B1G Ten Tour: News & Notes For The Big Ten
At the conclusion of each week's games, CFN's Phil Harrison puts the previous weekend of Big Ten football under the microscope, and looks ahead through binoculars to see what's in store for the upcoming weekend.
By Phil Harrison
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS - Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Well look what we found. There were many great performances around the Big Ten this week, but when you score six touchdowns by me, myself, and I, then that takes the cake. The junior out of Detroit threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, while also making it to the painted part of the field via jaywalking three times on 37 yards.
Many Michigan supporters worried when Denard Robinson went down with a nerve injury in his right arm, but Gardner has been a revelation--most notably through the air. He has been honored as the Big Ten offensive player of the week now in back-to-back weeks. That's hardly the makeup of a backup QB. Now, let's see if he can keep cooking with gas at the Horseshoe this Saturday.
TEAM OF THE WEEK - Ohio State
It was an outright clinching week for the Buckeyes as they were able to outlast the Badgers in Madison, winning 21-14 in overtime. Wisconsin still gets to represent the division in Indy, but Ohio State was able to take a trophy home in a year when a division crown is all it could play for. But it wasn't easy.
The Badgers dominated much of the game but couldn't make key plays at some of the key moments in the game because of a Buckeye defense that gave up yards, but little points, and made some very, very key stops. Ohio State is now one step away from having an unblemished record, and a familiar foe stands in its way.
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK - Expansion? In the middle of the season?
Who saw this coming? News broke swiftly and quietly during the slate of games on Big Ten campuses that Maryland was poised to join the conference--with Rutgers in tow. Who else got the feeling that Jim Delany was trying to pull a fast one with all of the playoff hubbub and devoid of Big Ten expansion talk? Was it all calculated?
CLUNKER OF THE WEEK - Iowa, Oh Iowa
Boy how the Hawkeyes have fallen on hard times. It seems like ages ago that the black and gold beat Michigan State. Things have gone from bad to worse now as the Hawks have now dropped five in a row that includes back-to-back losses to less than stellar squads Indiana and Purdue before getting blasted by Michigan on Saturday 42-17. Sadly, the loss eliminated Michigan from any shot at a bowl game. The last time the Hawkeyes didn't end a season in a bowl was 2007.
12. Illinois- If the Illini were a stock, it'd been trashed and burned long ago.
11. Minnesota-Well things did look promising at the start of the season At least a bowl might be in the offing.
10. Iowa- Still in shock that James Vandenberg hasn't amounted to more.
9. Purdue-It only took a game against Illinois for the Boilers to get their first league win.
8. Indiana- The more things change, the more they stay the same. Reality check.
7. Michigan State- Sparty is one fluke loss to Minnesota of not going bowling. How?
6. Wisconsin- The Badgers are better than this, but you've got to win the close ones.
5. Northwestern- Big win Saturday. A division crown is unlikely, but hello January bowl.
4. Penn State- Who would have thought PSU would end up here with a real live QB?
3. Michigan- Robinson who? Gardner will try to beat "Ohio" while learning on the job.
2. Nebraska- One game away from its first division title, one game away from Indy.
1. Ohio State- Clutch win in Madison. Off to take on Darth Vader at home for 12-0.
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Miller didn't have a great week as Wisconsin came in with a great game plan of keeping the dynamic QB in front of its D-line. Miller only accounted for 97 yards through the air and a very pedestrian (by his accounts) 48 yards on the ground. Still, if there was a week to not show well, past Saturday was it with both Collin Klein and Kenjon Barner also having less than ideal outings. Miller is still on the cut-line for an invite to New York, and it'll take an out of this world showing against Michigan to allow him a shot at cutting to the front of the line.
2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin - We have been leaving everyone besides Miller off of this list, but it's time we begin to put the wrecking Ball back on. His numbers have climbed after a slow start to the season and now he's back to his old shenanigans. Last week, MoneyBall carried the rock for a career high 38 times and notched a total of 198 yards on the ground--all while tying the all-time TD mark. It may be too late to get serious consideration, but he's now just on the outside looking in. If only for not fumbling.....
It's the last regular season weekend of the year so that means we have a some rivalries to pour through. Of course the main attraction of this calendar week almost always goes to Ohio State and Michigan--even in a down year. This year though there are many storylines like the first meeting between Meyer and Hoke, a shot at a division title for Michigan, and an undefeated season for Ohio State. It's the most anticipated installment of The Game since 2007 and a game that--no matter who you're a fan of in college football--you turn the television on and watch. It's a showdown at high noon (queue the western whistling)..
The other big game in terms of standings is Wisconsin at Penn State. At stake is a tie for second in the Leaders division, but most importantly, it should be a great game between two very good and physical teams. Mauti is out for PSU, so it'll be interesting to see how soft the middle is for one rock-toting running back from Wisconsin.
I'd love to tell you that rivalry week was wrought with more huge matchups, but aside from the simple fact that they are rivalries, there's not much more out there. Nebraska travels to Iowa City to try and clinch a spot in Indy, Michigan State hits the road to try and become bowl-eligible in the Twin Cities, Northwestern hosts Illinois to try and round out a very successful season, and Indian travels to Purdue to see who is more irrelevant.
Next stop: Indianapolis
Phil is the lead Big Ten columnist for CFN.Follow him @PhilHarrisonCFN