Big Ten title will be decided today (and probably by some computers tomorrow)

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor  of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates with fans after beating the University of Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Ohio State won 20-17 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images).

After Friday’s games, today might be a little anti-climactic, but there’s still plenty to be determined on college football’s more traditional day.

The Big Ten title is still up for grabs, with three teams — Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State — all tied at the top with one loss. If all three win, the BCS standings will decide who goes to the Rose Bowl. That will likely be Wisconsin, which has that edge going into today. If Wisconsin loses and the other two win, the BCS will again decide who goes to the Rose Bowl, as Ohio State and Michigan State did not play each other. It’s a problem the Big Ten will have solved next year when there’s a title game (two title contenders not playing each other, that is. As the Big 12 showed us two years ago, the BCS can still decide a divisional race if all hell breaks loose).

If Wisconsin wins, however, and either Ohio State or Michigan State lose, it will be a lot more clear cut. The Spartans get the bid with an Ohio State loss as they have the head-to-head edge over Wisconsin. The Badgers get it if Michigan State loses, because they hold that same edge over Ohio State.

So those are your scenarios (sure, there’s the “all three lose” scenario, as well, where Iowa is back in the mix, but I don’t want to force that upon you before noon). Here’s how it will play out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Crazy day in the Big Ten: Wisconsin scores 83, Iowa falters on the road

IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 23- Quarterback Scott Tolzien  of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with teammates Isaac Anderson  and Bradie Ewing  after their the University of Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 31-30 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

I went out for the afternoon to cover a high school football game, and all hell broke loose in the Big Ten. Well, not all hell, but some, anyway.

The big news is that Iowa, one of the four teams that came into this weekend tied for the top spot in the conference, lost on the road to Northwestern. The Wildcats came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 21-17 win over the Hawkeyes. Dan Persa hit Demetrius Fields for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:22 remaining in the game for the winning score.

The loss could be the end of Iowa’s conference title/BCS hopes. They can help themselves out quite a bit next week, however, by taking out Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium.

One team they cannot stop, however, is Wisconsin, which I think just scored on Indiana again (it doesn’t matter what time you’re reading this, that still works). The Badgers won 83-20 (!) at home today, for their fifth straight win. You’d be hard-pressed to convince me any team is playing better in the Big Ten right now than Wisconsin. The Badgers finish the season with a game at Michigan and at home against Northwestern.

After scoring 83 on Indiana, anyone want to put an over/under on what they’ll score against Michigan? I mean, the baseline has to be like 65, right? Oh, and I forgot to mention, Wisconsin did that without John Clay in the lineup. How this team looked so bad early in the season, and lost to Michigan State by 10, I’ll never know.

Northwestern upsets Iowa for the second straight year

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats encourages his team as they take on the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The last time Iowa faced Northwestern was last year when the Hawkeyes were 9-0 and streaking towards a date with Ohio State for the chance to play in the Rose Bowl.

But the Wildcats ruined Iowa’s dreams then and then did it again this year.

For the fifth time in the last six meetings between these two teams, Northwestern was able to get the best of Iowa in a dramatic 24-17 win at Ryan Field in Evanston. The Wildcats were trailing 17-7 after Hawkeyes’ quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw two touchdown passes early in the third quarter. But Brian Peters picked off Stanzi near the goal line in the fourth quarter and the Northwestern comeback was on.

Dan Persa found Jeremy Ebert on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 6:21 remaining in the game to cut Iowa’s lead to 17-14, then Persa threw up a jump ball that Demetrius Fields snagged for another score with just 1:22 on the clock. Stanzi drove the Hawkeyes into Northwestern territory, but a 4th-and-16 Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete with six seconds left and the Wildcats hung on for the win.

Outside of Ohio State, Northwestern is the only other team that Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz has a losing record against. Without a chance to win the Big Ten, Iowa will try to ruin Ohio State’s chances next week at home at 3:30PM ET.

Joe Paterno gets 400th win in comeback fashion

With a recruiting pitch like that, it’s no wonder that Joe Paterno has hit the 400-win milestone.

He got it today with a 35-21 comeback win against Northwestern. As I have written in this place before, I feel like this should be Paterno’s final year at Penn State, but I say that knowing that he’s done so much in this sport, and I didn’t need today’s milestone to tell me that. Hitting 400 might be what he was waiting for, who knows.

Either way, it’s absolutely remarkable that a man at his age is still doing what he’s doing. I realize that he’s not calling the plays, and that he’s probably not as involved in the game-planning as he used to be, but he’s still there. He’s still stalking the sidelines and demanding respect from his players with his mere presence. He’s still Penn State personified.

So today is not a time to talk retirement or direction of the Penn State program. Today is a day to celebrate an absolute legend and the milestone he’s reached that won’t likely ever be hit again.

Congrats, JoePa, you deserved it.

Maybe Mark Dantonio should stay in the box

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 05: Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio watches the action during the game against the Montana State Bobcats on September 5, 2009 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Mark Dantonio has been coaching his Michigan State team from the press box for the past few weeks after suffering a heart attack following the Week 3 win against Notre Dame.

With Dantonio in the box (or not even there in two instances), the Spartans were 4-0, and looking like a legitimate Big Ten title contender. But now, with Dantonio back on the field, the Spartans are in a world of hurt early against Northwestern, trailing 17-0 in the second quarter.

There’s still a lot of time left in this one, and I doubt Dantonio’s sideline presence is really having that much of a negative impact, but it’s quite a coincidence. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell has had a lot of success running things down there, and it’s been Michigan State’s offense that’s been so anemic today. Also on upset alert early on, Notre Dame getting gashed by the Navy option and trailing 14-10, and Texas struggling with Iowa State.

Could be an interesting set of noon games, for once.

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