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Posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

B1G Notes: Michigan State still the favorite in Legends Division

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan States quarterback Kirk Cousins is chased by Nebraska's Cameron Meredith during the Cornhuskers' 24-3 win last week.

AP Photo

Which Legend will make history?

After the Michigan football team bounced back with a victory last week and Nebraska spoiled Michigan State's bid for a perfect Big Ten run, the Legends Division is a logjam.

Unfortunately, professional wrestling stipulations don't apply here. Meaning we can't take all three teams, put them in a steel cage and see who comes out standing. We've simply got to let the season play out.

Boring, I know, but it's all we have.

So who survives to talk about it in Indianapolis? The Wolverines, the Cornhuskers and the Spartans all have a shot.

But which team has the easiest road to the Big Ten championship?

Pole position: No. 15 Michigan State (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten)

The Spartans hold the tie-breaker with Michigan, but more importantly, MSU has far and away the easiest close to the season in this group.

Michigan State hosts Minnesota (Saturday), travels to Iowa (Nov. 12), hosts Indiana (Nov. 19) and travels to Northwestern (Nov. 26). Combined records of those teams: 11-22.

The Spartans have already run the difficult part of their 2011 gauntlet, and though last week was rough, all isn't lost.

Fan anger scale if they don't make it: 10 out of 10. Cue Mike Valenti, a collapse here could get interesting.

In second: No. 9 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1)

The Cornhuskers grabbed a tie-breaker with the Spartans last week, but their final month of the season is far more difficult.

Nebraska gets a bit of a breather this week when it hosts Northwestern, but then it travels to league unbeaten Penn State (who will be fresh off a bye week) just before taking a visit to Michigan. If Nebraska can survive those two unscathed, it'll have to finish up against Iowa at home.

The combined record of Nebraska's final four: 23-10.

Fan anger scale if they don't make it: 7 out of 10. It would be a 6, but Bo Pelini's rage is always good for one extra point.

The dark horse: No. 13 Michigan (7-1, 3-1)

Michigan already lost to Michigan State, and has yet to earn any sort of tiebreak against Nebraska. More importantly, the schedule is just more challenging.

The Wolverines have back-to-back road games against Iowa and Illinois before finishing up with back-to-back home tilts against Nebraska and Ohio State.

The combined mark of Michigan's final four is the same as Nebraska's, 23-10. However, back-to-back road games are never easy. And I don't think we have to bring up the Wolverines' recent history with Ohio State.

Do we?

Fan anger scale if they don't make it: 4 out of 10. Michigan really wasn't supposed to be here in the first place, but Wolverines fans never take losses in stride.



Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, top center, celebrates with teammates after Illinois missed a field goal on the last play last weekend and Penn State won, 10-7.

AP Photo

Sky high:
Penn State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten)

Every week, we keep saying Penn State really isn't that great. Every week, the Nittany Lions basically tell us where we can shove our statement.

It's never pretty, it's never easy and it's usually a borderline trainwreck, but it doesn't matter: Penn State is the only team unbeaten in the Big Ten play and sits in complete control of the Leaders Division with three games left to play.

Penn State survived an unexpected blizzard and caught a break when Illinois kicker Derek Dimke clanged a last-second field goal off the post last week.

The offense is suspect (PSU had just 209 total yards), but the defense has been dominant (PSU allows a league-low 12.4 points per game).

The path gets tougher for Penn State, as it finishes with games against Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin, but for now, the road to Indianapolis runs through Happy Valley.

Whether you like it or not.

Rock bottom: Iowa (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten)

The Hawkeyes aren't in total shambles record-wise, and still have a chance to put together a fine season.

But losing to Minnesota? Seriously?


Iowa gets 252 yards rushing from Marcus Coker, has a 446-371 edge in total yards, forces three total fumbles and still loses? To a team that's looked beyond inept all season?

Holy Hayden Fry, that's bad.

After going up 21-10 early in the fourth, Iowa completely fell apart. Minnesota held the ball for 13:25 in the fourth quarter alone before getting a three-yard score from MarQueis Gray late to go up 22-21.

The Hawkeyes had a chance to recover, but pitifully turned the ball over on downs in just 26 seconds before Minnesota killed the last 2:22 off the clock to polish off Kirk Ferentz's nightmare.



Last week's heavy lifter:
Gerald Hodges, Penn State junior LB

Penn State's offense has been atrocious, but that has nothing to do with Hodges and the defense. The junior linebacker made a career-high 19 tackles, 14 solo, Saturday during a 10-7 win over Illinois.

For good measure, Hodges added a sack, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

No word on whether or not he cooked the team meal or cleaned up the locker room after the game.

Standout stats


Games since a Michigan running back had received at least 20 carries in a contest. Fitzgerald Toussaint (20 carries, 170 yards) became the first Wolverine back since Carlos Brown (2009, vs. Illinois) to do so.


Total passing yards by Michigan State's Kirk Cousins in a 24-3 loss to Nebraska, just 42 yards more than the Hail Mary touchdown he threw to beat Wisconsin a week earlier.


Rushing yards in two games by Ohio State's Daniel "Boom" Herron. Herron missed the first six games of the season via suspension, but since his return, the Buckeyes are 2-0. Think he was missed, much?


Combined yardage totals by Northwestern and Indiana in the Wildcats' 59-38 win in Bloomington last week.


"Whether it be two straight or 10 straight, there's really no fun in losing. If you can accept (losing), then maybe it's time to do something else. Go collect stamps." — Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz on dealing with a loss to Minnesota last week.

Off the cuff:

A lot can happen in a span of 30 seconds.

In 30 seconds: A cup of coffee could be warmed, Denard Robinson could run the 40-yard dash almost seven times, a Rubik's Cube could be solved (not by me, I can do it in about five minutes), rice could be cooked (partly, anyway) and, apparently, the Wisconsin football team could have its heart broken — twice.

As if Michigan State's last-second hail mary to defeat the Badgers two weeks wasn't bad enough, Ohio State's Braxton Miller twisted the knife last week.

Miller's scramble and blind heave took roughly 15 seconds of real time to complete. Kirk Cousins' toss to Keith Nichol a week prior? About the same.

In a total of 30 seconds, Wisconsin went from being a national title contender to a team searching for ways to snap a two-game losing streak.

I wonder how long it takes the folks in Madison to get over that.

Bet it's more than 30 seconds.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


jeff blue

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

This is a very good article, BUT. MICHIGAN should be focused on one thing; beating Iowa in Iowa City. PERIOD!!!!

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

The favorite has to be Nebraska because the Huskers control their own destiny and the other teams do not. I think they will win at Penn State. If Michigan can beat them, then Sparty probably wins the division. I don't agree with the Penn State hype. PSU's best win was last week, against Illinois, where it was outgained 286-209 at home and trailed 7-0 in the fourth quarter. There's no other game against a top-50 team. While Penn State does control its own destiny, it has yet to play Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin will win that division.

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

I think Penn State WILL struggle down the stretch, but they have a cushion, and should win their division league. They'll beat osu in Columbus. The Nebraska game probably goes to Nebraska. But, I think PSU beats Wisconsin at Madison. On our side, I just don't see msu going through with no more losses. Probably Iowea gets 'em next week. So, if UM can beat Nebraska on the 19th, I think they'll play in Indy vs. PSU. Should be a great game.

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

Mrunner73. I like your thinking...lotsa football to be played yet! Michigan can only take care of Michigan, no one else, and to do that, they must take 'em one game at a time, maybe one quarter at a time. Should be a lot of fun. I'm getting geeked for Iowa already, and it's only noon on thursday for cryin' out loud!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

The Sparty schedule has two trap games for them, @ IA and @ NW. They were soundly beaten @ IA last year. So what if IA is not as good as last year. Seems that some of these teams in B1G have had repeat upset wins, like the IA vs MN games the past two years. As we know, B1G road wins are tough, just ask the WI folks. MSU was soundly beaten @ NE and has to pick up a lot of broken pieces. They get a break this weekend hosting MN so that will be a good buffer after the big loss to NE. Last year, NW should have won that game against Sparty and I look for that to be another dangerous match up. It "ain't over till it's over" NE has to win on the road as well, but not if Michigan has anything to say about it. It is too early to coment further on that match up. The Wolverines need two road wins, then will have a lot of momentum and confidence. Avoiding injuries will be the key. IA could be the spoiler if they can defeat Sparty but they had a terrible losing streak to end the 2010 season. Sounds like they don't close too well, we shall see. Penn State has the toughest end of season schedule. Good luck, going 3 and 0 the last three games, seems very unlikely. An interesting scenario, for sure in the B1G. GO BLUE!!!

jeff blue

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Very good points: Everyone talks about how Michigan has losses after losing to MSU --- not happening this year. Look at how Iowa swan dived last year -- they are not going to win on Saturday.