It was a middle-class rebellion in the Big Ten on Saturday with Wisconsin's upset of Michigan, followed by Illinois' earth-shattering upset of Ohio State in Columbus. The games sent shock waves through the national title picture and the race for BCS at-large bids. The effects on the Big Ten race were non-existent--it still comes down to the Wolverines and Buckeyes next week, though each team missed a chance to clinch a share of the title going in. But these games will have one more odd effect--they could actually hurt the bowl positioning of Illinois & Wisconsin.
Before you think I've gone off the deep end, hear me out. Illinois, UW and Penn State were settled into a comfortable race for the New Year's Day bids in the Capital One and Outback Bowls. But that presupposed both UM and OSU getting bids to the BCS. Now, that's in serious jeopardy. There is no way that Michigan will get an at-large choice to a major bowl. They will either win the conference or they will not have a ranking high enough to qualify. As for Ohio State, they still would have a good shot at being picked if they were 10-2 and seeking an at-large home. But it's not the lock it would have been if they'd beaten Illinois and there a few realistic scenarios that could have a Buckeye team that loses Saturday being frozen out of the BCS.
Freezing either team out of the BCS means dropping them into the race for the January 1 games in Florida. And that means dropping two, rather then one, of the middle-class trio into the Alamo or Champs Sports bowls played the week between Christmas and New Year's. If this does happen, there's no doubt in my mind that both Illinois and Wisconsin are still much happier with the big wins they got on Saturday. But it's a quirky side effect and we'll have to see how it all plays out.
Herb Gould of The Chicago Sun-Times writes that Ron Zook was very low-key and calm for a man who'd just beaten the top-ranked team in the nation on the road. Ninety minutes up I-94, Jeff Potrykus of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is saying that this is the Badger team everyone expected to see back in August.
Indiana hurt its bowl chances via the more traditional method of losing a football game rather then winning one. Their torrid 5-1 start now seems a long way off, in the eyes of Terry Hutches at The Indianapolis Star. By beating the Hoosiers, Northwestern pulled themselves to 6-5 and joined IU in the wild race for the bottom bowl bids.
Two other teams also got their sixth wins. Michigan State delivered an enormous bounce-back performance in West Lafayette to beat Purdue. Kudos to Mark Dantonio, who is showing that these are not your father's Spartans (or at least not your older brother's Spartans). They didn't fold after the Michigan heartbreak and now have the new feeling of being bowl-eligible. And Iowa rounds out the quartet of 6-5 squads by beating Minnesota. This year has been an improbable turnaround for the Hawks, claims Andy Hamilton of The Iowa Press-Citizen.