Instead, the power void created in part by NCAA sanctions against the Buckeyes and Lions is still most likely to be filled by the Buckeyes or Lions. The defending conference champ, Wisconsin, was upset early at Oregon State, barely survived an upset bid by Utah State and opened Big Ten play by blowing a 20-3 lead at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' momentum was stopped dead a week later in Columbus. The only non-sanctioned team without a conference loss, Michigan, has been blown out by Alabama and held without a touchdown by both Notre Dame and Michigan State – the latter in a Wolverine win, because the Michigan State offense is even worse. Because Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible, only Michigan and Wisconsin appear in the most recent BCS standings, at No. 22 and No. 25, respectively. Which was an improvement on the initial standings, actually, which didn't feature a Big Ten team anywhere in the top twenty-five.
At the moment, the championship game looks like a collision course between Wisconsin out of the "Leaders" Division and the winner of this weekend's Michigan/Nebraska tilt in Lincoln from the "Legends" Division, a race among three teams whose best win between them to date is a one-point, come-from-behind escape at Northwestern. As much scorn as the Big Ten bore for its terrible non-conference record in September, the fact that its would-be game of the year is essentially meaningless is just icing on a very stale cake.
Football Outsiders – 7th Day Adventure: Welcome to the Ineligi-Bowl
At Football Outsiders, the weekly picks column is up, ruminating on the sad reality of the best game of the Big Ten season, plus analysis, advanced stats and picks for the weekend's biggest games
By Matt Hinton