Halfway through this college football season things were looking quite different in the Big Ten Conference. Sure, Ohio State was still near the top and Penn State was undefeated, but that's nothing all that unexpected. The surprises were the mighty fall of Michigan, the collapse of Wisconsin, the inability of Illinois to follow up a Rose Bowl appearance, and the surprises that were Northwestern and Minnesota.
Well, after Saturday afternoon, things are starting to look normal again. The Northwestern Wildcats welcomed the Ohio State Buckeyes to Evanston this morning, and the Buckeyes were not the most considerate guests. They had outscored the Wildcats 160-24 in the last three meetings between the teams -- that's an average score of 53-8 -- and they've now outscored Northwestern 205-18 in the last four meetings.
So while the Wildcats are making progress, this loss puts an end to any hopes the team had of going to a BCS bowl should Penn State remain undefeated and play in the title game.
Up north in Minnesota, the Gophers had been a nice story after starting off 7-1, but they followed up their loss at home to Northwestern last weekend with a horrible 29-6 loss at home to Michigan. A Michigan team that's looked horrible all season, yet finally managed to resemble a college football team this afternoon.
Then there are the Illini, who took a trip outside the conference today, and took on Western Michigan at Ford Field in Detroit. They should have stayed home because the Broncos beat them 23-17, and the Illini are now 5-5. You can't call this game an upset because Western Michigan (and the top of the MAC in general) is a pretty good football team at 8-2. Still, if the Illini want to be perennial contenders in the Big Ten, losses like this won't help.
So now the Big Ten looks a lot like you'd expect it too. Michigan is at the bottom of the conference, but Ohio State and Penn State are keeping things in order at the top (though as I write this the Nittany Lions are in a battle with Iowa). What hurts the most about this weekend though is that it's not going to help the opinion of the Big Ten across the country.
Penn State is trying to stay undefeated and get to the BCS title game, but they currently trail both Alabama and Texas Tech, both of whom are also undefeated. If all three teams finish the season with perfect records, I have a feeling it will be the Nittany Lions who are left out in the cold, and they'll have the rest of their conference to thank for it.