After a massive upset win by Illinois this past Saturday and a few other important moments and results, we take a moment to reflect on the current Big Ten standings and project who will meet in Indy.
Big Ten East
Presumptive Favorite: #3 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0)
The Buckeyes have blown through their competition thus far, including, of course, Northwestern. Justin Fields leads an explosive multidimensional offense. Chase Young’s defense has held teams to an average of 8 points per game. The Buckeyes still have matchups with Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan on their schedule, so they won’t be taking anything for granted. But playoff hopes are high.
Also in the picture: #6 Penn State (7-0, 4-0)
The only thing stopping the Nittany Lions from winning the Big Ten East is the Ohio State Buckeyes. Running back KJ Hamler is the reigning Big Ten Offensive player of the week. The defense has been led impressively by Yetur Gross-Matos. The Nittany Lions defeated Michigan last weekend, effectively ending the title hopes of the Wolverines, but still have Michigan State and Minnesota to get through in addition to OSU.
The rest of the pack: #19 Michigan (5-2, 3-2)
A loss last weekend to Penn State effectively ending their Indy dreams, Michigan’s first Big Ten East title will have to wait another year.
Michigan State (4-3, 2-2)
Ohio State will, virtually certainly, not lose two games in Big Ten play, and so Michigan State fans are in the same boat as their hated rivals.
Indiana (5-2, 2-2)
While #9WINdiana may be a thing, the Hoosiers won’t be playing for Pasadena this season. Quarterback Mike Penix Jr.’s injury earlier this season proved costly.
Out of contention:
Maryland (3-4, 1-3)
The Terps have been the most erratic team in the Big Ten performance-wise, and their record reflects it.
rutger (1-6, 0-5)
The Nunzio Campanile era has not gotten off to a good start. The Scarlet Knights passed for 1 yard two weeks ago against Indiana, and 49 yards and three interceptions last week against Minnesota. That should tell you all you need to know.
Big Ten West
Presumptive Favorite: #13 Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1)
After an unexpected loss to Illinois last weekend, the Badgers College Football Playoff are fading. Jonathan Taylor is the crown jewel in the Badgers offense, and will have to impress after last weekend’s costly fumble on Saturday in the Shoe against the Buckeyes.
The likely way Wisconsin wins the Big Ten West comes if they win out after losing to Ohio State, including wins over both Io_a and Minnesota. This also happens to probably be the most likely outcome for the division.
Also in the picture: #17 Minnesota (7-0, 4-0)
While PJ Fleck’s squad are currently at the top of the Big Ten West, upcoming faceoffs with Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin and an easy early-season schedule mean that the Golden Gophers still have much to prove. I expect the winner of Minnesota-Wisconsin to determine the West (assuming Ohio State beats Wisconsin and the Gophers lose to PSU). The West is still very much up for grabs, and while they’re in command right now, Minny will need to keep up their current momentum.
Holding onto a prayer: #20 Io_a (5-2, 2-2)
While it would be unlikely that they take the divisional crown, the Hawkeyes are still alive in the Big Ten West race. Iowa would need to win out, defeating Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska in their run to win the West. The Hawkeyes have had their fair share of offensive struggles, putting up 3 points against Michigan and 12 against Penn State.
Nebraska (4-3, 2-2)
The Cornhuskers seem like an even more unlikely bet to win out, but if they could somehow get to 7-2 in conference play they would have only slightly worse chances than those of Iowa. They would need to beat the Hawkeyes and the Badgers, and also require Minnesota to lose to Wisconsin, Penn State, and at least one other foe down the season’s stretch.
Out of contention: Illinois (3-4, 1-3)
The Illini had a shock victory over Wisconsin this past Saturday, but it appears too little too late for the West.
Purdue (2-5, 1-3)
The Boilermakers had high hopes before this season began, returning wide receiver Rondale Moore and bringing in a very talented freshman class. However, the Boilermakers suffered many key injuries, including to Elijah Singular, Moore, and a few defensive leaders, ending any hopes of a surprising run.
Northwestern (1-5, 0-4)
The Wildcats’ chances of making the Big Ten Championship are nonexistent,and their chances of making a bowl game also seem unlikely. Northwestern may have to settle for a HAT victory that could take Illinois out of bowl contention, or just the general role of potential spoiler.