Moving On Up!
Duke Blue Devils
Current Record: 6-4
Remaining Schedule: @ Georgia Tech, H – Miami (FL)
Likelihood of winning division/conference title: 40%
The Blue Devils have been one of the most surprising teams this year. Head coach David Cutcliffe has guided Duke to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Not only has Duke qualified for post-season play, they may also win the ACC’s Coastal Division. The Blue Devil’s remaining two games will be extremely important.
Duke trails Miami by a single game, and, as luck would have it, the two teams hook up on the last day of the regular season in Durham. If Duke can win that game, plus the Nov 17th contest at Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils will miraculously play for the ACC title, most likely against Florida State.
No matter the outcome of Duke’s final two regular season games, the Blue Devils have given their team and their faithful much reason for optimism along Tobacco Road.
Predicted Finish: 6-6
Key Question & Answer: Does Duke win the ACC Coastal Division? No
Current Record: 4-5
Remaining Schedule: H – Wisconsin, @ Penn State, @ Purdue
Likelihood of winning division/conference title: 20%
Indiana represents a complete and total college football enigma. The fact we are talking about Indiana and a bowl game should make headlines, and most years it would. However, it still is possible for Indiana to win the Leader’s Division since both Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible. That puts Indiana a single game behind Wisconsin in the chase for the division crown.
As luck would have it, the Badgers invade Bloomington this Saturday for an extremely important football game. Yes, that’s right, I said and important FOOTBALL game! The fact that Indiana can still win the division with a sub-.500 record should tell you all you need to know about the class of the Big Ten this year, but that is besides the point. Indiana has won enough games to put themselves in this spot. The Hoosiers average nearly 300 yards per game through the air and put up a little over 33 points per game. Over 9 games, those stats are no flukes. Head coach Kevin Wilson has put together a nice squad that is gritty and resilient. With a few breaks here and there, the Hoosiers could end up in the Big Ten title game and perhaps even in the Rose Bowl.
Yet, with all of the good things that would come with an Indiana victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, just as much can go wrong with a loss. If Indiana loses, they will sit on the precipice of bowl eligibility at 4-6 with a trip to State College next week. While folks in Bloomington are understandably excited about the big game this week, they also must have some reservations that their team will even qualify for the postseason.
If Indiana can manage to win 1 of the next 2 games, that would make their annual showdown with Purdue a battle not only for the Old Oaken Bucket, but also for the late Terry Hoeppner’s favorite axiom, “Play 13.” Whether or not Indiana accomplishes the task of getting to a bowl game or not, the fact that football is still relevant in Indiana when basketball season is nearly underway says a lot about how far the Hoosiers have come. With a little luck, they might be able to go a bit farther.
Predicted Finish: 5-7
Key Question & Answer: Does Indiana win the Big Ten’s Leader’s Division or make a bowl game? No
Utah State Aggies
Current Record: 8-2
Remaining Schedule: @ Louisiana Tech, H – Idaho
Likelihood of winning division/conference title: 50%
How many outside of the state of Utah have heard of Utah State? Probably not many of you. Their most important athletic alum is Merlin Olsen of Los Angeles Rams fame (his name also graces the football stadium). Well, the Aggies are going bowling for second consecutive year. That feat hasn’t been done since the 1960 and1961 seasons. The Aggies even have a shot at winning the WAC conference. Head coach Gary Anderson has found a little niche in Logan, UT. The Aggies are currently ranked 2nd in the WAC in total offense, and they are ranked 1st in total defense. Stats like that are sure to get you a few wins!
Individuals like senior running back Kerwynn Williams is the only player in the WAC to have amassed over 1,000 yards rushing on the season, and he just trails La Tech’s Kenneth Dixon in yards per game. Both are averaging over 100 ypg.
Sophomore QB Chuckie Keeton ranks 3rd in the WAC in passing yards having thrown for over 2,600 yards as well as for 23 touchdowns against only 7 interceptions. Lately, the running and passing attacks for Utah State have been clicking at a high rate.
The Aggies have won 4 in a row and have only dropped two games by narrow margins. Their first loss came on a last-minute missed field goal at Wisconsin (L 16-14), and a 6-3 pillow fight at the hands of BYU. Their best wins have come against conference foe San Jose State and Beehive state rival Utah. However, the Aggies biggest game looms ahead on Nov. 17th…a date in Ruston, LA against Louisiana Tech.
More than likely no game, and, more importantly, no win is bigger than the one they would get if they defeat Louisiana Tech next weekend. Louisiana Tech sits a half game behind Utah State. The winner of that game controls their own destiny in the WAC conference. For Louisiana Tech, it still may be possible for them to even make a BCS bowl game.
For Utah State, they want to go one step further than last year; they want to win a bowl game. In their entire history, the Aggies have been to six bowl games and have only won once (1993 Las Vegas Bowl over Ball State). Utah State has flown under the radar so far this year. if they can go on the road and beat a ranked La Tech squad, they won’t fly under the radar any more.
Predicted Finish: 9-3
Key Question & Answer: Does Utah State win the WAC Division? No
Honorable Mentions: Lousiana Tech, Iowa State, Wake Forest, San Diego State, Ohio University, UCLA, Oregon State, Ole Miss, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, Notre Dame