2011 Big Ten Football
Leaders Divisional breakdown
With three weeks left in the season we are coming down to Championship time in college football. Added pressure will be put on the teams of the Big Ten conference as all of these teams will be vying for a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game that will pit the teams with the best conference records from the Legends and Leaders Division. With this added pressure it is time to see who is who in this conference.
In the Leaders Division it is essentially Penn State’s to lose. This all coming very inconveniently for a program that is now going through one of the most horrendous scandals in recent college football history. Most of the season has been somewhat of a surprise for the program sitting now 8-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play. Coming into the season the Lions had no defiant leader at quarterback and really lacked identity on offense period. That problem has followed the Lions well into the season and they have had to lean on one of the best statistical defenses in the country.
The scandal is a whole different matter. With legendary coach Joe Paterno officially being fired along with the universities’ president due to their actions, or lack thereof, involving the sex abuse rumors of former employee and defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the football team now has to find a way to pull together to fend off competition for three weeks and get into the big game. Penn State has arguably it’s three toughest games left on the schedule beginning this week at home against Nebraska, then at Ohio State and at Wisconsin.
Coincidentally Ohio State and Wisconsin are the two teams that pose the biggest threat for Penn State for the Leaders crown. Lets start with the Buckeyes. Beginning the year they had there own scandal to deal with. Players were suspended, Jim Tressell stepped down as coach leaving a huge void, and the lack of talent on the field due to suspensions and injuries early in the season stifled the Buckeyes. They have fought there way back into the conversation.
After losing a tough one in Lincoln to Nebraska Ohio State has knocked out Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Ohio State, now 6-3 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play, need to win out and have Penn State lose one other game to sneak there way in, after a 0-2 start in league play. Their remaining schedule has them going to Purdue, then ending at home for the last two games for Penn State and arch rival Michigan.
Wisconsin is sitting in the same position as the Buckeyes. After beginning the year 6-0 and 2-0 in Big Ten Play and being in the national championship conversation, the Badgers fell to both Michigan State and Ohio State in one possession ball games. The Michigan State loss came on the last play of the game and was possibly one of the most controversial plays of this season. With that being said the Badgers do need some help in the dwindling weeks to get back on top of the conference. They have games at Minnesota, at Illinois, and a huge game at home against Penn State to end their regular season.
In the form of a tie in records currently Ohio State holds a head to head edge against Wisconsin. As mentioned Penn State and Wisconsin have yet to play head to head which could prove to be a division championship game.
Every season is a journey and all three of these teams have had a long, strenuous, adversity filled one. Adversity builds character and we will see which one of these teams character can rise above the others.