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Around the Big Ten, week 7 (and an update on IU's non-conference opponent).

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Northwestern and Penn State had byes this week, and IU played out-of-conference, so there was a lighter-than-usual Big Ten schedule this week.  Still, the headline game threw the Big Ten race into turmoil.  Wisconsin's beatdown of then top-ranked Ohio State was a big story, but perhaps the biggest Big Ten-related story of the weekend was basketball-related.  Purdue's Robbie Hummel, just a few months after he tore his ACL late in the Big Ten season, tore the same ACL again on only the second day of basketball practice.  He will miss the rest of the season, and his two talented classmates, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, will finish their careers without Hummel. Purdue fans everywhere are understandably devastated by the news.  Hammer and Rails isn't giving up:

We cannot, and will not quit. That is not our way. I am sure there are some Indiana fans out there tonight beside themselves with joy that our dream season is allegedly ruined before it begins. So we drop from a top 5 team to a top 15 team before the season begins. The last time I checked those early season rankings mean dick. It only matters what you do in the end, and I absolutely will take the cast we have this year to make some noise. Yes, anything short of a National title will now always carry that What If, but imagine if we can still pull it off?

I agree that Purdue still will be a strong team, an NCAA lock and a Big Ten title contender.  Purdue could be a Final Four threat, but it would require a best case scenario in terms of injuries, improvement, and readiness of freshmen.  Where I take exception with this post is with the notion that there is some meaningful percentage of IU fans gloating over an injury to a good kid and excellent basketball player.  I haven't seen or heard any of that, either in person or on the Internet.  If anything, I have been surprised at the outpouring of well-wishes for Hummel from IU quarters, from Tom Crean on down.  I won't for a minute deny that I do not want Purdue to make it to the Final Four or win a NCAA championship.  That doesn't mean that I'm happy that Hummel is injured.  I've said it before, but I think the rosy guarantees emanating from Boilerland prior to the Hummel injury betrayed a lack of understanding of how hard it is to win a championship.  Three of Bob Knight's teams entered the NCAA Tournament ranked #1.  Three of Bob Knight's teams won the NCAA title.  Only one team, the undefeated 1976 Hoosiers, can claim membership in both of those groups.  Yes, Purdue with Hummel would have been one of the handful of teams with the very best chance of winning the title.  But would the 2011 Boilers have been more formidable than the 2010 Kansas Jayhawks, a talented team that entered the Tournament with a 32-2 record, led by two guys who had been a part of a NCAA championship team two years earlier, but somehow honked against Northern Iowa on the first weekend?  I'll try to give Travis and Purdue fans the benefit of the doubt.  I was dismayed when I saw the newsflash during the IU football game, so I can only imagine how Purdue fans feel.  But if IU fans are going to be accused of such treachery...well, it's a big Internet.  Find a link. 

Now, back to football.

Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 18

A couple of weeks after being handled by Michigan State, the Badgers re-entered the Big Ten race with a win over #1 Ohio State in Madison, in a game that was more lopsided than the final score would suggest.  The Badgers returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and OSU never took the lead. Bucky's Fifth Quarter was justifiably thrilled:

The Badgers could not have gotten off to a better start. And not just because David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown (which he did). And not just because John Clay ran for two touchdowns in the first half (which he did). And not just because the defense held Ohio State to just 11 total plays and 35 yards in the first quarter (which it did). Those events certainly played a huge part in Wisconsin jumping out to an early three-possesion lead, but nothing was bigger than the 19 play, 89-yard touchdown drive that took 10:11 off the clock in the first half. Wisconsin pounded the ball right down Ohio State's throat and mixed in some clever passing plays to put together its most impressive drive of the season.

Along the Olentangy can't find much good to say:

To say that OSU's 31-18 loss at Wisconsin is dissapointing was an understatement. OSU did not seem prepared for the tough road environment and surprisingly came out sluggish. In hindsight the opening kickoff was a back breaker. It was the exact punch Wisconsin needed and put OSU in a hole they were never able to dig out of. Many predicted that special teams coverage would come back to bite OSU at some point this year and this prediction came true. All facets on that kickoff were horrible--the kick was too short, allowing a running start, and seemingly every Buckeye could not get off a block.

Michigan State 26, Illinois 6

The Spartans didn't suffer a letdown after their win over rival Michigan.  They dominated IU's next opponent, Illinois.  Comparative scores are an imperfect measure, but what does this say about Penn State?  The Only Colorstakes a look at the big picture, and likes it:

The Michigan State Spartans are currently 7-0, ranked 8th in both the Coaches' poll and the AP poll. When the BCS rankings are premiered tonight, SB Nation site BCS Evolution predicts Michigan State will enter at #7. The mood currently being felt is giddiness - giddiness over the present (7-0 WOOOOO) and the future. With Ohio State's loss yesterday, the Spartans now control their destiny for the Big Ten title. The next six weeks are going to be hell - in the sense that it's going to be a hell of a time and a hell of a ride. Get psyched everyone.

Hail to the Orange tries to find the common thread in Illini losses:

If there is a trend we can see in this team it can be found in the offense. The Illini have now lost three games this season (admittedly, to teams with a combined record of 19-1) and in the second half of those games we have scored exactly zero touchdowns, thrown five INTs and lost one fumble. Basically, when we have lost games this year, it is because our offense has fallen apart after halftime. Maybe it is the feeling of desperation that snowballs for a young first year QB, maybe playing from behind makes us focus much more on the passing than we should, maybe we have had trouble making adjustments after the opposing the defense makes their half time changes. I don't know. I just know that Petrino and Zook are going to have to address this in the future, because MSU's defense in combination with carelessness by the Illini, made scoring the second half seem impossible.

Iowa 38, Michigan 28

So far, the Michigan Wolverines' season has been quite similar to last year's.  An undefeated pre-conference season, a tight win over IU to start the Big Ten season, and then nothing.  The Wolverines now are 0-2 at home in the conference.  Black Heart Gold Pantssays that turnovers were the key to Iowa's win:

Entering the game, it seemed clear that if one team controlled the turnover margin, they'd probably win; casting turnovers aside, both offenses looked capable of putting up similar numbers on the other. Remember, this game had about a four-point spread. And lo and behold, Iowa forced four turnovers while committing none, and it's awfully hard to argue that those turnovers weren't a major factor in Iowa's wins.

Meanwhile, Maize n Brew desperately wants to believe that 2010 isn't a repeat of 2009:

While I was initially disgusted at the mental errors, the turnovers, the missed opportunities, on Saturday, two days removed I am less so. This is not the same team I saw last season. This Michigan team has depth on offense. One injury, even two critical injuries cannot derail this offense. On defense, they may not be deep, but dammit they're trying. They may even be improving. Michigan won't face another trio of talented receivers anything like Iowa's until the last week of the season. They've shown they can get stops, now if their offense can keep from turning the ball over (3 INTs and a redzone fumble) they may actually turn out to be okay.

Purdue 28, Minnesota 17

Purdue appeared to be in trouble after losing Robert Marve to a season-ending injury against Toledo, but the Boilermakers are 2-0 in the conference, and are one of only three remaining teams with undefeated Big Ten records.  Hammer and Rails notes that the defense has played well:

I am very pleased with the defense today. They didn't allow much from a decent offense until it was 21-0. Both touchdowns came after the outcome was well decided, so I am not concerned about them. Part of this was Minnesota moronically running right into the line on 70% of their plays, but we still contained their backs and even knocked down a lot of passes. Kawann Short took the game over for a series in the fourth quarter. Da'Jon McKnight was the only player who did much of anything. Adam Weber ran well, but mostly he ran because Ryan Kerrigan and others were after him.

Of course, after the game Minnesota fired Tim Brewster, effective immediately.  The Daily Gopher knows that Minnesota has made no progress since its firing of Glen Mason after the 2006 season:

The reality of this situation is not fun. The Gopher Football program is essentially starting over, and whether or not you actually wanted to see Coach Brewster go, the fact of the matter is that if you step away from the emotion of the situation that we as fans feel right now, our football program is in a very precarious spot. There are a lot of very good reasons that this coaching job is an attractive option for the right candidate, but if there is the perception that this job is a coaching career killer, it's going to be very difficult to get a top flight coaching candidate at the University of Minnesota.

IU played one of its nonconference opponents last weekend, and Towson was off.  Akron and Western Kentucky remain winless:

Louisiana-Monroe beats Western Kentucky 35-30 - College Football -
Louisiana-Monroe scored 28 straight points in the fourth quarter and went on to beat Western Kentucky 35-30 Saturday night. The loss was the 26th straight for the Hilltoppers (0-6, 0-2 Sun Belt Conference), who have the nation's longest losing streak. Western Kentucky led 24-7 in the fourth quarter, but could not close out the Warhawks (3-3, 2-1). - College Football news

Jackson, McCrae leads Ohio past Akron 38-10 - College Football -
Quarterback Boo Jackson ran for two touchdowns and threw for another score to lead Ohio past Akron 38-10 on Saturday. Jackson scored on a 1-yard run and wideout Terrence McCrae hauled in a 35-yard touchdown from Riley Dunlop to put the Bobcats (4-3, 3-1 Mid-American Conference) up 14-0 in the first quarter. - College Football news