Try this for the ultimate capper to one of the Big Ten's most embarrassing football seasons ever:
Indiana, which just broke an 11-game league losing streak, becomes the Leaders Division representative in the title game.
It's hardly an even-money bet, but it's also far from unthinkable.
As we know, Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) and Penn State (5-3, 3-1) are ineligible for the Dec. 1 game in Indianapolis because of NCAA sanctions. Of the four remaining teams, most figured Wisconsin was home free, especially after recharging its offense and winning three straight games in October.
But UW's newfound momentum vanished Saturday in a loss at home to struggling Michigan State.
Not only did the Badgers lose 16-13 in overtime, they lost quarterback Joel Stave for the season to a broken collarbone on a sack by MSU's William Gholston.
Stave, a redshirt freshman, was part of Wisconsin's massive offensive retooling after two games.
He took over at quarterback for Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien the same week that coach Bret Bielema fired his offensive line coach. The goal was a return to what he called “the program's DNA” — power running, drive blocking and play-action passing.
On Saturday, with Stave on the field, Wisconsin gained 150 yards. Under O'Brien, who entered on the second play of the third quarter, the total was 40 yards.
Here's more bad news for the Badgers (6-3, 3-2). All-America tailback Montee Ball, who seemed back on track with three consecutive 100-yard rushing days, gained 46 yards on 22 carries against MSU.
Said Bielema: “To go nine straight weeks and be on the verge of getting everything back to where we wanted to be, (this) is difficult to swallow.”
Enter Indiana, which last won a Big Ten football championship 45 years ago.
The Hoosiers (3-5, 1-3) broke a skid that stretched two seasons by beating Illinois on Saturday 31-17. Big deal, you say. Everybody beats Illinois, which is true.
But Indiana, under second-year coach Kevin Wilson, has played Ohio State to three points and Michigan State to four points.
Up next is lethargic Iowa at home, and then Wisconsin at home.
Two wins there and a split of the final two games against Penn State and Purdue would leave Indiana 4-4 in league play with a head-to-head tiebreaker over Wisconsin. The Badgers would then have to beat Ohio State and Penn State back to back to claim the division crown.
So how about Indiana playing in Indianapolis to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1967?
Sounds like the perfect ending to the Big Ten's imperfect season.
Some other Monday musings:
>> Yes, Nebraska is in the driver's seat in the Legends Division. It's the driver's seat of a dented 1984 Chevrolet Chevette, but you enjoy the ride any way it comes in college football these days.
>> Sure, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's injury impacted the Nebraska game. But it wasn't like the Wolverines have been sprinting up and down the field with him, either. Michigan's combined offensive touchdown count against Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Nebraska is two.
>> The best play that Michigan backup quarterback Russell Bellomy made against Nebraska was running down Husker safety P.J. Smith after an interception to save a touchdown.
>> Michigan State is fifth nationally in total defense, seventh in rushing defense, 10th in scoring defense and 14th in passing defense. That means when MSU and Nebraska meet Saturday, the first one to 14 points wins.
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