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Posted on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Big Ten title game will be interesting, but it likely won't thrill a nation

By Nick Baumgardner

The inaugural Big Ten Championship Game is less than a month away.

On Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, one of the country's most storied conferences will make history with its first one-game-decides-all title bout.

But if a tree falls in Indiana next to a pair of bland teams, does anyone see it?

The luster of the game will no doubt capture attention, especially in the Midwest.

But nationally? Maybe not.

Consider this: There's still a real chance the game could feature a matchup between Penn State and Iowa.

Off the field, Penn State's in shambles. The entire Jerry Sandusky scandal has greatly overshadowed anything the Nittany Lions have done between the lines. On the field, they've barely been able to squeak by in just about every game they've won.

As for Iowa? Well, the Hawkeyes lost to Minnesota two weeks ago.

Need we go on?

The conference's most marquee matchup at this point may well be a rematch between Michigan State and Wisconsin.

But neither of those teams is exactly stellar. Wisconsin failed to get itself together in crunch time during back-to-back weeks, while Michigan State ruined its shot at a perfect league season by getting thumped at Nebraska before barely getting by Minnesota at home a week ago.

Not exactly Alabama vs. LSU, is it?

The blandness doesn't stop there.

Look at the rest of the league.

Michigan can't seem to figure out an offensive identity, Nebraska got pushed around on its own field by Northwestern, and Ohio State has proven it can win games — so long as the forward pass is eliminated as a legal play.

Illinois looked like it was ready to set the world on fire a month ago, but now the Illini seem content on only showing up for games after a halftime snack.

Northwestern is still Northwestern, a talented squad that scares the stuffing out of folks, but seems to be a few key pieces from being legit.

Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana?

I don't have anything nice to say, so I'll heed the advice of mothers everywhere.

Every team is flawed, no team really goes down as elite, and though the opening kick of the first Big Ten title game will captivate an audience due to its newness, but the remaining 59:55 might put folks to sleep.

You can call parity; I'll call it something else.



Sky high: Iowa (6-3, 3-2)


Iowa fans can enjoy the fact that the Hawkeyes are positioned well in the Big Ten Legends Division standings.

Melanie Maxwell |

Up from the ashes, or something like that.

Whether or not Junior Hemingway's knee was down Saturday doesn't matter now.

The Hawkeyes knocked off Michigan, and are in complete control of their own destiny moving forward in the Legends Division.

Believe it.

One week after embarrassing itself with a loss to woeful Minnesota, Iowa finds itself in as good a position as anyone to advance to the Big Ten Championship Game.

It won't be easy, but nothing's impossible. Iowa hosts Michigan State this week before closing at Purdue and at Nebraska.

Win them all, and Fox's ratings for the Big Ten title game are officially wrecked.

Rock bottom: No. 19 Nebraska (7-2, 3-2)

The only reason Nebraska takes this spot over Michigan is because the Cornhuskers blew their remaining shot at a Big Ten crown at home, to Northwestern.

Michigan lost on the road in one of the toughest environments in the league. Nebraska lost in Lincoln, a place it claims is difficult to play in.

Northwestern laughed at that notion Saturday.

There are bad losses, and then there's this one.

Nothing against the Wildcats (a talented club), but Nebraska has to be better than this in November at home.

Last week's heavy lifter: Montee Ball, Wisconsin junior RB
The man crush continues.

Ball rumbled for a career-high 223 yards and three more touchdowns last week in a 62-17 thrashing of Purdue. What's more impressive? He did it on 20 carries, racking up an average of more than 11 yards per rush.

Ball has 1,076 rushing yards on the season, second to Iowa's Marcus Coker for the Big Ten lead. His 21 rushing touchdowns by far lead the conference, and he continues to be the league's leading individual scorer at 16.2 points per game.

He has 24 total touchdowns, tying a Wisconsin single-season record. Two more scores and he’ll tie a Big Ten single-season mark.

Standout stats

Rushing yards allowed by Purdue over the past two weeks in losses to Michigan and Wisconsin. To date, Purdue's leading rusher (Ralph Bolden) has 469 yards rushing.


Individual 100-yard rushing performances by Ohio State in a win over Indiana. Boom Herron (141), Carlos Hyde (105) and Braxton Miller (105) became the first Buckeye trio to complete the feat since 1989.


Penalties per game committed this season by Indiana, last in the Big Ten and 102nd nationally.


Sacks this season by Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, the nation's leader.


"I think he could be really good next year, I've just got to convince him of that." — Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema on junior running back Montee Ball, a player who will have the option of either returning to school or heading to the NFL Draft a year early.

Off the cuff:
There's no hiding it, no overlooking it and no sense denying it: The alleged situation with Jerry Sandusky and Penn State is disgusting, deplorable and tragic. But rather than solely focusing energy on how horrible and irresponsible Penn State was in handling the situation (which clearly appears to be the case), or continuing to discuss Joe Paterno's fate in all of this, remember the real issue here.

The individuals and families who were victimized by these alleged heinous acts.

This situation goes beyond football. Far beyond.

Children were taken advantage of by someone they trusted, and several others appeared to look the other way.

Any guilty parties in this situation will be dealt with.

But the victims will likely never receive full restitution for what happened.

And that, more than anything else, is the truest shame of all.

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



Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

I think the Big Ten title game will be Michigan v Ohio. Just not this year.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:18 a.m.

I'm sure there will be a strong contingent in the Midwest that watches the game. In three weeks a lot can happen to change perception. I do know this, in a matter of four days my perception on Penn State University has done a face plant. Without getting myself too worked up the most bogus aspect of the Jerry Sandusky allegedly raping children is this. To being with Foster children do NOT have access to the two people in their lives they should be able to depend on and trust above all (their biological parents). Children (of such a young age) do NOT have the resources, ability, physical or mental capabilities to protect themselves from this type of abuse. It is disgusting to think that not only was Jerry Sandusky allegedly farming children through his charity for his sexual perversions but the victims will never be able to have a childhood without being abused sexually. I hope the victims have healthy loving relationships with adults and people they trust and never have to endure such wrongs again in their lives. Good article Nick. Excellent choice of words in conveying your opinion.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 3:10 a.m.

I have an idea, how about just calling it the "Amos Alonzo Stagg Trophy". I think that sounds good to me, take Paterno's name off of it, his lack of action in a disgusting matter is deplorable IMO. He ignored it and hoped it would go away and surprise, surprise, it didn't. I have no respect for him anymore, where is the integrity he supposedly preached? How about exemplifying some, huh JoePa? I would love for Michigan to get in the Indy Game, that would help viewership tremendously with the cache M has all over the country. Win the final 3 games and hope for MSU to lay a couple of eggs, you never know. Go Blue!!!


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

Herein lies the problem with naming a trophy after an active coach. In this case, it's Joe Paterno. The Big 10 went and named it inaugural trophy after him before the scandal let loose. I'll bet Delaney wishes he could have a "do over" on naming the Stagg-Paterno Trophy. What a huge mistake that turned out to be.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

Good article. So what does B1G Commish Jim Delany do with the "Stagg-Paterno" champsionship trophy? The question was asked at the water cooler in the office. The new saying now: "It is what it is". Mediocre teams to play for the conference championship will not lend itself to a lot of eyeballs outside of the B1G conference. I have good knowledge the B1G will be well represented in the NCAA Cross Country Champsionship Meet and Wisconsin might contetend for the team title. It is a good year for the non revenue sports in the conference.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

I like the Stagg- Yost trophy....I'm sure Dleany will switch it for us.


Thu, Nov 10, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

Simply put, none of the B10 teams deserves to be top 25 (I have a feeling people are sick of me saying that). I think the best thing for the B10 would be Iowa vs. anybody, so nobody pays attention. Is it possible for Minnesota to squeak in? That would be funny. Until the B10 teams prove that they can (and will) play and win against nationally elite (or even above average) competition, any matchup in the championship should elicit a big "Who Cares"