Monday links: Badgers eye BCS berth

There is one game left in the regular season, and let’s kick off Monday’s links with a look at what Wisconsin has at stake. It’s a lot. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the biggest motivation is clear. A victory over Penn State keeps alive Wisconsin’s hopes to secure a BCS at-large berth.

“We’ve had a great season so far,” redshirt freshman center Dan Voltz said. “But we’ve still got one regular-season game left. We’re hungry to get that win and control what we can control.

“After next week we’ll see how it goes.”

Wisconsin moved up four spots to No. 15 in the BCS standings. Teams that finish with at least nine victories and in the top 14 of the BCS are eligible for an at-large berth. Bottom line: The Badgers are sitting pretty for a spot in, say, the Orange Bowl. It would be deserved. If Wisconsin hadn’t been jobbed at Arizona State, it would have nothing to sweat out. Oh, well.

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Big Ten standings
Leaders
Conference Overall
Ohio State 7-0 11-0
Wisconsin 6-1 9-2
Penn State 3-4 6-5
Indiana 2-5 4-7
Illinois 1-6 4-7
Purdue 0-7 1-10
Legends
Conference Overall
Michigan State 7-0 10-1
Nebraska 5-2 8-3
Iowa 4-3 7-4
Minnesota 4-3 8-3
Michigan 3-4 7-4
Northwestern 0-7 4-7

Yeesh, the last chapter of 2013 hasn’t even been authored, but Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free-Press already is looking toward 2014. And, he likes what he sees. Who doesn’t?

Rexrode notes that as MSU enjoys a third season of double-digit wins out of the past four, a glance at its roster suggests four out of five will be attainable. But playing in the new East Division will pose challenges. Namely, Ohio State. And Michigan and Penn State only will improve, too.

On the subject of MSU, Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com is hearing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s name for the UConn job. No shock. His name was linked to it the moment the post opened.

But, should Narduzzi take it if offered? I say, “No.” He can do better.

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Nice take here from Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register, who says Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis has gone from buffoon to genius.

Logue notes that perceptions can change quickly. In the case of Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, it took about an hour last Saturday in a big win over Michigan that altered the way we’ll view the Hawkeyes’ 2013 season. Take a bow, Greg.

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Lee Barfknecht of Omaha.com apparently isn’t a Michigan State believer. He has some good points.

Yes, Barfknecht is an admirer of the Spartans’ growth as a program under coach Mark Dantonio and the work done by Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. There is NFL-caliber talent at all three levels of the defense. But Michigan State’s soft schedule prevents him from accurately analyzing that defense yet, even as late as Thanksgiving week.

If Nebraska’s MASH-unit offense can go for 392, what will Ohio State do with a healthy quarterback (Heisman candidate Braxton Miller), the best offensive line in the Big Ten (led by tackle Jack Mewhort) and an All-Big Ten running back (Carlos Hyde)?

Fair enough.

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Well, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was hard on himself after the loss at Iowa, saying the defeat was his fault.

“I lost the game by myself,” Gardner said. “I fumbled the ball when they trusted me (with it).” Hold on there, Devin. There was plenty of blame to go around.

More to the point: What now for Michigan as it preps to welcome Ohio State? It could get ugly.

Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com says Brady Hoke was asked what, exactly, this team has to play for after a 24-21 loss at Iowa. Hoke said two things.

“We’ve got to play for our seniors,” Hoke said. “That’s been the first thing we’ve always played for. “And we’ve got a pretty big rivalry game next week.”

Playing for the seniors is fine, but playing for pride — and playing to avoid what could potentially be the second humiliating loss at the hands of a rival this season — probably means a whole lot more for Hoke and the general path of his program at the moment, notes Baumgardner.

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Ohio State, quite simply, is rolling. Ohio State is a solid No. 3 in the BCS. Here is analysis from Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

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Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle says help is on the way for Penn State.

The Nittany Lions are 6-5 with a game left at Wisconsin. So, let’s say they’ll finish 6-6. So, there won’t be consecutive winning seasons for Penn State under Bill O’Brien. No shame there. But as Scarcella notes, if not for the collapse of the special teams Saturday vs. Nebraska, Penn State would have clinched a second straight winning season under O’Brien despite the NCAA sanctions.

You could argue that O’Brien has done as good a coaching job this season as he did last season when the Lions finished 8-4 and he won several national coach of the year awards. The scholarship reductions and injuries have left them thin at several positions. Scarcella notes 61 recruited scholarship players dressed for Penn State against Nebraska, which has a full complement of 85. The odds have been stacked against them every week, but don’t tell them or O’Brien that. They don’t want to hear it. Amazing, huh?

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Recruits are excited about Minnesota. And that excites Jerry Kill.

“They were excited about the game,” Kill said Sunday. “Every one of those recruits said, ‘Man, this place loves football.'”

Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press says that although a bitter wind and temperatures in the teens welcomed fans at game time Saturday, the recruits Kill spoke with lifted his spirits.

“I haven’t had one person say anything about the weather,” he said. “Seriously.”

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

Yep, have to end on a positive note.

Now, just win-out and hope Alabama or FSU loses. Simple.

That is crazy.

Badgers looking good for BCS at-large bid.

So there is that. If MSU loses the Big Ten title game, it’s likely headed to the Capital One Bowl. Sorry.

That about says it all, right?

Ok, I guess I agree.

I won’t disagree.

This is shameful.

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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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