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Phil Taylor's Sidelines


Memo to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: The conference needs to add another team so it can have a championship game. Otherwise the Big Ten will continue to have messy situations at the end of its regular season like the one it faces this year. Michigan's 16--14 win at Purdue last Saturday--led by Michael Hart's (left) 206 yards--increases the likelihood that the Wolverines will finish tied for first with Wisconsin--both teams are 5-0 in the conference. Michigan and Wisconsin don't play each other, which means that if both teams run the table, the Badgers would get the league's automatic BCS bid because their 11-0 record would be better than Michigan's 10-1. That's no way to decide a conference championship. Nonconference schedules vary wildly because of the inherent inequities in the Big Ten's scheduling, and each of the Big Ten's 11 teams plays eight conference games, skipping two schools. However, some schools have protected rivals, which they play every year. Michigan, for instance, always takes on Ohio State, and Purdue always has lowly Indiana on its schedule.

The Big Ten has had co-champions who didn't meet on the field in three of the last eight years. The best solution is to create two divisions and have the first-place finishers meet in a title game. Yes, that would take some of the steam out of the end-of-the-season rivalry games, but the conference championship and BCS slot shouldn't be determined by unfair scheduling quirks.


While we're on the subject of the Big Ten, two members of that conference combined to produce a final score that must have caused double takes around the country. Iowa's 6-4 win over Penn State--in which Hawkeyes' quarterback Drew Tate (right) threw for 126 yards--was lower-scoring than Boston's 11-9 victory over St. Louis in Game 1 of the World Series on the same day. In fact the Red Sox and the Cardinals scored more in the first four innings than the Hawkeyes and the Nittany Lions managed in their entire game. Iowa and Penn State fans probably wish they had David Ortiz or Larry Walker to generate a little more offense.


The most misleading record in the nation may be Wake Forest's 0--4 mark in the ACC. The Demon Deacons' 20-17 loss to Florida State on Saturday, a game they led 14-3 in the third quarter, was a typical near miss for them. (Their other three defeats were 37-30 at Clemson in double overtime, 27-21 at North Carolina State in overtime and 17-10 to Virginia Tech.) But Wake (3-4 overall) can't blame bad luck for all its woes. The Demon Deacons have come up short in crucial situations. On Saturday, with the score tied at 17, Florida State faced a third-and-10 from its own 18, and Lorenzo Booker (above) gained 46 yards up the middle. That helped set up Xavier Beitia's 22-yard game-winning field goal.