically gets to choose between us, Indiana, and Minnesota. We probably have the edge over Minnesota by beating them head-to-head, but Indiana would have the edge over us by beating us head-to-head plus they have the factor of not being to a bowl in 13 years. That could sell more tickets than us. Minnesota would have a head-to-head edge over Indiana there, which would be bigger since it was such a dominating win and more recent. In this case, a strong showing and win over Hawaii would come into play, where a win over Indiana probably negates whatever we do on the islands (unless Michigan State loses to Penn State).

Another wild card that needs to be considered is that the same people that run the Capitol One Bowl run the Champs Sports Bowl. We had a very good showing fan-wise three years ago in the Capitol One Bowl and I am sure they will remember that, since bowls care mainly about selling tickets.

As far as the slim chances at the Outback Bowl go, we are only attractive if we are a 9-4 team on a four-game winning streak against a 7-5 Penn State team that is fresh off a loss to a bad Michigan State team. Regardless of what happens, I don’t think we can do any worse than the Alamo Bowl. Our worst-case scenario is if we lose to Indiana and Iowa upsets Minnesota. That would take the Gophers out of the equation and bump Iowa to 3-5. Then the Champs can pick Iowa should they choose. You’d be looking at the Champs and the Alamo having the chance to pick teams that beat us in conference play, sending us to Phoenix for the Insight Bowl. I give us a 75% chance of playing in the Champs Sports Bowl, 20% chance of playing in the Alamo, 4% chance of playing in the Insight, and 1% chance of playing in the Outback. It all depends on what we do against Indiana, or the outcome of the Iowa-Minnesota game. A Minnesota or Purdue win most likely puts us in Orlando, regardless of what happens in the other game.

With that being said, it’s time to look at the second to last Big Ten rankings of the season, with project bowl for each team.

BCS-worthy Division:

  1. Ohio State – National Title game – I give the Buckeyes the edge because they are playing at home and they have owned Michigan recently. It still should be a hell of a game on Saturday in Columbus, and I’m going to have to find a tailgate with a TV or go to Harry’s to see it.
  2. Michigan –
    Rose Bowl – Again, I only give Ohio State the advantage based on home field. As we all know, Michigan has to be the greatest team that has ever been assembled because they dominated Brady Quinn and Notre Dame in his senior year.
  3. Wisconsin – Capitol One Bowl – they are clearly BCS worthy, but because of the Sith rule of two they cannot go to the BCS. Its only hope is a blowout in the Michigan-Ohio State game and that they get moved ahead of the loser. It would be interesting to see Ohio State obliterate Michigan State, then the other one loss teams fall and Wisconsin rises to #2 for an all-Big Ten final.

Assured a Bowl game Division:

  1. Penn State – Outback Bowl - I am not fully convinced they are a better team than us, as we had the worst day offensively we’ve ever had under Tiller. At best we’re dead even with them, and that’s not bad. Beat Sparty and they are in Tampa.
  2. Purdue –
    Champs Sports Bowl – This is our bowl to lose right now, as I don’t see us falling out of it unless we lose to Indiana. We’re still here if Minnesota beats Iowa, too. All things considered this year, this is not a bad reward.
  3. Iowa –
    Insight Bowl – They are only here because Indiana and Minnesota do not have six wins and Iowa does. We are clearly the best win Iowa has, and with losses to Northwestern and Indiana that’s not saying a lot. They are the disappointment of the year in the conference, but not as bad as us last year.

Win and they are in Division:

  1. Minnesota – Alamo Bowl – I think the Gophers will beat Iowa and get into the Alamo. They are playing too well and Iowa is playing too poorly. Had they not been robbed against Penn State, they would already be in, and we would be heading for Tampa, proving how one bad call makes a huge difference.
  2. Indiana –
    Tecmo Bowl – the NES classic is about as close as the Hoosiers will get to a bowl this year, as no team that loses to a 1-AA team should be allowed to go bowling. We’re just going to make sure of it. Hopefully they will play hard enough to avoid more chants of "Ball State’s better" from the student section. They’ve already beaten the Cardinals for third place in the state standings.

Pride (In the Name of Love) Division:

  1. Illinois – "Best first half team" Bowl – If Illinois only did not have to play the second half, or even just the fourth quarter of games this year. They have now lost games to Indiana, Ohio, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Purdue in which they have had a second half lead. If they ever learn how to hold onto the football they will be dangerous. Thankfully, the Juice is off the schedule for two years.
  2. Northwestern –
    "Free pass on the season because our coach died" Bowl – the Wildcats go here because they have drastically improved in the second half of the season against a brutal schedule. They weren’t going to beat Ohio State or Michigan, but beating Iowa, owning Michigan State for three quarters, and a possible win over Illinois is a big leap for where this team was in the first half.
  3. Michigan State –
    Heimlich Bowl – the Spartans have choked away another season. They started 3-0 and were leading a team ranked in the top 5 by three scores in the second half. Since then they have only managed a miracle win that was more of a result of poor coaching decisions by the other team, while losing to Indiana and Illinois in the same season. Ouch!

Nationally quite a bit happened this week with Rutgers knocking off Louisville and three of the one-loss teams going down. I still would argue that Rutgers, by virtue of undefeated, should be the team that controls its own destiny. The Big East is a tougher league than people think, as it has UConn, which somehow prevented Indiana from defending the Rock. Should Rutgers finish undefeated they would have beaten two pre-season national title contenders in West Virginia and Louisville. This is more than Notre Dame has done, yet because the Irish are THE "name" team out there, they get more of a benefit. Rutgers cannot control who they play this year, they can only go out and win every game. They have done that to this point in the season, and only three other teams can say the same. If they get past West Virginia undefeated, they deserve to go and hopefully the polls will raise them accordingly.

I was also wrong on my pick of Miami winning last week. I honestly cannot understand the Canes this year. They have a defense that can play with anyone in the nation, as they have only truly struggled defensively against Louisville in Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. That is something many teams would do. In their other four losses they have lost by 4, 7, 7, and 1 respectively. In each of those games the offense has struggled to do much of anything throughout. Larry Coker is as good as gone as coach, and there’s not a whole lot more that can go right for them. Qualifying for the MPC Computers game in Boise would be quite a wake-up call for the program.

National Rankings:

  1. (1) Ohio State
  2. (2) Michigan
  3. (10) Rutgers (They are undefeated in a BCS conference, only the two above them can say that and that is why I put them here)
  4. (6) USC (Probably control their own destiny)
  5. (9) Florida
  6. (7) Arkansas
  7. (14) Wisconsin (I’ve had them too low all along)
  8. (11) West Virginia
  9. (12) Notre Dame
  10. (13) Boise State (They deserve a shot)
  11. (4) Texas
  12. (3) Louisville
  13. (17) Wake Forest
  14. (15) LSU
  15. (5) California
  16. (8) Auburn
  17. (18) Oklahoma
  18. (19) Georgia Tech
  19. (24) Maryland
  20. (22) Boston College
  21. (23) Hawaii
  22. (16) Tennessee
  23. (21) Virginia Tech
  24. (NR) BYU
  25. (NR) Nebraska

Dropped Out: (20) Oregon, (25) Texas A&M

Also Considered: Kansas State

These were difficult rankings to do because of all the movement in the polls. I still think Wisconsin deserves some title game consideration if the OSU-Michigan game is a blowout, but that is just me. It is also looking like Hawaii could be one more chance to beat a ranked team if things fall right and the Rainbow Warriors can sneak into one of the real polls next week.

NEXT UP: The Bucket Game Preview later this week.