Update: Following No 16. Wisconsin’s loss to No. 12 Indiana, there are really, really no questions about who wins the West. Regardless of what happens next week, the ‘Cats are division champs.
Only in 2020 do you question an official press release that says Northwestern has won the Big Ten West.
The Wildcats (5-1) earned a berth in the Big Ten Championship game following Saturday’s early games as well as at least a share of the division title, per a conference release.
@NUFBFamily has clinched a berth in the #B1GFCG following today's early #B1GFootball games.— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) December 5, 2020
Congrats @NU_Sports on a great #B1G season!
There has been some hesitancy to call the West for NU with the potential changing nature of the conference’s Championship Game eligibility rules. When the Big Ten announced the restart of the season, rules dictated that teams must play at least six games (with the average rounded up/down at .50) to be eligible for the conference championship.
After Ohio State-Michigan State went final, the total number of Big Ten games played by all teams reached 78, bringing the team average to 5.57. But with No. 4 Ohio State having only played five games and its final regular season opponent, Michigan, dealing with COVID cases, there’s been talk among B1G brass about changing the requirement so the Buckeyes can be eligible to win the conference and bolster their case to make the College Football Playoff.
B1G ADs will likely change B1G title game requirements to allow 5-0 Ohio State in title game if it can’t play 6th league game, sources told @Stadium. But it won’t be an easy decision, source said. A win in B1G title game would all but guarantee Buckeyes a spot in @CFBPlayoff— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 5, 2020
It seems safe to say the conference wouldn’t issue an official release declaring the Wildcats champions of the West if it suspected the rules could be changed. A rule change would potentially make Wisconsin eligible again, since the Badgers could go 4-1 which would beat out the ‘Cats’ 5-2 record if NU lost to Illinois next week. Iowa, with two losses, couldn’t leapfrog Northwestern since NU won the head-to-head matchup in Week Two.
Northwestern will face the East Division winner (likely Ohio State) in the Big Ten Championship at 11 a.m. CT on December 19 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.