Five B1G Things We Learned - Post Week 14

Posted Dec 2, 2013

Phil Harrison solves the world's problems one reflection at a time. If that falls short, he can at least give you five of the biggest things to take away from each week's Big Ten action. It's football in the Heartland -- so read on.

By Phil Harrison
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Five B1G Things We Learned - Post Week 14

5. Wisconsin is not BCS worthy

The Badgers needed just one more victory against a Penn State team that fell miles short of playing with anyone away from Happy Valley. What looked like a mere formality turned into anything but, as Wisconsin made mistake after mistake, while Penn State ad Christian Hackenberg looked like the second coming of Tom Brady against an unusually porous Badger secondary.

The shocking loss, in combination with Michigan State and Ohio State taking care of business on Saturday will put to rest any ideas of a BCS bowl. Wisconsin is still a top fifteen type of team, but it just didn't get it done in crunch time, and the continued losses in close games has to be a concern for the coaching staff. Now the most likely landing spot looks like the Capital One or Outback Bowls where an SEC team like Missouri or South Carolina likely await. THAT would also be a very intriguing matchup.

4. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde is the best running back in the league

Everyone likes to talk about the dynamic playmaking ability of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller -- and for good reason -- but it's time to raise a glass full of Scarlet and Gray Champaign to tailback Carlos Hyde. All Hyde has done is finish first in the Big Ten in average rushing yards per game at 143.3 yards per game, fourth in the league in total rushing yards with 1,290 yards, second with fourteen TDs, and second per rush average with 7.8 ypc.

And … Hyde did it all while sitting out the first three games in the penalty box. Braxton Miller is Braxton Miller, but Ohio State would not be where it is without the senior tailback from Naples, Florida. And Michigan -- who had no answer for him -- would have most certainly put a fly in Ohio State's national title soup Saturday without his 226 yard effort.

3. Iowa is no fluke:

What will it take for the Hawkeyes to crack the Top 25? There was the early loss to Northern Illinois -- who just happens to still be unbeaten -- and then three other losses to Michigan State (11-1), Wisconsin (9-3) and at Ohio State by ten. If this were March Madness and we were comparing résumés, those would all be considered "good losses."

Seeing how all of those teams are ranked in the Top 25, and Iowa beat every other team it played, why isn't it getting more love in the polls? Part of it is because the Big Ten is suffering still from a perception problem, and part of it is because Iowa hasn't made a big splash victory this year. Any way you look at it, Iowa is solid in almost every phase of the game and can play with about anyone.

The toying of Nebraska in Lincoln resulted in the Hawkeyes tying for second in the Legends division and will likely land it in a much better bowl -- something akin to the Outback depending on where OSU, Michigan State, and Wisconsin end up going.

Bottom line for Hawkeye fans: Root for the Big Ten to get two teams into the BCS and the potential vacation destination looks much better.

2. It may not take Penn State too long to rebound:

Penn State is not playing with a full-deck (and rightfully so) because of the imposed sanctions as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. But from a football standpoint, Bill O'Brien has been able to weather the storm fairly well. There was an overachieving year last year, and now a seven win season on the tales of that this year.

You simply can't miss much on recruits when you don't have the full-compliment to give. To that end, perhaps the most important recruit Penn State has landed since the sanctions is quarterback Christian Hackenberg. All the freshman from Palmyra, Virginia has done is quickly absorb the Bill O'Brien system enough to finish third in the league in passing as a rookie with almost 3,000 yards.

A good quarterback can hide a lot of warts, and with the reduction of the scholarship limits coming in 2014, the Nittany Lions might be able to tread water and then kick out into a freestyle swim when it's all said and done.

It's just too bad we have to even talk about why Penn State is in this position in the first place.

1. Ohio State versus Michigan State is going to be a whale of a game:

Now that both teams took care of business over the weekend, we can talk this up a little.

It's the type of matchup that may have never happened without the advent of a conference championship game. Remember Iowa and Ohio State in 2002? They didn't play because neither was on each other's schedule due to the rotating nature of the round-robin format. Ohio State was on its way to a national title, while Iowa was putting the finishing touches on its own undefeated conference slate in route to the Orange Bowl. Yet, they never stared each other down.

Fast forward to this year where both Ohio State and Michigan State look to clearly be the two best teams in the league. The Spartans represent the Legends division, while OSU carries the baton for the Leaders division. Because the two aren't natural rivals and protected for scheduling purposes, and because the rotation of the crossover games don't have the two playing, we could've had a share of the conference title yet again.

But no longer. Because of the realization of a Big Ten Championship Game, we now get the delight of these two undefeated conference teams meeting to settle the score on the field -- without an asterisk, and without the question of "what-if?"

The potential of this matchup on paper is a juicy prime-rib in the Heartland. You have Ohio State and all that offense on one side, and Michigan State and the abundance of defense on the other side. You've got Urban Meyer and his gunslinging mentality against Mark Dantonio and his calculated-risk mindset. The Buckeye offensive-front against the Spartan front seven should be where this game is won … and lost. It's two top-ten teams meeting with BCS and national championship implications on the line.

And it's happening next Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy unlike 2002. Let the countdown begin.

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