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Final Big Ten Wrap

Other than hosting a Big Ten Bloggers’ roundtable this week and my blogpoll ballot, this will be the final entry devoted to football. From this point on, I’ll be shifting over to basketball full-time. The basketball season has been very predictable so far with four wins over teams we should beat without breaking a sweat. That changes this week with Boston College and either Oklahoma or UAB to face in New York. I’ll get into that more later, but here are my final rankings and thoughts on the Big Ten season.

11. Indiana (3-9, 1-7) – I agree with Boilerdowd in that it was one of the ugliest performances ever in a Bucket game by either side. Come on, Hoosiers! You’ve got to at least look like you want to kept he Bucket and ruin your rival’s season even further. Indiana didn’t even look interested in playing yesterday. It’s like they went through the motions and showed up because the schedule said so. Was Greg Middleton wrapped up in carpets and thrown into the Wabash Friday night? You would think even he would want to go all out after what Tiller said about him.

As I commented on earlier this week at the Hoosier Report, I think in the long run Hep’s death was a huge step back for this program. They rode the emotion last year, especially against Purdue. You cannot deny that fact when his widow was on the sidelines as an honorary captain against the Boilers. Without him though, they have lost all the positive momentum the program as a whole had going. At least the stadium will look nice next year. That many more Ohio State fans can come on October 3rd now.

10. Michigan (3-9, 2-6) – Michigan was only slightly better than Indiana with a pair of conference wins (in upsets) and three total wins over 1-A programs. Still, there has to be massive improvement next season. Will we see Michigan "turning the corner" like Notre Dame next year when they reach 6-4 only to lose to Purdue for the first time in Ann Arbor since Bob Griese was quarterback?

The honeymoon needs to be over for RichRod. There is no excuse for a team with this much talent to be 3-9 and go down as the worst team in school history. They are int he same boat as Notre Dame right now. They have more talent than 90% of teams out there, so anything less than 9 wins a season has to be considered a gross underachievement. You’re Michigan for crying out loud! At least Roy Roundtree will provide a huge offensive boost next year after his redshirt year in wait.

9. Purdue (4-8, 2-6) – Games I would like to have a second chance at this year: Oregon, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Michigan State. With the offense we had yesterday and the defense that appeared several times this year I think all four of those games could easily become wins with a second chance. I still believe we beat Minnesota with a healthy Curtis Painter. If the defense that played in the Ohio State and Michigan State games showed up we could beat the Irish. A healthy Painter playing like he did yesterday gives us a good chance against the Spartans. Oregon was simply a game where one play of many could change the outcome.

There are enough pieces left over to believe we can get back to 6 or 7 wins and a bowl game next season. I am certainly not expecting a national title, now would 6 or 7 wins be turning a huge corner to a massive accmplishment. It would merely be a step back in the right direction. It is all up to the players and how hard they want to work in the offseason. We sent Joe off right, now it is time for coach Hope.

8. Illinois (5-7, 3-5) – Once again, Illinois followed up a shocking BCS bowl appearance with a 5-7 season. Unlike 2002, there is plenty of raw talent there, but there are a number of concerns that leave people wondering if there will be a turn around. Illinois’ five wins came against Indiana, Louisiana Lafayette, Eastern Illinois, Michigan, and Iowa. With the exception of maybe Iowa, those are all games they should have won. Western Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin probably should have wins based on talent alone. That is way too many losses to teams you probably should beat.

This team has to stop turning the ball over and it must find an answer to at running back. It became very apparent how much Mendenhall meant to this team when he was gone for this season.

7. Minnesota (7-5, 3-5) – So much for Pasadena this year. The Gophers clearly were in over their heads for the second half of the season, culminating in last night’s abysmal performance against Iowa. The good news is that they will still go bowling. The bad news is they are likely headed to Detroit to face Western Michigan, Central Michigan, or Ball State. All three are very good teams, each with a win over a Big Ten opponent.

There were enough positive signs though to hope that the opening of TCF Bank Stadium will be a huge success next year. They must find more of a running game like most of the teams in the bottom half of the conference. Adam Weber will be better with another year’s experience as well.
6. Wisconsin (7-5, 3-5) – The Badgers are probably the most disappointing team in the Big Ten. They lost to Michigan. They needed overtime to beat a 1-AA opponent. They took a season that saw them in the top 10 at one point and barely qualified for a bowl game.

Still, they finished the season on an up note. They won their last three games even if they were against Indiana, Minnesota, and Cal Poly. Two of those three easily could have become losses and kept the Badgers home for Christmas. They have plenty of offensive talent returning. They need to fix the defense and start playing like they know they can play.

5. Iowa (8-4, 5-3) – To any Iowa fans that stopped by, I am sorry. I predicted a last place finish in the conference, and I was wrong. At least rest in the knowledge that you are not alone. You merely pulled what Michigan State did last year with my predictions. To whomever I predict to finish last next season, expect a 7-win season and bowl appearance. Of course, it is likely going to be Indiana, so scratch that.

Shonn Green is, quite simply, a stud. If he is smart he will make this his final season in Iowa City before bolting to the NFL and getting Oprah-rich. It’s okay, too. Jewel Hampton is a capable replacement. This team was 8-4 with all four losses by less than a touchdown. All four losses came to teams that spent time in the top 25 too. Illinois is the worst loss of that bunch, and it is not Indiana over Northwestern horrible. This could be a very good team next year, so I am glad they are off the schedule. They make their season debut in my blogpoll ballot.

4. Northwestern (9-3, 5-3) – I don’t know what to make of Northwestern. They did as I predicted and made good on their 1 in 4 year run to near the top of the conference. They grabbed some good wins against Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. They flunked their two major tests against Ohio State and Michigan State, but there is no shame in losing to those two. Loss #3, however was one of those "What?" losses.

In my blogpoll ballot below, I almost put Northwestern into the bottom part of the top 25. That part has been fluid, but the Wildcats have been right on the edge for most of the season. Then I remembered loss #3 was to Indiana. This is the same Indiana team that put on one of the most uninspired displays of football in the history of the game yesterday. No team that losses to Indiana deserves to be ranked this year. Sorry, Lake the Posts. Great season, but that was inexcusable. May you cheer for the Ducks next week and play in Tampa January 1.

3. Michigan State (9-3, 6-2) – The Enlightened Spartan said it best about yesterday’s loss to Penn State. Michigan State proved it is the best of the rest of a crappy conference. Is that so bad though? They won the games they were supposed to and lost the ones they were supposed to. That formula worked for Purdue until this season. The Spartans are still a good team. I thought their fans were a little too confident, but you need confidence if you are to become a great team.

Michigan State gets a New Year’s Day Bowl and a chance to build on this for next season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Big Ten is going to e pretty wide open next year, so they can seize the opportunity and get to Pasadena a year later.

2. Ohio State (10-2, 7-1) – I’d like to question if Ohio State is really that much better than everyone else. They did the same as Michigan State, (beating the Spartans convincingly in the process) but lost the two most important games on the schedule. They are one of the few teams this year that can say their only losses were to teams going to BCS Bowls, and as a result they will likely get a shot at Georgia (if Oregon State beats Oregon) in the Capitol One Bowl. Georgia is in the same boat as them, so it should be a good game.

I know the Buckeyes will be disappointed though. They are going to be among the favorites for next year, but this was their big chance. They will get other chances because of the schedule they play (they always have a marquee non-conference opponent). The talent isn’t going to dry up any time soon either.

1. Penn State (11-1, 7-1) – Ladies and gentlemen, your winner and new champion: the Penn State Nittany Lions! Like 2005, Penn State was one last second play away from perfection. They got a little bit of help last night in getting to the national title game, but now they need crazy stuff to happen. They need stuff like Auburn over Alabama, Florida State over Florida, Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, Missouri over the Big 12 South champion, and UCLA over USC for them to go to Miami.

It will be interesting to see who the Nittany Lions face. Oregon State beating Oregon means a rematch with a much improved Beaver team. Among the four Pac 10-Big Ten games this year, that was probably the least likely to produce a rematch in Pasadena. If Oregon wins, USC is the opponent unless a decided schematic advantage, UCLA, or a Trojan trip to Miami gets in the way. Penn State should have a fun time the next two weeks

Blogpoll ballot:

As usual, the bottom part of the ballot is in mass chaos as I struggle to put together a final five. Number one was easy, but 2-7 were much harder. I even considered moving Utah up. Being undefeated at this point, especially in the Mountain West which is tougher than the Big East and maybe ACC. has to be worth something. If all hell breaks loose the next two weeks why shouldn’t we consider Utah?

Texas Tech had to take a huge hit simply because true #2 teams don’t crap the bed in big games like that. I put Texas ahead of Oklahoma because they did beat the Sooners. Oklahoma State can simplify things by beating Oklahoma next week, but it is possible that the whole Big 12 South mess could be thrown away if Missouri wins the Big 12 title game. In that case, all three in the South should forget about Miami because if you can’t win your conference you don’t deserve to go to the championship. Florida is an interesting case. The Mississippi loss isn’t as bad as originally thought, but it is worse than Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas’ loss. It’s on par with Penn State’s loss to Iowa. In reality, you have to consider 2-7 as almost one giant #2.

Speaking of Penn State, how can you argue them above USC? It’s simple: they pounded the crap out of the team that beat USC.

One team you won't have to worry about being ranked is Notre Dame. Their classless fans came through for them again yesterday. I know many Notre Dame fans. Most of them are pretty well grounded too. I would be embarrassed to represent a team that its own fans throw stuff at them. As a result, the Irish will never be ranked in my blog poll ballot. Ever. That was the last straw as far as me giving them any kind of respect.

As usual, feel free to comment in the comments.

Rank Team Delta
1 Alabama --
2 Florida 1
3 Texas 1
4 Oklahoma 1
5 Penn State 2
6 Southern Cal --
7 Texas Tech 5
8 Utah --
9 Boise State --
10 Ohio State --
11 Missouri --
12 Oklahoma State --
13 Georgia --
14 Ball State --
15 TCU 2
16 Cincinnati 5
17 LSU 2
18 Oregon State 2
19 Brigham Young 4
20 Oregon 3
21 Michigan State 5
22 Tulsa 4
23 Boston College 3
24 Western Michigan 2
25 Iowa 1

Dropped Out: Miami (Florida) (#18), Pittsburgh (#22), Maryland (#24), Central Michigan (#25).