The Washington Times - November 1, 2008, 04:08PM

Seven Big Ten teams have already completed action today. So rather than dwelling on how West Virginia is the favorite in the Big East – just like it was at the start of the season – here’s a team-by-team breakdown in the muddle beyond Penn State and Ohio State.

* Northwestern isn’t done despite the loss of Tyrell Sutton. The Wildcats’ clinching interception return for a touchdown was a fluke, but their ability to hang with Minnesota on the road without their top tailback wasn’t.

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* Minnesota lives by the turnover and dies by the turnover. The best explanation for the Golden Gophers‘ remarkable turnaround is their impressive turnover margin; it’s little surprise they would be torpedoed by a late turnover. At home. Against a comparable team.

* Michigan State isn’t the standard, woebegone, self-destructive Sparty. A 25-24 victory over Wisconsin – after trailing by 11 in the second half? No way Michigan State wins that most seasons. And at 8-2 with Purdue and Penn State left, there’s a chance the Spartans could do much better than a mid-tier bowl.

* It just isn’t Wisconsin’s year. The Badgers are 4-5, and while the rest of the schedule is hospitable (@Indiana, Minnesota, Cal Poly), they are also one of the country’s biggest disappointments outside of Clemson, Auburn and Tennessee.

* Indiana isn’t play 13 again this year. The Hoosiers are now 0-2 against the MAC, and if Wisconsin doesn’t end its slim bowl hopes next week, then Penn State surely will on Nov. 15 in Happy Valley.

* Purdue still has a sliver of hope. The Boilermakers are 3-6, and their 48 points today was more than their last four games combined (41). But at least there remains something to play for heading into the final three games. Which is more than can be said for…

* Bowl-ineligible Michigan, which is assured its first losing season since before Bo Schembechler arrived in Ann Arbor. The problems are abundant, but a defense that has surrendered at least 35 points on five occasions (and is also independent of Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense) is as pretty big culprit for a bad season that could get worse against Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State.

Patrick Stevens