|This story originally published on CollegeFootballNews.com|
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS - Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Ball continues to rack up some astronomical career stats in Madison. Last Saturday, he continued the trend by rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns during the blitzkrieg against Indiana. With the three TDs, Ball now has 71 career rushing touchdowns which is good for a tie for first with Ron Dayne in Big Ten history. The senior also moved his total touchdown tally to 77 which is good for second all time in the NCAA and likely a lot more dates.
Ball hasn’t been able to keep pace with the crazy numbers he threw up last year, but his re-emergence this season has been one of the key factors in Wisconsin righting this ship after an early-season swoon.
TEAM OF THE WEEK - Wisconsin
Keeping with the Big W theme, congratulations goes out to the Badgers who laid a good-ole fashioned beat-down on what had looked like a much more competitive 2012 Indiana team 62-14. With the win, the Badgers secured their second straight trip to Indy to represent the Leaders division. The Badgers clearly have the Hoosiers number, winning the last two years by a score of a whole lot to not nearly enough.
And they did it in convincing fashion. Pass? Who cares about yacking the ball all over the field when you can pound the opponent into oblivion to the tune of 564 yards on the ground. Only Fred Flinstone ran more while driving. With the win, the Badgers also stay in contention to try and tie for the division crown with Ohio State who is gassing up the plane to Madison in preparation for the big one Saturday.
PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE WEEK - Devin Gardner’s Play at QB
For the second straight week, Devin Gardner showed Wolverine fans that things may not be so bleak next year without untied shoelaces. Gardner--again filling in for a not-quite-right Denard Robinson--passed the ball for 286 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 of 29 completions. He also rushed for 47 yards and two more scores. Gardner showed poise in leading Michigan to an improbable comeback against Northwestern to keep pace with the ‘Huskers atop the Legends division.
CLUNKER OF THE WEEK - Indiana at home versus Wisconsin
The question of whether Indiana was ready to step to the forefront in the Big Ten was answered loud and clear Saturday. The answer? NO! As has been the case all year, Indiana wasn’t even able to stop grass from growing on the ground, giving up over 600 yards of total offense, and 62 points against Wisconsin. Unlike the rest of the year, the offense hardly showed up with only 14 points put on the board. Speaking of boards, perhaps its back to the drawing board and onto getting rebounds off the boards for Hoosier fans now turning their attention to basketball.
12. Illinois- It might be time to prepare for Southern Illinois in 2013.
11. Minnesota-It’s a win, but there’s an asterisk next to it because the Illini were the victims.
10. Iowa- Things have hit rock bottom when a struggling Purdue team beats you at home.
9. Purdue-As bad as the season has been, the Boilers sit just two games out of a bowl spot, with two to play against beatable competition.
8. Indiana- Still don’t know what to think of the Hoosiers, but they are definitely improved from almost nowhere the last couple of years.
7. Michigan State- Still hanging around the middle of the pack because of an inability to close games out offensively. Mark Dantonio still isn’t smiling.
6. Northwestern- The Wildcats had B1G Championship hopes a few weeks ago. No longer though a decent bowl is still in reach.
5. Wisconsin- If the Badgers could be more consistent against better competition, they’ll rise.
4. Penn State- It has been a successful season for a widely unsuccessful last year off the field.
3. Michigan- Still hanging around if Nebraska falters. Gardner has looked good in Robinson’s absence.
2. Nebraska- This is the season the ‘Huskers were primed to have last season. Two games to go, two winnable games for its first Big Ten title game appearance.
1. Ohio State- Big tilt in Madison this week. Then.... The Game. Clinched a tie for the Leaders division versus the bye-week.
1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Miller is still the only real threat to get to New York in the conference. There are no numbers to throw out as OSU was idle, but McCarron’s poor showing against Texas A&M likely helped the sophomore’s case to get invited to the festivities.
It’s still Miller or bust, and that’s a long shot as well.......
For the first time in conference play, every team has fans turning on the television sets Saturday. The big matchup this week is undoubtedly OSU at Wisconsin. The Badgers have already clinched representation in Indy, while the Buckeyes have already clinched a share of the Leaders division. With a Wiscy win, the division trophy is still out there for the taking, while an Ohio State win clinches it outright. This is always one of the most physical games in the Big Ten, and if you like defense and hard hitting, you’ll want to tune in to ABC/ESPN2 at 3:30 Eastern.
There’s really not more happening at the top of the league in head-to-head matchups, but Northwestern at Michigan State bears watching for bowl positioning. Also, Michigan can’t afford a loss at home versus Iowa if it wants to keep hopes alive of getting to Indy, and the Hawkeyes seem to give the Wolverines fits no matter what’s happening with both teams.
To round out the schedule, Minnesota travels to Nebraska, Illinois hosts Purdue, and Indiana travels to Penn State to face another physical defense.
See you next week....