Monday links: BCS talk, plenty of Spartans & tweets

The BCS race is getting a bit interesting, as Baylor has narrowed the gap—and I mean REALLY narrowed the gap as in .001 narrow—behind Ohio State.

But, honestly, don’t fret, Buckeyes. As Matt Hayes of Sporting News points out, the Buckeyes could conceivably be No. 4 heading into the final week of the season, and jump to No. 2 — if Alabama or FSU loses — ahead of Baylor by beating Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. So, bottom line: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the last few weeks of the season.

***

Mike Griffith of Mlive.com was impressed by Michigan State’s win at Nebraska. Heck, he handed out straight As to the Spartan skill positions.

I guess that’s OK. But he was kinda hard on the guys in the trenches. But tell me you didn’t love that “Charlie Brown” fake field goal? It kept alive a key drive that resulted in a TD and turned a 27-21 MSU lead into a 34-21 advantage.

With a win Saturday at sagging Northwestern, Michigan State can clinch a second trip in three years to the Big Ten title game. Not bad.

Michigan State is 6-0 in the Big Ten, so with a win at Northwestern or a loss by Minnesota (4-2) at home against Wisconsin, the Spartans will earn a trip to the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7. Even if Michigan State doesn’t capture the Legends Division title outright next week, the Spartans can still clinch it the following week by beating Minnesota at Spartan Stadium in the final game of the regular season. Thanks, Diamond Leung of Mlive.com!

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If you are tired of the Ohio State-BCS exercise, try this one out: Can Michigan State make a case for beating Ohio State after the Buckeyes’ performance at Illinois?

Without a doubt!

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The rout of Purdue behind a hard-charging running game has Penn State on track for a winning season with a visit from Nebraska on tap.

While the Nittany Lions waltzed through a 45-21 win and did it with that dominating running game, Nebraska battled with a back-up quarterback against the bruising Michigan State club for a shot at the Big Ten title game. All of which should impact Nebraska as it hits the road for the league’s longest trip to play a buoyed-up team with nothing to lose. If the Nits can find a way to win that game in which they could well be a home dog, they will have achieved a second straight winning season amid unprecedented calamity.

Pretty amazing, huh?

***

The great Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com offers a video breakdown of Michigan’s wild triple-overtime win at Northwestern.

It was fun to see true freshman Derrick Green get the start at tailback. He looked pretty good, too, vs. a decent Northwestern front. Even more vital for the Wolverines: Ending a two-game losing skid that had the native grumbling.

***

Something good for Indiana did come out of the Hoosiers’ game at Wisconsin: They don’t have to play the Badgers again until 2017! The great Tom Oates of Madison.com is feeling wistful, saying it’s a shame—for Wisconsin.

This has been basically an automatic “W” for the Badgers in recent years, a matchup of epic mismatch proportions.

In the past four years, the average score of the four meetings is 64-11. In those games, the Badgers have averaged 600.8 total yards and 447 rushing yards. They’ve scored 23 rushing touchdowns. And how about that Badger defense? The Hoosiers showed up with one of the nation’s most explosive offenses Saturday and it got muted.

Speaking of Wisconsin, here is a writer who thinks the Badgers should be in the AP Top 10.

It’s hard to argue against it. It’s shameful how this Wisconsin team is being overlooked. Too bad.

Seth Gruen of the Chicago Sun-Times says to throw away that sham of a loss to Arizona State. That’s the officiating gaffe of the year that prevented Wisconsin from being a one-loss team. And that one loss — the real one, anyway — came at No. 3 Ohio State, where the Badgers had the ball with a chance to send the game to overtime.

More: Six times Wisconsin’s defense has held teams to 10 points or fewer. The Badgers have three shutouts. On Saturday, Wisconsin held a talented Indiana offense to three points. Michigan State’s defense, which is perceived as one of the country’s best, gave up 28 against the Hoosiers.

***

As if things weren’t bad enough at Illinois, Tim Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit had a little sideline shuffle during the loss to Ohio State.

The spin doctors were out in full force afterwards.

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One last MSU item: Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal says Connor Cook no longer can be viewed as the Spartans’ default quarterback.

Translation: Cook can win a game for you. He’s not just a manager. He showed that in Lincoln.

***

In case you haven’t noticed, Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh is off to a great start. Not a shock. The kid arrived with a fat scrapbook. He has four double-doubles in four games. Here is video of IU coach Tom Crean talking about his precocious newcomer.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Gonna be fun.

My take: It’s just too bad there isn’t a four-team playoff now.

My take: Sounds about right.

My take: Good point.

My take: Agreed.

My take: Perfectly said.

My take: You have to take chances to build a program. Florida State football was the prime example. Play anyone, anywhere, anytime.

My take: Miracles do happen!

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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