The Morning Call

Big Ten ti­tle could be In­di­ana vs. NU

- By C.J. Doon Sports · College Sports · American Football · Basketball · Indiana · Northeastern University · Pennsylvania State University · Michigan · Michigan State University · Ohio · Ohio State University · Justin Fields · Florida · Tom Allen · Tom · Wisconsin · Northwestern University · Illinois · Cincinnati · Oklahoma · University of Oklahoma · Dallas Cowboys

The spot­light on the Big Ten this week­end, as two cru­cial matchups could help de­cide who meets in the con­fer­ence ti­tle game in De­cem­ber.

Here’s what to watch in col­lege foot­ball for Week 12:

Hope for the Hoosiers?

No mat­ter what hap­pens next, this is al­ready one of the best In­di­ana foot­ball sea­sons ever. There was Michael Penix Jr.’s un­for­get­table stretch across the goal line to top­ple No. 8 Penn State in over­time. A 17-point beat­down of Michi­gan to end a 24-game los­ing streak to the Wolver­ines. A shutout of Michi­gan State to move to 4-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1987.

Now, with its high­est rank­ing in the As­so­ci­ated Press poll since

1967, the No. 9 Hoosiers have a chance to do some­thing no­body ever thought was pos­si­ble at the bas­ket­ball school:

Win a Big Ten ti­tle.

Don’t laugh. Sure, No.

3 Ohio State looms on

Satur­day, with the Buck­eyes look­ing like one of the best teams in the coun­try be­hind fu­ture top draft pick Justin Fields. And sure, those wins over Penn State, Michi­gan and Michi­gan State don’t look so great now that those teams a com­bined 2-10. But by virtue of his re­cruit­ing con­nec­tions at his old high school coach­ing days in Florida, Tom Allen has built a pro­gram that proved it can hang in one of the na­tion’s tough­est di­vi­sions.

Big Ten bonafides

Ohio State’s re­cent dom­i­nance in the Big Ten East is ri­valed only by Wis­con­sin’s in the West. Both schools have won four di­vi­sion ti­tles since the league moved to its cur­rent di­vi­sion for­mat in 2014 and have met in the con­fer­ence ti­tle game two of the past three sea­sons. That just might change this sea­son.

If it does, it’s go­ing to take a heroic ef­fort from North­west­ern. Wis­con­sin has played just two games this sea­son, but it has outscored those op­po­nents 94-18. The Bad­gers rank third na­tion­ally in ef­fi­ciency, ac­cord­ing to ESPN’s SP+, with a crush­ing de­fense and a pow­er­ful rush­ing at­tack. Quar­ter­back Graham Mertz wasn’t asked to do much against Michi­gan, but he showed in a nearly per­fect de­but against Illi­nois that he’s ca­pa­ble of han­dling plenty.

So what chance do the Wild­cats have? It starts with the de­fense, which ranks fifth na­tion­ally in ef­fi­ciency af­ter hold­ing its first four op­po­nents to 20 points or fewer and forc­ing 10 turnovers. This week­end could end with North­west­ern and In­di­ana on track to meet for the Big Ten ti­tle in De­cem­ber. What a weird year.

Can any­one stop Cincin­nati?

Cincin­nati’s quest for an un­de­feated sea­son and a spot in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off fit­tingly faces its tough­est test against a Cen­tral Florida team that has come the clos­est to crack­ing the field.

The Knights went 12-0 in 2017, but that wasn’t enough to sway the com­mit­tee. So why do the Bearcats have a chance? Not only have they been win­ning, but are do­ing so in dom­i­nant fash­ion. The av­er­age score of their seven straight vic­to­ries has been 42-12. Style points mat­ter for po­ten­tial play­off teams, and more so for a Group of Five team try­ing to prove it be­longs.

That dom­i­nance needs to con­tinue Satur­day. UCF is 5-2, and boasts one of the na­tion’s best of­fenses led by one of the na­tion’s best quar­ter­backs, Dil­lon Gabriel.

Bed­lam brag­ging rights

There’s a run­ning joke among the col­lege foot­ball com­mu­nity that there are only three pos­si­ble re­sults for the an­nual ri­valry game called “Bed­lam”: Ok­la­homa wins close, Ok­la­homa wins in a rout or Ok­la­homa wins by a medium amount.

The 81-18-7 se­ries lead for Ok­la­homa speaks to that dom­i­nance, espe­cially re­cently. The Cow­boys have won just two meet­ings since 2003.

 ?? CAR­LOS OS­O­RIO/AP ?? In­di­ana coach Tom Allen has his team ranked No. 9.
CAR­LOS OS­O­RIO/AP In­di­ana coach Tom Allen has his team ranked No. 9.

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