During the first half of what turned out to be an absurd Michigan win over Illinois a few weeks ago, one of the commentators noted that this was a product of the "new" Big Ten where offense rules and defense has gone by the way side. I scoffed and said to myself "No, this is a product of Michigan being Michigan," and wrote off the comment as the commentator being what commentators are: sensationalists.
Yet, looking down this week's Big Ten's scoreboard this weekend, it's hard not to notice the near total lack of good, solid, Big Ten-style defense. For years, fans across the conference have cut off other leagues at the knees by pointing to the high point totals and video-game like statistics. Well folks, this weekend, only Ohio State gave up less than 20 points and not by much. The Buckeyes gave up 17 to Iowa. For fans of traditional Big Ten football, let's hope this is an aberration.
Illinois 48-Northwester 27 at Wrigley Field
The Illini proved once again this weekend that when their coach has his crap together, they make up a pretty dangerous football team. I'm relatively certain Mikel Lashoure broke a record for most yards gained in a single direction as he ran for 330 yards on Northwestern's defense at Wrigley, and Illinois is now bowl eligible. From the Northwestern perspective, it's hard not to feel bad for that team in the absence of Dan Persa. Even after losing in Happy Valley, the 'cats could have made it another solid season with him in the fold but, alas, Achilles hath been ruptured. Good luck to Dan on his recovery.
*Bonus Thought-I couldn't help but laugh at the purple marquee outside Wrigley Field for this game. How bad does your baseball tradition have to be for you to think it's a good idea to paint over one of the iconic symbols of your franchise with just Northwestern purple? I'm sure they're are plenty of Cubs fans who would tell me I'm just a bitter Pirate fan with that statement. Then I'd tell them, 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979. Kiss the rings, kids.
Ohio State 20-Iowa 17 in Iowa City
Terrelle Pryor had another maddeningly average stat line against good team this weekend, but the Buckeyes just keep winning. It's scary to think about how great that team could be with a polished passer behind center, but so long as TP keeps racking up the big wins, there ain't no one that's going to tell an Ohio State fan (or the media) that the kid really isn't that good. Give him credit for winning, though, I suppose. On the flip side of things, what does Iowa have to do to get a break? It seems like the difference in all three Big Ten losses has been a play or two. I guess it's the inverse of last season when it seemed like every bounce went the Hawks' was for much of the season.
Michigan State 35-Purdue 31
When "In Scores of Other Games" are announced at Beaver Stadium, it's rare that you don't get an "OOOOOO" out of the crowd when a ranked team is losing, whether it's some non-auto qualifier that just scraped into the rankings for a week or someone in the top five. When FedEx Field was flashing updates from the Purdue-Michigan State game on Saturday, though, it was hard not to notice the ambivalence with which the crowd of over 78,000 received the score. It was like no one was at all surprised that the Spartans proved to be as vulnerable as they were against the Boilermakers. I guess we'll see first hand if Sparty has the guts to get it done this weekend, but my guess is that at least most Penn State fans don't think it'll happen despite the lofty ranking.
Wisconsin 48-Michigan 28
If there's a team that's ready for the Rose Bowl and a possible all-or-nothing showdown of Big Ten Vs. Boise State, it's Wisconsin. The Badgers made possibly the most exciting runner in all of college football in Denard Robinson look like a side show on Saturday by racking up 357 running yards of their own in an overwhelming victory. Some around the conference felt the Badgers might be vulnerable to a high powered attack like Michigan, but those some failed to consider that Wisconsin, not Michigan, has this league's best offense right now. For the Big Ten's sake, we should probably hope this team doesn't lose momentum between now and New Year's.