Every week, The Cud chews over the undigested issues in Big Ten football.
THE DREAM IS STILL ALIVE: Yes, children, fear not; despite the Big Ten’s notable crab bucket mentality this season, everything is still in place for a 5-7 Indiana team to play for the Big Ten title. The Hoosiers won on Saturday and the Badgers lost. Now so long as Indiana can beat Wisconsin on Nov. 10, IU can play for the title provided the Badgers lose out. The odds of the Badgers losing out went up dramatically over the weekend when Wisconsin lost Joel Stave for the season with a broken collarbone. The Hoosiers get Iowa at home this weekend, then the Badgers come to town. It won’t matter if IU can beat Iowa (though I think it can); the only two games it has to win are against Wisconsin and at Purdue. Here’s what’s even scarier: Legitimate bowl eligibility isn’t out of the question for the Hoosiers either, even with a 3-5 current record.
WE CAN’T WIN BUT WE CAN STILL SHUT YOU OUT: Perhaps the thought of a 5-7 (okay, 6-7) Big Ten team in the Grandaddy of Them All doesn’t do much for you. Even I admit it’s a pretty distant hope but it’s less far fetched (nearer fetched?) than it was last week at this time. Never mind. It’s not the only way the Big Ten can screw up the BCS this season. Do recall that the BCS rules grant an automatic bid to the highest-ranked champion of a non-AQ conference provided that teams finishes (a) ranked No. 12 or higher in the final BCS standings, or (b) ranked at least No. 16 but ranked ahead of the lowest-ranked champion of an AQ conference. Boise State is currently No. 19. Nebraska, the highest-ranked Big Ten team, is No. 20 and the lowest-ranked current leader of an AQ conference. If Boise State keeps winning and stays ahead of Nebraska, it should rise above No. 16 and earn another BCS bid. That would freeze out an at-large team from an AQ conference. With Notre Dame threatening to get its automatic bid for finishing in the top eight, that would be two otherwise qualified teams frozen out of the BCS, and they’d probably be from the Pac-12 and ACC. Combine this scenario with the one above and we could see Oregon, getting edged out of the title game by Kansas State or Notre Dame, squaring off against a 6-7 Indiana squad that got hot at just the right time. That would see Stanford or USC schlepped off to the Alamo Bowl to face Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or West Virginia in a game that should be played outdoors on New Year’s Day but won’t be.
AND WE CAN EVEN BURN DOWN THE MISSION: Now envision a not-entirely-impossible scenario where Alabama actually loses a game somewhere along the way and so does everybody else except Ohio State. There would be nothing preventing the AP from declaring OSU the national champions even though the Buckeyes wouldn’t have played in the postseason at all. Again, this is perfectly compatible with both situations discussed above. It would almost be worth the humiliation of this tepid puke bucket of a season just to hear the bawling from the South if 6-7 Indiana made it into a BCS game, Clemson and Oklahoma didn’t and an SEC team was not the undisputed national champion.
NOW: Just imagine if all the above happens plus Notre Dame beats Alabama for the national title.
WORTHY OF TRENDING: Northwestern’s tenacity, Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson (clutch), Michigan State’s defense (still), Indiana’s offense (also still), Nebraska’s defense (finally)
I KNOW TOMORROW YOU’LL FIND BETTER THINGS: Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave (as mentioned, out for the season), Penn State’s offense
“GOOD JOB, GOOD EFFORT”: Anyone and anything connected with the offenses at Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Michigan State