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In a sense, it was the same old-same old in the Big Ten this year. The Midwestern behemoths spent a whole autumn knocking each other around to determine that Michigan and Ohio State were the best teams.

But there are some wrinkles.

The coach of the year, for example, is. . . David Braun. A year ago, he was the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State. Pat Fitzgerald hired him as his defensive coordinator last winter. When Fitz was fired in a shocking hazing scandal last summer, Braun was named interim coach. Because he hadn’t been around long enough to be tainted by the scandal.

With NU coming off a 1-11 disaster in 2022, Braun seemed to be dealt a 2-10 caretaker job. Then the Wildcats would hire someone who could lead them out of their messy place.

All Braun did was fashion a tidy 7-5 season that included four impressive wins in their last five games. NU beat Maryland, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois and lost by a mere 10-7 vs. Iowa.

For that, Northwestern wisely hired Braun, 38. Hiring a young coach who played at Winona State and had never even been involved with a Group of 5 program, let alone a power conference, might seem like a reach. Then again, after the way he revived the Cats this fall, maybe other schools should start looking outside the box for coaches.

Here’s another Big Ten oddity: My runnerup for Big Ten coach of the year is. . . Sherrone Moore, who won four games as acting coach at Michigan while Jim Harbaugh was suspended.

That’s two interim coaches out of two, if you’re keeping score at home.

In the last three games, Moore guided the Wolverines past Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State. It shouldn’t be long before Moore, 37, who played offensive guard at Oklahoma, is a head coach somewhere.

WOE IN OHIO: On the flip side, some people will call Ryan Day the Bust of the Year. I would not go that far. The guy took the Buckeyes to an 11-1 record. With a few upsets this weekend, they still could sneak into the College Football Playoff.

That said, Michigan absolutely has a whammy on Day. He has lost three in a row to The School Up North, in The Game, which is the game by which all Michigan and Ohio State coaches are measured.

In the days before this year's meeting, I thought Ohio State might get it done. The Buckeyes had a young quarterback in Kyle McCord, but they also had a great defense and a nice set of skill around McCord.

In the moments before the game, when Day was tight as the proverbial drum in a terse interview with Jenny Taft—the daughter of former Wisconsin hockey defenseman John Taft!—I had a strong feeling that Ohio State would lose.

Ryan Day is a terrific coach. But he's shown tendency to becom a little too tightly wound when the stakes are at their highest. And players take their cues from their coach.

Michigan-Ohio State is simply a very streaky series that defines coaches. Ever since Bo went 5-4-1 against Woody in The Ten-Year War, the series seems to have gone one way or the other.

John Cooper, an otherwise pretty good coach, could not beat Michigan (2-10-1), and was replaced by Jim Tressel, who won six out of seven from Lloyd Carr, an otherwise good coach who then got the boot at Michigan.

The series seesawed for a while until the current Day-Harbaugh matchup. Harbaugh lost his first five (the first four against Urban Meyer), earning the hot seat. Now Michigan has won the last three—and Day is the one walking around gnashing his teeth with singed trousers.

WHAT ABOUT IOWA: It was so easy and so fun to poke holes in Iowa’s inoffensive offense for so long. But after seeing Kirk Ferentz, who’s not an emotional guy, well up in tears for the second straight week, it isn’t that amusing any more.

And while watching the Chicago Bears slog past Minnesota’s Vikings 12-10 on Monday night, I was thinking, ``Wouldn’t it be cool if the Bears hired Brian Ferentz as their offensive coordinator?’’. . . Oops. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Despite an offense that ranked 121st in the nation in scoring (18 points a game) and 130th in yards (246.3), the Hawkeyes won the Big Ten West. They are a ridiculous 24-point underdog against Michigan. Which may be a big reason why the Big Ten West will go away after this season.

And by the way, if the new 1 vs. 2 system were in place this year, the world would be treated to a Michigan-Ohio State rematch this Saturday. Is that a great idea? Nope.

The good news is, we won’t have to ponder which flawed Big Ten West team will play the rag doll in future Big Ten championship games.

I am not sure conference championship games—especially Michigan-Ohio State rematches—are needed in a world of 18-team leagues and a 12-team playoff. But they are ``good earners,’’ as Tony Soprano used to say. TV dollars speak loudly. So deal with it.

UNDER-ACHIEVING BADGERS: While watching under-achieving Wisconsin eke out a painful 24-17 win against still-snake-bit-after-all-these-years Nebraska, I found myself wondering: What if the Badgers had hired Matt Ruhle instead of Luke Fickell?

Fickell, of course, was a golden boy because he took (gasp!) Cincinnati to the four-team playoff. But lunch-pail-guy Ruhle has magically won at Temple and Baylor—and Nebraska is a tougher rebuild than Wisconsin, which didn’t seem like a rebuild until Fickell got his hands on it.

That said, I still think both will thrive. And they will need to, with UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington coming into the Big Ten next season.

My confidence factor is no higher for Fickell, though, than it is for Ruhle. While Nebraska has history on its side, Wisconsin has everything in place, basically right now, which gives it a bigger upside.

And while Fickell has a serious injury excuse on his side for this year’s disappointing 7-5 season, the Badgers still have not met expectations. Even with injuries, the Indiana and Northwestern losses were not, um, a good sign. And the Washington State and Iowa games should have been within the grasp of Fickell & Co., based on the hype.

I would give Fickell a C-minus. I would give Ruhle a B-minus.

TODAY’S OLD-SCRIBE RANT: The grades lead to my point: The pre-season buildup for this Wisconsin season was. . . not realistic.

Part of the problem is: The obsessive control and manipulation of media access makes it difficult for this generation of sports reporters to do their job.

For example, I was startled to read this from Jesse Temple in The Athletic: ``Reporters had just one opportunity to talk to [offensive coordinator Phil] Longo and defensive coordinator Mike Tressel over the past three months, so it’s tough to know how they have handled everything that has happened this season.’’

I think it would have helped Fickell’s cause if he had allowed his coordinators to talk. Longo could have diplomatically explained why his offensive line wasn’t up to Badger standards. He could have talked about the tricky deal of installing an Air Raid offense, especially with his quarterback and two top running backs injured. Tressel could have given insight into why better tackling was elusive.

Back in my day, when Barry Alvarez was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, I could call him. And I did. Not all the time. We were all busy. And if a subject was sensitive, he would say, ``You better check with Lou.’’ And I would call Coach Holtz. Who also would take my call.

This was long before cell phones, mind you. It was important to know what time of day to call. And to have a good working relationship with people. But if they trusted you, you could give their message accurately to their fan bases.

In the modern world, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen. Too bad. For all of us.