I got into an interesting debate last night with a couple Northwestern writers. As I was watching Nebraska defeat Michigan and really muddle up the Legends Division race, we were trying to figure out who we needed to cheer for to give Northwestern a shot at representing the Legends Division in Indianapolis. I believe our consensus was Michigan because it was more likely Michigan would lose two more games — to NU and then to Ohio State — as opposed to Nebraska. The three-way tiebreaker is highest BCS rank, so that obviously does not help the Wildcats at all.
Here is what I can gather looking at the standings this morning: Nebraska is in the driver’s seat at 3-1 in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers win out, they go to Indianapolis and play for that Rose Bowl berth. Northwestern needs some help, but the big key for NU is to win out as well. That would mean a win over Michigan (sending Michigan to two Big Ten losses). But it could also potentially mean Michigan would have to defeat Ohio State to ensure Northwestern does not face the head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska.
So, it would seem Northwestern needs two losses from Nebraska to have any hopes of winning the division — in addition to winning out, of course. Nebraska’s closing schedule? @ Michigan State, vs. Penn State, vs. Minnesota, @ Iowa. Is it possible? Yes, but Northwestern should not count on it. In other words, Nebraska really put itself in the driver’s seat in the division by defeating Northwestern and Michigan in back-to-back weeks.
The Cornhuskers got themselves back in the national conversation — at least to the extent the Big Ten is part of the national conversation — by getting those two wins. You can certainly make the argument that was the theme in college football this weekend. Georgia took control over the SEC East against Florida and Notre Dame had everyone asking if they are “back” after upsetting Oklahoma at Norman.
Northwestern is back in it too to some extent. The Wildcats just need a lot of help.
Here is my BlogPoll ballot for this week after the crazy weekend in football. Let me know what you think and if you have any edits you think I should make, I may include them in future drafts. College football is very much a work in progress right now UPDATED 4:35 P.M.:
Last Week: defeated No. 22 Mississippi State 38-7. This Week: at No. 10 LSU (7 p.m. CT/CBS)
The Buzz: The Crimson Tide finally get what most would consider a real challenge in the suddenly weakened SEC West. Alabama has not had to face Florida, Georgia or South Carolina to this point of the season. Last week’s 38-7 thrashing of Mississippi State was arguably the best team Alabama has seen. The Crimson Tide have absolutely dominated their opponents to this point. The hope is LSU’s defense will provide a challenge this weekend at Death Valley. Obviously not as much hype surrounding this game as Alabama should remain the thanks to its consistency and experience over an LSU team struggling to consistently generate offense.
2. Notre Dame
Last Week: defeated No. 13 Oklahoma 30-13. This Week: vs. Pittsburgh (2:30 p.m. CT/NBC)
The Buzz: It sucks putting Notre Dame at number two. But you have to give credit where credit is due. Notre Dame has scored some nice wins and none may have been nicer than the trip to Norman, Oklahoma. The Fighting Irish held the high-powered Sooners attack to just 15 rushing yards and harassed Landry Jones all night. He completed 35 of 51 passes, but the fact he had to throw 51 times might be a victory for Notre Dame’s defense. This Fighting Irish team is very scary defensively and Manti Te’o might be making a bid for the Heisman as a defensive player.
Last Week: defeated Colorado 70-14. This Week: at No. 18 USC (6 p.m. CT/FOX)
The Buzz: The Ducks are a bit of a victim of unfortunate scheduling. Next week’s game against USC was supposed to be Oregon’s showcase game. But thanks to the Trojans losing in Tucson, it seems more like a wimper for the Pac-12. Oregon State losing does not help Oregon a ton either. But the Ducks continue to put up a whole ton of yards and decimate whatever team lays in front of them. Oregon has an average winning margin of 34.0 points per game and the closest game the team has played was a 42-25 win over Fresno State. Challenge please?
4. Kansas State
Last Week: defeated No. 24 Texas Tech 55-24. This Week: vs. Oklahoma State (7 p.m. CT/ABC)
The Buzz: Collin Klein might be the frontrunner for a wide-open Heisman race after he torched a respectable Texas Tech defense this weekend. Klein passed for 233 yards and two touchdowns on 19-for-26 passing and added 83 yards on 12 carries rushing and two rushing touchdowns. Klein has put together an incredible season and has Kansas State rolling toward a Big 12 Championship and maybe much more. The schedule does not ease up much, but so far Kansas State has had no problems dispatching with the opponents it has played.
5. Ohio State
Last Week: defeated Penn State 35-23. This Week: vs. Illinois (2:30 p.m. CT/ESPN)
The Buzz: Ohio State ended any talk of this team wavering after that game against Purdue and Braxton Miller’s injury by halting Penn State’s win streak and scoring a big win on the road in what many considered the two teams’ bowl game. Ohio State is undefeated and playing extremely well — doing enough on defense and getting a solid effort from Miller at quarterback. Miller scored three touchdowns and rushed for 134 yards from the quarterback position. The Buckeyes have always found ways to do enough to win. They did that and more Saturday.
Last Week: defeated Michigan 23-9. This Week: at Michigan State (2:30 p.m. CT/ABC)
The Buzz: Ranked too high? Perhaps. Especially since I did not have them ranked last week. But Nebraska also has this going for them — the team is the prohibitive favorite to win the Big Ten after Wisconsin’s loss and Nebraska’s wins over Northwestern and Michigan. The Cornhuskers control their own destiny and seem to have found their groove here in the middle of the season. The emergence of Ameer Abdullah has been a major victory for the Cornhuskers with Rex Burkhead struggling with injuries. He had another solid game against Michigan and the defense shut down Michigan with Denard Robinson out.
Last Week: lost to No. 16 Nebraska 23-9. This Week: at Minnesota (11 a.m. CT/BTN)
The Buzz: It is amazing what can happen when you lose your team’s heart and soul. Denard Robinson left the game late in the first half and the Michigan offense simply stopped. The Wolverines managed only three points in the second half and Russell Bellomy really struggled against the Cornhuskers, completing only 3 of his 16 passes for 38 yards. Robinson was having a decent day before his injury, and he obviously would have given Nebraska more problems defensively. Minnesota will be a difficult challenge if Robinson cannot play.
Why No Northwestern?: The Wildcats seem to be right outside the top-25 again. Personally, I would like to wait until they score a major victory before ranking them again. The first half of the Iowa game was a fantastic showing, but the mistakes in the second half do tend to stick out since they were repeats of many of the mistakes against Penn State and against Nebraska. A road win over Michigan though puts NU back in the top-25.