November 19, 2012 at 1:00 am

Matt Charboneau

No. 1 Notre Dame gets last laugh on Big Ten

The college football world was buzzing late Saturday as the top two teams in the BCS standings both suffered their first loss of the season.

No. 1 Kansas State got rocked by Baylor while No. 2 Oregon lost at home in overtime to Stanford. In the process, Notre Dame vaulted into the top spot in the rankings and BCS standings.

Somewhere, Jim Delany was probably shaking his head.

Why would the Big Ten commissioner possibly care about this scenario, especially on a day his conference was on the verge of throwing the massive headache of expansion back in all of our faces?

Well, how about the fact it's Notre Dame, the school the Big Ten has coveted for years, that is in the top spot while his best team — Ohio State (11-0, No. 4 in AP Poll) — will spend the postseason in the principal's office?

It had to be an odd range of emotions around Big Ten central. They were certainly in the news Saturday with the talk of Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference.

But let's be honest, the expansion focus has always been about Notre Dame.

And now, in the past few weeks, the Irish have an agreement with the ACC, and now, they are the top team in the land.

There will likely be all kinds of love for the impending expansion that could be announced this week. We'll hear all about what Maryland and Rutgers bring to the Big Ten, though we will all understand it's more about putting the Big Ten Network in 14 million homes on the East Coast.

But all the while, Delany must be wondering what might have been. He's yearned for Notre Dame and its rich history, not to mention the campus is smack in the middle of Big Ten country.

It all made sense — Notre Dame to the Big Ten — except for the fact the Irish never seemed interested in the Big Ten.

Now the Irish are taking their 11 national championships and what's left of their independence by committing five games each season to the ACC. And did we mention they dissed Michigan in the process?

It was Notre Dame's final snub, its way of saying, so long, Big Ten, by dumping one of the conference's traditional powers.

It annoyed everyone at Michigan and it certainly irked Delany and his crew.

Now, it seems, the Irish are just rubbing it in.

OSU focuses on Michigan

Speaking of the Buckeyes, they continued their quest for the one thing they could hang their hats on this season.

No, not the Leaders Division title they clinched with Saturday's 21-14 overtime victory at Wisconsin, but the possibility of finishing unbeaten.

With Saturday's win, Ohio State is 11-0 with just its annual showdown with Michigan left on the schedule.

And if there was any doubt of where the focus lies for the Buckeyes, head coach Urban Meyer made it very clear just minutes after the Wisconsin victory.

"This was a great game against a very good team that's been to the Rose Bowl a bunch," Meyer said. "(But) this is not our rival. The next one is. So when you use that 'R-word,' we're talking about this week. We're going to dive into it as soon as we get back."

Again, it means nothing in terms of standings, unless you consider the fact an Ohio State victory would eliminate any hope of a Legends Division title for Michigan.

But this game, as everyone knows, is about more than division titles.

The Buckeyes will celebrate the win over Wisconsin, but will quickly turn all their attention on Michigan.

"We can talk about it now," Meyer said of clinching the Leaders Division. "We've kind of put a muzzle on it. They're going to get a ring. They're champions of their side. If you're going to keep score, you want to be a champion. Our guys did that.

"But we all understand that'll go on the shelf for a while for this one game."

Huskers hitting their stride

The Leaders Division race is settled — Ohio State wins the title while Wisconsin goes to the Big Ten Championship game.

But over in the Legends Division, things are still up in the air.

Michigan is holding out hope. If the Wolverines can win at Ohio State and Nebraska loses at Iowa, the Wolverines go to the title game.

However, the way Nebraska is playing, it doesn't appear Michigan will have much to say about it.

The Huskers rolled over Minnesota this week and are hitting their stride.

"I haven't seen Ohio State and those people, but I've certainly seen Wisconsin and Nebraska on film and thought at this time they're playing as good of football as anyone in the Big Ten," Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said. "They certainly proved that today."

An interesting note came out of the game. Taylor Martinez , the quarterback with the worst throwing form in the history of college football, became Nebraska's career passing leader.

He completed his first six passes Saturday and finished 21-of-29. He increased his career passing yards to 6,140, passing Zac Taylor 's mark of 5,850 yards in 2005-06.

"It's awesome," Martinez said, "because there are so many great quarterbacks who have gone through here."

mcharboneau@detnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

Notre Dame is No 1. in the rankings and BCS standings. / Associated Press
Ohio State fans know their team — 11-0 — would be in the national title ... (Andy Manis/Associated Press)
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