Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 25, 2012

There is an opportunity to learn each Saturday. And I took advantage of it. Among other things, I learned deciding who will be Big Ten coach of the year may be a difficult thing to figure out. Here?s what else I learned on the final Saturday of the regular season.

1. Ohio State capped a 12-0 season with a methodical 26-21 win over Michigan. And some wonder if the Buckeyes could stand toe-to-toe with the likes of national elite squads Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Oregon. I say ?yes.? It?s true, Ohio State isn?t a dominant team, rarely blowing out opponents. And the Buckeyes didn?t play a daunting schedule. But show me a dominating team. I don?t think there is one in the nation. Bottom line: I think Ohio State could play with-and beat-any team in the nation. Too bad it?s on probation.

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2. It is an interesting discussion when it comes to Big Ten coach of the year honors. A great case can be made for Penn State?s Bill O?Brien, who led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record overall and a 6-2 league mark. After an 0-2 start, Penn State went 8-2 with losses to Ohio State and at Nebraska, the top two teams in the Big Ten. And how about Ohio State?s Urban Meyer, who forged a 12-0 mark in his debut season in Columbus? An argument also can be made for Nebraska?s Bo Pelini, who led the Cornhuskers to a 10-2 record and Legends Division crown when most picked Michigan or Michigan State to win the division. Tough, tough choice.

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3. Northwestern finished the regular season with a strong 9-3mark. And in all three losses, the Wildcats blew a second-half lead in falling. Northwestern fell 39-28 at Penn State (28-17 lead); 29-28 to Nebraska (28-16 lead); 38-31 in overtime to Michigan (24-14 lead). Just think of what this season could have been in Evanston. Still, Pat Fitzgerald did a great job.

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4. Wisconsin won?t be rolling into Indianapolis with a lot of mojo. The Badgers have lost their last two games-and three of their last four. And all three of the defeats have come in overtime, 16-13 to Michigan State; 21-14 to Ohio State; 24-21 at Penn State. Wisconsin will bring a 7-5 mark to the Big Ten championship game to play Nebraska, which downed the Badgers 30-27 back on Sept. 29 in Lincoln. Still, Wisconsin can undo this slow finish with a win in Indy to make it to a third consecutive Rose Bowl. The last Big Ten team to do that was Michigan after the 1976-78 seasons.

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5. Gotta give credit to Michigan State and Purdue for delivering when their backs were against the wall. Each needed to win on Saturday to become bowl eligible. And the Spartans and Boilermakers each came through, as Michigan State won at Minnesota, 26-10, and Purdue downed Indiana, 56-35. It will be the Spartans? sixth bowl in succession and the Boilers? second. But the future of Purdue coach Danny Hopes looks to be up in the air. Stay tuned.

[RELATED: How did we do? Week 13 Big Ten picks revisited]

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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