Photo: Centre Daily Times
Welcome to the Big Five! This is my weekly column discussing and take-ing on the top five headlines, news items, storylines, etc. of the week. Feel free to comment on my thoughts either below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or…shoot us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – We’ll make sure to bring your comments up in the next podcast.
1. Playoff shakeup galore
After a couple of crazy games in Week 9, last weekend was expected to be a bit watered down in comparison. Boy, was that a wrong assumption. The Big Ten faced its most fun, craziest and most destructive week all season in Week 10, one in which both Ohio State and Penn State essentially eliminated themselves from playoff contention.
A two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff, so that leaves just Wisconsin with a reasonable shot at representing the Big Ten in college football’s final four. The Badgers are undefeated, and if they win out, they’ll almost surely be crowned with a playoff spot.
Wisconsin’s schedule isn’t a piece of cake, but its two tougher matchups – Iowa and Michigan – come at home. The Badgers should win those games.
Wisconsin’s the Big Ten’s lifeline right now. The Badgers are the conference’s only shot at reaching the playoffs. But because of their incredibly light schedule, they can’t afford to lose any remaining contests, including the Big Ten Championship, which they’ll likely be marked underdogs in.
Two weeks ago, the Big Ten had a strong case for two teams in the playoffs. Now, it’s quite likely the conference won’t have any.
2. The East is wide open
The Big Ten East may be the most interesting, competitive, wild and chaotic conference division in college football. With three potential playoff contenders at the beginning of the season, and none right now, the division has become one giant slush where decent and elite teams are merging.
Let’s start with the fact that Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State are all 7-2. The Buckeyes and Spartans are 5-1 in conference, while the Nittany Lions and Wolverines are 4-2. Just forget about the rest of the division. It’s bad.
But in reality, the division’s competition is absolutely wide open. Whoever wins will face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, barring an absolute catastrophe from the Badgers.
Believe it or not, Rutgers is not out of it.
Photo: Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports
3. Kinnick magic is very, very real
Home field advantage – and let’s clarify … only against big teams – has been a massive factor in Iowa’s ability to tread water these past two seasons. Let’s take last year, for example, when the Hawkeyes beat No. 3 Michigan and No. 16 Nebraska at home, but barely scraped by Rutgers on the road and got rolled over by Florida in their bowl game.
Now we can bring it into this year, when Iowa lost to Northwestern on the road but annihilated Ohio State at home last week. Now the Hawkeyes have Wisconsin next week. Too bad it’s on the road.
4. Northwestern could seriously finish 9-3
The Wildcats can very quietly finish with just three losses. Discounted from just about anything after starting 3-3 with a loss to Duke, Northwestern has won three straight and has just Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois left on its schedule.
The 9-3 revelation was evident last week as well and Northwestern almost blew it against Nebraska. To nobody’s surprise, the Wildcats’ last three wins have come in overtime. Would I be surprised if their next three did? Probably not.
5. What is Michigan?
This entire season, we’ve had no idea who Michigan is. After beating Florida in Week 1, we hyped them up. Now, Florida just fired its coach and got blown out by Missouri. The Wolverines slipped up in the middle of the season but didn’t drown. Now, they’re tied for the lead in the Big Ten East.
And after watching quarterback Brandon Peters relieve John O’Korn against Rutgers, I restored a bit of faith in Michigan again. This past week, the Wolverines rushed for nearly 400 yards and Peters played little to no role in the outcome. Michigan’s next exciting game, barring an implosion against Maryland, will come against Wisconsin in two weeks. Maybe we’ll find out who the real Wolverines are there?