For those of you who got a late start on College Football Saturday after a long Halloween night in your Joker costume, you missed some exhilarating action, most notably a trio of fabulous finishes in the Big Ten ...
• It's official: Michigan (2-7) will suffer its first losing season since 1967, concurrently snapping the nation's longest bowl streak at 33 straight appearances. And the knockout blow came in the form of a tremendously executed hook-and-ladder by Purdue in the Boilermakers' 48-42 win. The Wolverines tied the game at 42 with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter, but Boilers QB Justin Siller -- starting in place of injured Curtis Painter -- quickly drove Purdue to Michigan's 32-yard line. Then Siller threw a short pass to Greg Orton, who immediately lateraled to Desmond Tardy. Playing a man-to-man defense, the Wolverines had no chance to stop the play, and Tardy scampered untouched to the end zone for the game-winning score.
With remaining games against Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State, Michigan will almost certainly lose eight games for the first time in program history and 2-10 looks increasingly plausible. Everyone knew the Wolverines would encounter transitional struggles, but there was a general assumption they would steadily improve with each passing week. That's just not the case with this bunch. The inconsistency on both sides of the ball is alarming. Sure, Michigan's much-maligned offense tossed up a season-high 42 points today, but the defense completely laid an egg, allowing 522 yards of offense. At this point, it's safe to assume Michigan won't get back to being Michigan until 2010 -- at the earliest.
• It's been a magical season for No. 20 Minnesota -- which went 1-11 in 2007 -- but the Golden Gophers suffered a heart-rending 24-17 defeat to Northwestern today. With the game tied at 17 apiece and 24 seconds left, Minnesota was attempting to get into field goal position when Gophers QB Adam Weber threw a high pass to star receiver Eric Decker. The ball went through Decker's outstretched hands, deflected off a Northwestern defender and landed in the hands of Wildcats safety Brendan Smith. Smith proceeded to weave his way through Gophers and didn't stop until he reached the end zone 48 yards later. Ballgame. (Wait a second, haven't I seen Northwestern break Minnesota's heart in that exact same end zone before ...)
As devastating as the loss was for Minnesota -- which can kiss the BCS goodbye -- it was equally thrilling for Northwestern. And the player of the game for the Wildcats was quarterback Mike Kafka. Filling in for injured signal-caller C.J. Bacher, Kafka proved unbelievably fleet on his feet, finishing with 217 yards on 27 carries. An extremely elusive runner in the open field, Kafka had a noticeable swagger to his game, high-stepping on multiple occasions. Even when Bacher returns from his hamstring injury, Pat Fitzgerald must find a way to incorporate Kafka in the offense.
• No. 22 Michigan State scored 13 unanswered points in the final nine minutes -- including a 44-yard field goal with seven seconds left -- to escape with a 25-24 win over Wisconsin. After snatching victory from deep in the throat of defeat, the Spartans still control their own destiny in the Big Ten race. Michigan State plays Purdue at home next Saturday. Assuming they defeat the lowly Boilermakers, the Spartans will then have two weeks to prepare for a regular season finale against Penn State with at least a share of the Big Ten title on the line.
• Miami's quarterback controversy took center stage in the Hurricanes' 24-17 overtime win against Virginia. Robert Marve started his seventh straight game, but Jacory Harris threw a game-tying touchdown pass with just under a minute remaining in regulation and a game-winning TD toss in overtime. With two weeks until Miami's next game against Virginia Tech, competition will be fierce in Randy Shannon's practices.
• In Bill Stewart's first season at the helm, West Virginia's offense hasn't looked anything like Rich Rodriguez's well-oiled machine of yesteryear. Fortunately, the Mountaineers' defense is even stingier than last year's steady unit. West Virginia ranked eighth in scoring defense last season, allowing just 18.1 points per game. The Mountaineers entered today's game against UConn allowing just 15 points per game (11th nationally). West Virginia limited the Huskies to a touchdown and two field goals in a 35-13 win. WVU held the nation's leading rusher, Donald Brown, to 82 yards -- 83 below his average. As the only undefeated team in Big East play, West Virginia is in the driver's seat to earn its third BCS bid in four years. But it must be noted that the Mountaineers finish the season with a challenging four-game slate: vs. Cincinnati, at Louisville, at Pittsburgh, vs. South Florida.
• Kansas' offense has been pretty explosive all season, but the Jayhawks have taken it to a new level in the last month, thanks to the emergence of RB Jake Sharp. In today's 52-21 win over rival Kansas State, Sharp ran for three touchdowns ... in the first quarter. Sharp -- KU's fastest player with a 4.38 40 on record -- finished the day with 257 total yards and four touchdowns. Truly a punch to the gut for this writer, who laughed at a Jake Sharp trade offer in his fantasy college football keeper league back in September. Nerds unite!
• With a 17-7 loss to Ole Miss, Auburn dropped below .500 (4-5), and that's where the former top-10 team will most likely finish the year. The Tigers should beat Tennessee-Martin next week, but then they close the season with Georgia and Alabama.