Mid-Season Division Arguments Part II: Breaking Down the Leaders Contenders

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: So what happens if Penn State wins the Paterno trophy? Is that kind of like dividing by 0? (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Yesterday, we mapped out how the contenders (mathematically) in the Legends division are looking as we get prepared for a stretch run of football. Each writer gave reasons for hope, despair, and what might happen. As of now, it sounds like Sparty is still the 'favorite' to get to Indianapolis. If you missed it, here is yesterday's post. Now we turn our attention to the Leaders. Even though Penn State has a commanding two game lead, a tough stretch run and mixed-results offensively leaves the door wide open for Ohio State, Wisconsin, and maybe even Purdue.

For each team contending, OTE writers were asked to answer the following:

  1. Why will your team be going to Indianapolis?
  2. Why will your team be watching the CCG from the living room?
  3. What should we probably expect to happen?
So, in alphabetical order, here are your Leaders contenders (mathematically):

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Ohio State - KennardHusker

1. Why will your team be going to Indianapolis?

This comes down to talent and momentum. After the Nebraska game, most pundits left Ohio State off the list of possible candidates for Indianapolis, but one very important fact was that the Buckeyes put up points with their Quarterback of the future, Braxton Miller. After regrouping, Ohio State showed everyone why their defense is still a force to be reckoned with and the return of Boom Herron has really given another weapon to a once-ailing offense. While Ohio State does not control their own destiny, they have a much more favorable schedule than Penn State and they own a tiebreaker over Wisconsin. Assuming, Ohio State wins out, and Penn State drops two out of their next three, a strong possibility, and the Buckeyes will take their place at the top of the B1G heap... again. 

2. Why will your team be watching the CCG from the living room?

Ohio State watches the first B1G CCG from home because they do not control their own destiny and even if the pieces fall into place, The Game seems to be a smashmouth affair at the Big House on Nov. 26th. Think Hoke wants those kids from Ohio raining on his inaugural parade? I don't either. Ohio State has no room for error, and despite the losses being from the other side of the conference, Penn State still has the inside track. Add to that the reality of a first year coach learning to keep his team together down the stretch and a freshman QB learning to not make mistakes at inopportune times, and you have a recipe for disaster.

3. What should we probably expect to happen?

I openly admit that I am not an Ohio State fan first, so this prediction comes off a little more disingenuous than others. Regardless, I see wins against Purdue, Indiana and Penn State, but a loss to Michigan that knocks the Buckeyes out ofo the CCG. If I've learned anything about B1G football, it's don't bet on an away team in a rivalry game. Hoke has had this game circled on the calendar since he got hired. I predict Michigan to pull out every trick in the book to win that game.

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Penn State - Paterno Ave

1. Why will your team be going to Indianapolis?

"Defense wins championships." Penn State has the best defense in the conference, and they just played their best game of the season. You could even extend that to their 3 best quarters of the season in a row since the great halftime adjustments made against Northwestern. This is a defense that plays great against the run (the offensive forte of all three of the remaining teams on the schedule) and has managed to force turnovers to help win tight games. They are extremely well-disciplined as well, which I think will help them match up particularly well with Nebraska and Wisconsin's offensives schemes.

 

If the offense was only averaging a touchdown more per game you have to think Penn State wouldn't be considered such a long shot for Indianapolis. I think with a bye week to help key players like Derek Moye and Silas Redd rest up, they could be at their most competent (read: mediocre enough to win) for the final stretch.

2. Why will your team be watching the CCG from the living room?

The schedule.

Group A: Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern, and Iowa.
Group B: Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.

Seems like a pretty classic case of the "haves" and the "have-not's." The 8-1 record so far has only done one thing: put Penn State in position to have a memorable season. It has not given fans anything memorable yet. Penn State has been a favorite in every Big Ten game this season. They will likely be an underdog in every one of the remaining three contests. They don't have the offensive firepower to get into shootouts with Nebraska or Wisconsin (or hell even Ohio State); it's going to take drag-out, low-scoring slugfests with a couple likely breaks for the Nittany Lions to get the 2 wins they need to get to Indianapolis, and it's hard to imagine any defense being able to do that every single week of the season.

3. What should we probably expect to happen?

I think Penn State wins one of the next two, setting up a Big Ten Semifinal with Wisconsin in Madison to close the season out. Penn State should be competitive with the Badgers, but I think the safer bet would be to take Wisconsin at home for their trip to the game in Indy.

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Purdue - babaoreally

1. Why will your team be going to Indianapolis?

Purdue will go to Indy if the following things happen:

1. Wisconsin follows up their two close losses at tough road venues with an epic collapse at home against the Boilers.

2. Braxton Miller and Dan Herron get hurt against Indiana this Saturday, Fickle puts Bauserman in the Purdue game, and he throws a few interceptions that get returned for TDs.
3. Purdue beats Indiana and Iowa, which they should, but I wouldn't count on it.
4. Penn State loses to Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

2. Why will your team be watching the CCG from the living room?

Purdue is not good enough to beat Wisconsin on the road and Ohio State at home in back-to-back games. If somehow that were to happen Purdue would either lose to Iowa at home, or pull an Iowa and lose the bucket game for the second straight year.

3. What should we probably expect to happen?

It seems like there is a 50% chance that the Boilers will make it to 6-6 and a bowl. I tend to be pessimistic, so I'm saying 5-7. Purdue gets crushed against Wisconsin, plays better against OSU but still loses, loses a winnable game against Iowa, and beats IU in Bloomington.

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Wisconsin - Hilary Lee

1. Why will your team be going to Indianapolis?

Wisconsin is going to Indy because, despite losing two weeks in a row on Hail Mary passes, they still have the most complete team in the division. Yes, I know that the last two weeks have shown that the Badgers are in fact mortal -- and that Bret Bielema still has problems with late game time out calls, that our secondary can be beat, and that, frankly, the universe hates me, but that doesn't take a away from the fact that Wisconsin is still a scary scary team. We've got a ridiculous running game and, when he's not committing intentional grounding penalties, an experienced and accurate QB who can make things happen on the ground if given the chance by the play calling.

Also, our remaining schedule really isn't all that bad. Purdue and Minnesota, games that could have been traps before we dropped two, will likely turn out as focused beat downs now. Illinois is still coached by Ron Zook. And no matter what you think about Penn State, that game is mercifully in Camp Randall, and I still don't believe in the Nittany Lions offense. Oh, and Ohio State still has to play in the Big House. I mean, at some point we've got to get a break, right?

2. Why will your team be watching the CCG from the living room?

Wisconsin won't go to Indy because they've dug themselves into too deep a hole to get out of. It's nice when you control your own destiny -- not so much when even winning out doesn't guarantee you a trip to the championship game. At this point, the two other teams vying for an Indy spot are both on the upswing, and the Badgers look to be trending towards the flameout to beat all flameouts. Even if they knock off Penn State at home and PSU drops one to UN-L or OSU, the Badgers still have to hope that OSU gets beat by Michigan, or that PSU loses to UN-L and then beats OSU before losing to Wisconsin. Bottom line is, we need help, and it's quite possible it just won't happen.

3. What should we probably expect to happen?

We should expect that Wisconsin will somehow win out and make it to Indy. Why? Because the PSU game is at Camp Randall. That's what it comes down to. I still don't fully believe in the Buckeyes, and it's hard for me to accept that the universe is that cruel. If the PSU game were on the road, I'd probably be saying the Badgers were toast right about now, but Camp Randall is a very hard place to come out with a win. And I just don't know that the Nittany Lions are good enough to beat both UN-L and OSU.

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