Nebraska begins a final push for its first NCAA bid since 1998 tonight with a visit to Indiana. Not bad for a team picked to finish last in the Big Ten. Can the Cornhuskers close the deal? It will be difficult, as a visit from Wisconsin follows this game. “We’re good enough to be a tournament team,” Tim Miles told reporters. “We just need to win enough games to prove it.”
There is just no sugarcoating it: Darrell Hazell’s debut was brutal. How brutal? The 1-11 season arguably was the worst in Purdue history. And the one win came vs. a FCS foe that went—you guessed it—1-11. There was very little that this team did well last season during a winless Big Ten campaign in which blowouts were the norm. Perhaps this summarizes things best: The best player on the team was the punter.
Few teams in the nation are playing better than Wisconsin. In fact, the Badgers may have the stuff of a No. 1 NCAA seed. Really. Read on.
The good times are rolling at Minnesota, as Jerry Kill continues to put his stamp on the program. The proof: The Golden Gophers’ win total has improved each of Kill’s three seasons, going from three to six to eight victories last season. The guy has won at every stop in his career.
Michigan’s game at Illinois game tonight (read the review) that will take place tonight didn’t look so interesting a few weeks ago. Now, it drips with intrigue. A win would wrap up the outright Big Ten title for the Wolverines, the program’s first since 1985-86. But they know the threat that the Fighting Illini poses, having won three in a row and held their last four foes under 50 points.
Gary Andersen’s debut in Madison was a rousing success—save for the stumble at the end that saw the Badgers lose their regular-season finale at home to Penn State and then fall to South Carolina in the bowl game. Still, there is a lot for Wisconsin to build on after last year’s 9-4 mark that saw the program’s run of three consecutive Rose Bowls come to end.
There are five teams that look to be locks for NCAA bids: Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. But four other schools enter the final week of action making pushes for the Big Dance: Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana. Of course, each team could earn a NCAA bid by winning the Big Ten tourney in Indianapolis, which begins March 13. But short of that, what does each team need to do to make it as an at-large squad?
This is it, the last week of Big Ten action. And, that means one thing: Expect the unexpected. As for the title chase, there isn’t much drama left, as Michigan already has wrapped up at least a share of the championship. Other schools are looking to enhance their NCAA resumes.
Who is the hottest team in the league? It’s Wisconsin, and it’s not even close. After Sunday’s win at Penn State, the Badgers have ripped off seven wins in a row.
“Working” officials is an art form. Some coaches are masters at knowing just the right buttons to push over the course of a game to the point where—Who knows?—maybe they can get a key call in their favor. I asked several media members who cover the Big Ten which coach they felt was best at “working” officials.
Anticipation continues to bubble at Ohio State. It always does, just in varying degrees each season. Urban Meyer’s third Buckeye squad has the natives excited as it will begin to take shape. And there is plenty of work to do.
An interesting week in the Big Ten, as Michigan surged to the top of the conference as it looks for its outright conference championship since the 1985-86 season.
Talk of the Big Ten considering the possibility of playing some Friday night football games has created a buzz. I wrote a story about it earlier this week. In the two-and-a-half years I’ve been doing this job, I never have gotten as much email on a subject. It’s not even close. And, judging by the majority of your correspondence, the idea of Friday night football doesn’t have great appeal for fear of the high school game being impacted. Still opinions vary. Have a look.
The NFL Combine wrapped up earlier this week. And the Big Ten was represented well as players tried to impress for the 2014 draft. I talked to NFL Network analyst Charles Davis to get his thoughts on some of the top Big Ten talent that was on display in Indianapolis. Last year, just one Big Ten player was selected in the first round when Wisconsin center Travis Frederick went at No. 31 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Someone get me a towel and two aspirins. Whew! That was something last night. Where to begin? How about West Lafayette? Good teams find ways to grind out road victories. And that’s exactly what Michigan did last night in overtime at Purdue, stealing a win to stay atop the Big Ten standings. Sorta makes you think that this is a team of destiny.
You don’t have to tell Purdue’s Rapheal Davis that this has been a disappointing season. He’s living it. And, it’s not much fun. But the sophomore guard is soldiering on as the losses mount and the hope dwindles in West Lafayette.
I officially have given up trying to figure out this Iowa team. One moment, the Hawkeyes can take you breath away. In another, they can leave you gasping for air. Last night was one of those nights, as Iowa allowed 95 points in a loss to a Minnesota team that scored a combined 95 in its previous two games. The defensive lapse in the Barn was exasperating. Iowa has now lost two games in a row for the first time this season. How good is this team?
Talk about night football games continues to churn to the point where Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is soliciting input about playing Friday night games. Hey, it’s all about the almighty TV dollar, in case you didn’t know.
At first glance it’s not a great menu of games this week, but we all know anything can happen. As the Big Ten hits the homestretch of the season, Michigan has a one-game lead in the title chase and the Wolverines should cruise in its two games this week. Michigan State sits one game out and Wisconsin trails by two. Can the Spartans and Badgers keep pace?
Entering 2013, Northwestern was coming off a 10-win season that saw the program win its first bowl game since the 1948 season, ending a nine-game postseason losing skid. But the Wildcats are ready to turn the page on a 2013 season that opened with great promise but morphed into a season to forget.
Brady Hoke is set to begin his fourth spring in Ann Arbor. And, make no mistake about it: There is a sense of urgency.
There isn’t a marquee matchup this week, but there are some interesting subplots to follow as we hit the homestretch of the season. Among them: Iowa. The Hawkeyes will play three games this week, traveling to Minnesota and Indiana while playing host to Purdue. That’s three games in five days. How will the Hawkeyes respond to this grueling run?
The Big Ten is Michigan’s to lose after that big win on Sunday vs. Michigan State. I mean, look at the rest of the Wolverines’ schedule: at Purdue; Minnesota; at Illinois; Indiana. See what I mean? The victory put Michigan is a good spot to at least share the league crown, as long as it wins three of its last four. But I’m sure the Wolverines would like to win out and claim the school’s first out-right league crown since 1986.