Imagine this is a NASCAR race. But without drivers fighting in the garage area.
1. Blocking, Running, Crushing: Maybe the trick to rushing for 200 yards in a game is to set your goal at 160.
According to Jeff Potrykus’ Badger Blog in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin’s offensive linemen had a goal for their team to rush for 400 yards at Indiana on Saturday. That’s right, four hundred.
“We’re shooting high,” said Wisconsin running back Montee Ball. “I’m glad that they’re setting goals. . . . Might as well shoot high.”
Ball rushed for 198 yards. The Badgers rushed for a school-record 564. Wisconsin destroyed the Hoosiers, 62-14, to assure itself of the Leaders Division’s spot in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson after the team’s second game, and promoted graduate assistant Bart Miller to that job. Miller is almost surely coming back next season.
“He’s given me every indication he can handle the job,” Bielema said.
2. Efficient Taylor: Entering this season, no one pegged Nebraska junior quarterback Taylor Martinez as, well, as the most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten.
Now, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is probably the all-conference first-team QB. But in the NCAA statistics, Martinez is the highest-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency, at 29th.
The facts don’t lie. Nebraska is 8-2, and has knocked off Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in succession. Martinez has thrown 19 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions, and has thrown for 2,112 yards. That’s more yards and TDs than he passed for in 13 games in 2011.
Nebraska is going to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis with either two more wins, or one win and a Michigan loss, say, at Ohio State on Nov. 24.
Nebraska is going to the Big Ten title game.
3. No Longer Road Kill: Minnesota’s Gophers won their first Big Ten road game in Jerry Kill’s two seasons as their coach, and what a meaningful win it was.
Minnesota’s 17-3 win at Illinois gave the Gophers a 6-4 record and assured them their first bowl trip in three years. Never mind that the only team with a winning record that Minnesota has beaten is New Hampshire. When bowling pins have been lined up, the Gophers have knocked them down.
Minnesota finishes the season at Nebraska and at home against Michigan State. Kill will need his third-string center to step up in Lincoln on Saturday because starter Jon Christenson suffered a high ankle sprain against the Illini, then backup Zach Mottla broke his leg with three minutes left in the game.
Guard Zac Epping moved over to center to finish out the win.
“Going through three centers and winning a game — that’s unheard of,” Kill said.
“Usually, you don’t even travel three centers. We just happened to have a guard that can snap.”
4. Wildcats Strike: In August, the then-Las Vegas Hilton put the over/under betting number on Kansas State wins in 2012 at 7.
In his preseason magazine, Phil Steele ranked K-State sixth in the Big 12.
As recently as Oct. 12, Kansas State was listed by at least one offshore betting agency as a 12-1 underdog to win the national championship. Alabama was 6-5 at that time.
Today, the Wildcats are 10-0 and No. 1 in the BCS standings. If they win at Baylor Saturday and at home against Texas on Dec. 1, they are going to the BCS title game.
Which no one, anywhere, predicted in August. Or even October.