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Originally published Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:03 PM

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Maybe the Big Ten isn't quite as bad as everyone thinks ... maybe

Saturday madness: Looking ahead to Saturday's big college football games.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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Yes, the Pac-12 is awe inspiring this year. That's for sure. MORE

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A headline on a Big Ten football release this week said, "Six Big Ten teams receiving votes in latest polls."

They could have just titled it: "See, we don't stink as badly as everybody says."

A reader awhile back wanted to know what the Rose Bowl picture was on the Big Ten side. I could have replied that there was no picture because the Big Ten isn't playing football this year, but no. Today, we'll serve that reader, because it's a big weekend in the Big Ten, as big as it's likely to get in a league that's got one bowl-eligible team in this week's AP Top 25 (Nebraska).

In short, the Huskers have the inside track on the Big Ten Legends title. Wisconsin is best-positioned in the Leaders. And if those two meet in the title game, and Wisconsin wins, you'll have (a) a team going to the Rose Bowl that isn't currently in the BCS top 25, and (b) a possible rematch with Oregon State if the Beavers get there from the Pac-12.

More on the not-so-Big Ten picture below, on a roster of best games Saturday, chronologically:

Northwestern at Michigan, 9 a.m., ESPN — The Wildcats (7-2, 3-2) have a rough road, because they need to win out (against UM, Michigan State and Illinois) and they lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska (4-1). Michigan (4-1) is a game better than Northwestern, but also has to go to Ohio State later and similarly, loses out head-to-head to Nebraska.

Wisconsin at Indiana, 9 a.m., ESPN2 — Indiana, which last went to the Rose Bowl and faced O.J. Simpson in 1968, would be a great story if it returns. In reality, though, at 4-5, it's probably less likely even to be bowl-eligible, needing to win out against Wisconsin and finish on the road against Penn State and Purdue to get to Pasadena. Wisconsin cinches a league title-game berth if it wins.

Oregon State (13) at Stanford (16), noon, Ch. 13 — Beavers (7-1) have a big shot at the Rose Bowl if they can win here. Stanford (7-2) would still be viable for Pasadena, but has to visit the thresher in Eugene next week. OSU allows a niggling 21.2 percent third-down conversions in Pac-12 games, and Stanford is tops in the nation in run defense (57.8), sacks (4.44) and tackles for loss (9.22) per game.

Arizona State at USC (21), noon, Pac-12 Networks — Attitude will have a lot to say about this one, as the Trojans (6-3) have lost their past two and the Sun Devils (5-4) three straight. Here's what you really need to know: When Oregon beat USC 62-51 last week, that was more points than there were in 15 USC basketball games last year.

Texas A&M (15) at Alabama (1), 12:30 p.m., Ch. 7 — In its first season in the SEC, A&M is on pace with 559.6 yards a game to break the league's total offense record of 534.4 by Steve Spurrier's 1995 Florida team. 'Bama, leading the nation in scoring defense (9.1 ppg) might have something to say about that. A&M has scored a TD on six straight opening drives, and scored first in 14 straight games.

Penn State at Nebraska (18), 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4 — It's a magic-carpet ride for the Huskers, who beat Wisconsin after trailing by 17 in the third quarter, Northwestern after being down 12 in the fourth quarter and Michigan State from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. A Nebraska defense allowing only 46 percent completions will test Penn State QB Matt McGloin, who has been a revelation with an 18-3 touchdown-interception ratio.

Kansas State (2) at TCU, 4 p.m., Ch. 13 — Here's the definition of not beating yourself: K-State has scored 111 points off turnovers, and allowed none after its own. And its 31 penalties is fewest in the country. Upset alert: TCU is 3-0 in recent years against top-five teams.

Mississippi State (22) at LSU (9), 4 p.m., ESPN — LSU no doubt is wondering how it lost to Alabama after it put up twice as many yards as the Tide had been allowing per game, converted 10 of 20 third downs and had the ball for 39 minutes, 15 seconds. Bulldogs are the fifth straight ranked team faced by LSU, a school first.

UCLA (17) at Washington State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2 — Maybe a cold night (and it will be), a Dad's Weekend crowd and a severe challenge from the coaching staff will rally the Cougars.

Utah at Washington, 7:30 p.m, Pac-12 Networks — Utes might be on the late-season run they patented last year. For the Huskies, the challenge seems to resemble the one against Oregon State — hard-nosed team, a quarterback (Travis Wilson) that may in his own way be vulnerable to pressure, just as returning Sean Mannion was.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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