Penn State. Wisconsin. Leaders Division title – and a trip to the Big Ten title game – on the line this afternoon in Madison.
And it couldn’t be much worse for the Big Ten and commissioner Jim Delaney if the Nittany Lions win.
The Big Ten certainly doesn’t want the storyline leading up to its inaugural league championship game to be about Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno, as Ken Thompson of the Journal and Courier notes here:
No offense to (Tom) Bradley or the Nittany Lions players, whose outstanding season has been overlooked in the scandal that ended Joe Paterno’s 61-year tenure on the sideline. But only Super Bowl week in Indianapolis may rival the media attention that Penn State would garner leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lots of hyperbole in that second sentence, but the point is valid.
The good news for the conference: the Badgers are favored by 14.5 points, and Penn State’s 9-2 record is deceptively soft. They struggled with Purdue, Illinois and even decrepit Indiana. A 10-point win over Iowa at home is nothing to brag about, as the Hawkeyes have been lousy on the road. Only wins at Evanston and Columbus look good, though even those aren’t as impressive as they once were.
So, expect a big sigh of relief late Saturday afternoon if Bucky wins – and more than a few smiles through gritted teeth if Penn State manages the upset.
Other teams Delaney should be rooting for (but would never admit):
Michigan over Ohio State. A strong Michigan is good for the Big Ten, and a win here is good for the program. An Ohio State loss doesn’t do anything to damage an already lost season.
Michigan State over Northwestern. Don’t want your Legends Division champion limping into the championship game in Indy next week.
Illinois over Minnesota. The Illini are bowl eligible, but would be a sad 2-6 in conference with a loss.
Purdue over Indiana. Boilermakers are bowl-eligible with a win.