On Saturday, I woke up and didn't watch ESPN's College Gameday.
With no Buckeye game to speak of, and after an interesting first six games of the 2013 campaign, the bye week was, by me, fully appreciated and, like for the football team we all follow and adore, the bye week was necessary. While the Buckeyes' record is perfect, the team that started the season ranked in the top-2 in the country has been far from it. The week off for the team provided the chance to get healthy and look back on some things that have to change in order to see out a future that includes a potential matchup for a national championship.
But the bye week is also a perfect time to not only get better, but also rest up, for players and fans alike. Rooting for a college football team is a draining experience, as we all know, especially after nail-biting night games that went down to the last few minutes against Wisconsin and Northwestern, respectively, so the bye week was the perfect chance to catch breaths.
For instance, on Saturday morning, instead of putting on my replica jersey and backwards fitted like the rest of Buckeye nation, I slept in. It was glorious. While sleeping, however, some of the Big Ten's teams had to wake up early and do battle. Like Michigan State, taking on the dangerous Indiana Hoosiers and their vaunted offensive attack. When the game went final, the 42-28 scoreline may have looked like it belonged in Indiana's favor. But, in fact, #WalrusBall lives in East Lansing, and it was the Spartans scoring in chunks in the second and third quarters who put the Hoosiers away.
I also spent my bye week weekend doing a little house cleaning, getting ready for the rest of the fall. House cleaning could be an accurate description of what Nebraska did to Purdue, rushing for 251 yards and five scores en route to a 47 victory over the Boilermakers. Purdue has always been trouble for the Buckeyes, but even this iteration should be a cakewalk for Urban Meyer and company, right? Also, the cleaners in that game, Nebraska, moved to 5-1 and after looking suspect in a few games this season, is now back to their high-scoring ways, and may end up on the Buckeye schedule after all.
Not feeling like I needed to be a complete slug over the weekend, I also got out of my apartment and went for a run (shocking!) to try and get the juices flowing on a gorgeous day in Central Ohio. Meanwhile, the last two Buckeye opponents, the aforementioned Badgers and Wildcats, got together for a game of perhaps second best in the conference. And while I was on my light jog, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon got his sprint on, hitting 172 yards and a score against a defense that allowed Carlos Hyde to do the same the week before.
Wisconsin tallied up more than double the yards of Northwestern, more than double the first downs, half the penalties and 230 more rushing yards, sending Pat Fitzgerald's side to 4-2, 0-2 in the conference, and into a hole that will require the Wildcats get plenty of help if they want to get to Indianapolis for the championship game. Probably more help than they could ever imagine getting.
Finally, on Saturday night, I attended a wedding of a friend from high school. The mood was celebratory and happy, and wonderful, like it should be at any wedding. The adult beverages were flowing, and surely everyone in attendance was ecstatic for the new bride and groom.
But it probably wasn't the happiest place to be on Saturday night.
No, the happiest place to be would be, naturally, Happy Valley, where it took four overtimes to settle the battle between undefeated Michigan, and a Penn State team reeling from a blowout loss to Indiana the week before. In the end, it was the Nittany Lions, on their school's homecoming, with a 107,000+ whited out crowd celebrating at the end. Big Ten fans probably won't admit it too loudly, but we all kind of root for Penn State a little, not because of the NCAA hammer brought down on them (and rightfully so), but because the conference is better with a good Penn State team.
And anyone who beats Michigan can be our best friends forever. Including this police officer.
So, after the Buckeye bye week, where does the conference stand? In the Legends Division, Sparty and Nebraska sit a game ahead of Michigan, undefeated in conference, with all three sharing identical 5-1 records. The Big Ten Championship game representative from that side of the conference will likely come down to Brady Hoke's favorite rival, Sparty, with the chance for Nebraska to go back to the title game again if they can win out. As for "The Best Team Pat Fitzgerald Has Ever Had In Evanston Mark It Down"? Last place.
On the Leaders side, Ohio State remains in first place, the only bowl-eligible team in the the conference, and a game clear of Wisconsin, whom they have already played and beaten. Indiana and Penn State, still on tap for the Buckeyes, sit in third and fourth, respectively, with Illinois and Purdue bringing up the rear.
No one really likes bye weeks, but there's no doubt that a lot can be accomplished. Urban Meyer has already made clear that the secondary needs construction more than the roads in Columbus do. And while the return of Carlos Hyde has made quite the difference, a healthy Jordan Hall can only help Braxton Miller and company establish the conference's most dangerous rushing attack.
But with the week off in the rearview, the Buckeyes are in first place, and should be rested and ready when Iowa comes to the Horseshoe for the first time since this happened in 2009.