It was fitting that on the last day of the regular season one of the games went into overtime. Six of the last seven Saturday’s had such an occurrence. As I said going into the conference season, I really don’t care how the Big Ten stands up to other conferences. Still good competitive football that’s fun to watch. Ohio St became the first Big Ten team to finish the regular season undefeated since 2006 with their win over rival Michigan. Nebraska secured its spot in the conference championship game and will play Wisconsin. The Badgers backed into the game with a loss and will be representing the Leaders Division with a third place finish behind ineligible Ohio St and Penn St. I like Wisconsin’s chances in the title game, though, as they are playing their best football of the season( last two losses in overtime to division winner Ohio St and second place Penn St). The offensive line is much improved since their three point loss at Nebraska in September.
Nebraska 13 Iowa 7
Iowa kept this game closer than I figured as I predicted a 31 to 10 Nebraska win. As I’ve said in previous posts, once a team hits bottom they become dangerous as it’s not unusual for such a team to rally and turn in one last inspired performance. Iowa had been spiraling downward for the last half of the season and was fresh off of a drubbing at Michigan. So with the help of a cold windy day and a rowdy crowd at Kinnick Stadium, the determined Hawkeyes defense managed to keep Nebraska’s high powered offense in check most of the day. The effort was there on offense as well, but the weather and Nebraska’s defense proved to be too much for Iowa to score enough points to win. Nebraska clinched a spot in the conference championship game with the win.
Ohio St 26 Michigan 21
I predicted this game to go into overtime at 17, so a little low on the score but I knew the game would be close. Michigan’s four turnovers to Ohio St’s two was a difference maker in this hard hitting classic. Denard Robinson played most of the game at running back for Michigan and turned in a nice touchdown run with less than a minute before halftime. The Buckeyes came right back with a 52 yard field on the last play of the half to make the score 21 to 20, Michigan. The second half was closer to the defensive struggle I envisioned as Ohio St managed two field goals and held Michigan scoreless to seal the win. Throughout most of the year I had doubts about Ohio St’s chances of finishing undefeated. But I have to give credit to HC Urban Meyer and his player’s ability to play their best football when it counted most. Particularly the defense. Many times during the season the Buckeyes defense looked mediocre. But when they needed stops in big games, they always rose to the occasion. This game was no different.
Purdue 56 Indiana 35
I predicted Purdue to win, 34 to 29. I was close with Indiana’s score but didn’t figure Purdue to put up 56 points. I probably should have, though, considering Indiana’s defense. Purdue became bowl-eligible with the win. I don’t think Boilermaker fans are celebrating though, as the expectations for the season were for something better than a .500 season. Hoosier fans enjoyed a little excitement late in the season as Indiana actually had a shot at going to the conference championship game. Well, mathematically anyway. Realistically I don’t think even the most optimistic Hoosier fan could have held the thought for more than 30 seconds. Truth is, Indiana can thank Illinois for preventing the Hoosiers from being considered the worst team in the conference. True, Indiana did steal a win from Iowa this year, but I still wouldn’t take the Hoosiers in a rematch.
Northwestern 50 Illinois 14
My prediction was for Northwestern to win by a score of 30 to 17, so obviously I gave Illinois way too much credit. I thought Illinois would close out a poor season in the same way Iowa did on Friday; with one last inspired performance. The Illini did, after all, come close to their first conference win in last week’s three point loss to Purdue. Illinois did go toe to toe with the ‘Cats for about a quarter and a half. But the floodgates opened when it became obvious to the Illinois players that although they may be talented enough, they were far from organized enough to win this game. I said in last week’s recap of Illinois’ game that I was running out of ways to say how bad this team is. I found plenty of new ideas during this game. Illinois is a mistake machine. The phrase is most always used metaphorically, but if you handed an Illini player a loaded gun, I believe he would literally shoot himself in the foot. Illinois fumbled on the first play of the game, committed penalty after penalty and turned the ball over four times. Even HC Tim Beckman got in on the act as he was flagged for sideline interference as an official tripped over Beckman while he was lying on the ground. No, that’s not a typo; he was lying on the ground. In the last game of the season, there’s not much excuse for a team to be penalized more than once for not lining up properly. It’s never fair to fire a coach after the first season, and I’m not suggesting that here. But I am saying if there was ever a case for such action, Beckman’s 2012 effort with the Illini would set the precedent. He seems like a good man and a dedicated coach in his interviews. I hope he gets things turned around next season.
Penn St 24 Wisconsin 21 OT
I predicted Penn St to win, 24 to 14. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve become biased towards this Penn St team. I couldn’t help but be moved by the effort and enthusiasm these young men displayed on a weekly basis in the face of what many thought were poor odds of having a successful season. Everyone knows the story by now-where they started and how they’ve finished-. This game put a period on the whole season. The Nittany Lions came out with the number 42 on their on their helmets in honor of senior LB Michael Mauti, who was injured in last week’s game. Mauti was one of the leaders of this historic team and is credited with keeping what was left of the team together prior to the season. It was heartbreaking to know that he wouldn’t play in his final home game as a Nittany Lion. But what an honor to be bestowed on a young man and what a testimony to the team sport of college football. Fellow linebacker and team leader Gerald Hodges wore Mauti’s number on his jersey for the game and played lights out. Senior DT Jordan Hill also played an inspired game. Wisconsin came out in the first quarter and drove the ball right down the field on their first two possessions behind a much improved O-line, reminiscent of past Badger teams. But the Penn St defense shut the Badgers down for all but the last four minutes of the game when Wisconsin scored the game tying touchdown to send the game into OT. Penn St got the ball first and was held to a field goal. A perfect storybook ending for this game would have occurred if Penn St’s defense had recovered the Wisconsin fumble after a sack on the second play of Wisconsin’s possession. Or if Penn St LB Glen Carson would not have dropped a potential interception on the third play. But close enough to Hollywood as Wisconsin kicker Kyle French missed the tying field goal to secure the Penn St win. It’s always tough to see a college kid miss a game breaking field goal, but French will get his chance at redemption next week as the Badgers are the Leaders Division representatives in the conference championship game.
Michigan St 26 Minnesota 10
I was close with my 24 to 10, Michigan St, prediction. Minnesota returned an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter to take a 7-3 lead, but the Spartans were obviously the better team as they held the Gophers to 96 total yards. This game was typical of most of Michigan St’s games throughout the season. Excellent defense, slightly below average offense. Minnesota’s quarterback of the future, freshman Phillip Nelson, threw three interceptions and hasn’t played well in any of the Gopher’s November games.
KNEW IT ALL ALONG
-Nothing finer than spending an autumn Saturday preparing a nice meal (inside or on the grill) and watching Big Ten football.
Another football season in the books. Obviously I love watching the games, but once the season ends I always find myself looking forward to spending Saturdays like a normal person again. Committing thirteen straight Saturdays to watching football can be challenging. It takes some dedication to be able to say no to social events and it takes some effort to find time during the week to complete the tasks that are normally done on Saturday. But, by July I‘ll be anxiously awaiting the next season to kick off.
It’s been fun writing this blog. Much more time consuming that I thought it would be. I’m not sure yet, but I probably won’t do it next season because of the time involved and the lack of viewership. Will have to see how I feel about it in July. I’m going to keep posting the KIS rankings until they’re finalized and maybe submit a few more articles or comments. My coverage of the bowl games will be limited. I’m not big on non-BCS bowl games. Too much variety in the approach teams take. Some don’t want to be there, others look at the game like it’s a reward or a holiday and fail to prepare seriously, and then there are the coaches that use the game as a scrimmage for next year. The BCS bowls are competitive, but I’m put off by the mid-January date for the championship game. I’m old school. I miss the eight game schedule on New Year’s Day.
My Crystal Ball predictions for last Saturday were not great. In fact no one did well if you consider all categories. The spreads were as follows: Nebraska by 14.5, Northwestern by 20, Purdue by 5.5, Ohio St by 4.5, Michigan St by 8.5, Penn St by 2. If you click the “ATS” tab at the top of this page you will see that there weren’t many above .500 performances in any of the categories. I was 1-1 in the all-important “play” category as I won with Penn St and lost with Illinois. Cardinal and Chad Godfrey (@isportsweb.com) also went 1-1. Cardinal had the same picks as mine and Godfrey won with Northwestern and lost with Indiana. Hawkeye and Boilermaker both picked one loser. Hawkeye took Wisconsin, Boilermaker Nebraska. Wildcat and Horned Frog both went 0-2 as they both lost with Nebraska and Indiana.
The season totals are now final and I can say that I’m pleased with my results. I was the only one who finished above .500 in the “play” category, which I consider to be the most important since we’re talking ATS. I was only one correct pick away from finishing first in the other three categories. Chad Godfrey and Horned Frog finished one game ahead of me in the “within 7” category and tied for first place. I consider the “within 7” category to be the best barometer for determining accuracy. Boilermaker had a knack for being on the right side of the spread as he finished first in the “spread” and “closest” category. He wasn’t all that accurate, however, as he ironically finished last in the “within 7” category.
Florida moved into the first spot in this week’s rankings (see the tab at the top of this page) replacing Notre Dame, which fell to second. The TOTAL figures on the list are rounded to the second decimal. The difference between these two teams goes to the third decimal as Florida’s total is 1.687, Notre Dame’s is 1.685. Florida now has the highest OPP% among the teams I’m tracking, which is the main reason for the top ranking despite having one loss compared to Notre Dame’s and Ohio St’s undefeated season. Ohio St moved into the third spot and is done playing for the season. Notre Dame and Florida only have a bowl game left to play. This doesn’t mean the rankings are set until January, however, as there are still games to be played by other teams. The outcome of these games will affect OPP% wherever it is applicable to a particular team. It would improve Florida’s OPP%, for example, if Georgia were to beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, since Florida played Georgia this year, but did not play Alabama. Notre Dame would improve with a Stanford win over UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game or with a Navy win over Army.