Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium is always pumped full of emotion, but the grand old palace will be throbbing Saturday when Barry Alvarez coaches his final home game against archrival Iowa. The Badgers can position themselves for a share of the Big Ten title with a win, but would need a Penn State loss at Michigan State next week to make that happen. Even if it doesn't, Alvarez could be making a Capital One Bowl trip if Wisconsin defeats Iowa and finishes with a win at Hawaii on Nov. 25.
The Badgers lost a chance to take control of the BCS bid in a 35-14 loss at Penn State. Cornerback Brett Bell, burned for two touchdowns in that defeat, gave an emotional apology in the locker room afterward. None of Bell's teammates, however, blamed him for the loss. They've seen him battle back from the second of two ACL surgeries since suffering that injury in late January. "We know the situation he is in," wide receiver Brandon Williams said.
"Everybody else may not know, but we know." Sophomore Marcus Coleman will get his first start against Iowa, subbing for senior Matt Lawrence at left guard. Lawrence, who started the first 10 games, reinjured his ankle at Penn State. Injuries and inexperience have also decimated Wisconsin defensively. The Badgers have allowed more than 500 yards in each of their last four games.
Indiana hasn't won at Michigan since 1967, when the Hoosiers made their only Rose Bowl appearance. IU is 0-14 at The Big House since then and 1-28 in the series. That's probably why all eight times in which Indiana has played at Michigan since 1985 have been during the Wolverines' homecoming. Coach Terry Hoeppner passed out bracelets reading, "Play 12," to his team in August. The motto signified Hoeppner's desire to get Indiana's seniors to the first bowl game of their careers. That looked promising after a 4-1 start, but IU must win at Michigan and at home against Purdue next week to realize Hoeppner's postseason goal. IU hasn't been bowl eligible since 1994. Wide receiver James Hardy left the loss to Minnesota with a leg injury midway through the third quarter.
Maybe it's a prerequisite of being the head coach at Illinois, or maybe it's just his nature. Whatever the reason, Ron Zook could seemingly spy the sunshine in a thunderstorm. Of the season-low 160 yards his team registered in a 40-2 loss at Ohio State, he chirped, "We're not the first offense that's had trouble against that defense." Maybe not, but Illinois is the only team in the Big Ten that's lost 21 of its last 22 conference games. The Illini appear to be playing at Purdue at the wrong time. The Boilermakers are coming off an upset of Michigan State and have figured things out on defense. Illinois has few apparent answers, given its 276-70 scoring deficit in league games so far. Maybe the worst is over. Illinois has played Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks, getting hammered by a collective 144-36 margin. The Illini's only points at OSU came on Kevin Mitchell's 75-yard return of a botched extra point.