Jerry Schultheiss-US PRESSWIRE
With three weeks left and each team holding on to whatever slim margins of victory they can, the path to Indianapolis is becoming clearer for teams in both the Leaders and Legends divisions. Follow along as we check up on where each team stands and what needs to happen for any given fanbase to be happy.
The Ridiculous Division (aka the Leaders Division)
I said this last week, but I will reiterate it here. Regardless of the pluckiness of a suddenly resurgent Indiana, you would be a fool to believe we should let Wisconsin off the hook if they do not make it to Indianapolis. This is a team that by all accounts has the best set of talent and most experience. I don't care if you're starting a QB who is inept, you should at least have the decency to run the ball down people's throats at every turn. With that said, this week is suddenly interesting because Indiana can beat you and make a run at the title game. If that happens, I will require Wisconsin to sit in the corner and think about what they did because whatever it is, it isn't good. Also worth noting. This is literally down to two teams. Ridiculous.
If Only You All Didn't Get Banned
Ohio State (6-0)
Penn State (4-1)
Last week, I didn't take the time to publicly berate the Buckeyes and Lions for their lack of eligibility in what is an admittedly weak year in the Big Ten. I'm going to do that now by pointing out that these two teams are actually the top (Ohio State) and probably Top 4 (Penn State) in the conference. Congratulations to both of you. You are helping the conference look awesome. I hope you both are learning a lesson...
Still, Ted wrote a nice story over at LGHL the other day looking at the silver linings of Ohio State being on a Bowl Ban and it made a lot of sense. They are lucky to be in such a good position. As for Penn State? I think BOB has been stellar and is in the driver's seat for COTY. Also, I've decided I'm going to give you some links throughout this piece to other things I've read. May this appease you all for our lack of links during the season (life is busy). Anyhow, can you believe that JoePa's last game was a year ago? He was literally on the sideline last year and doesn't that seem mindblowing? BSD has a good article reflecting back on that game.
Chances of Making it to Indy: N/A
Gone Baby Gone
I don't need to say anything more about Illinois because they just keep cruising towards ineptitude. However, I will take this moment to direct you to the new SBNation Illinois site, The Champaign Room, where they are legitimately asking if Reilly O'Toole is the answer at QB. So, um, good luck with that.
On the flipside, remember when we said Purdue was just on the verge of relevance? They almost beat Notre Dame and there were rumors of darkhorse candidate for Indianapolis? You all don't remember that? Well, here's what Hammer and Rails is saying now... I don't think they remember those times much either. It's been nice knowing you Coach Hope.
Chances of Making it to Indy: 0%
Seriously Guys, WE'RE STILL IN THIS THING!!!
Last year, our power polls were not nice to Indiana. We named them Marvin from Pulp Fiction, WTF is That Meme, Cat House: The Series, and other terrible things including some quotes about being a lost cause. Now? They control their destiny for Indianapolis and have their biggest game coming up in like, ever. After beating Iowa, John at Crimson Quarry seems to be in as much disbelief as all of us. Good for Kevin Wilson, though. By the way, if you're Illinois, you're hoping that the transition to Beckman goes this well.
Chance of Making it to Indy: 35%
How Haven't You Clinched This Division Yet?
After back-to-back-to-back wins over Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota, many people were proclaiming the virtues of the Wisconsin offense being, "back," and forgetting that this team had, in fact, lost to Nebraska and Oregon State and had a signature win over... well, they didn't have a signature win. Alas, those sentiments went out the door as Michigan State slammed the door on that rush game and with Stave out, they need to win this weekend against Indiana. Normally, nobody would wonder about the outcome of this game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Indiana score points at will. But hey, Curt Phillips is starting for Bucky. There is no way that doesn't end poorly, right? For the record, I still think Wisconsin wins two of three and makes this doomsday stuff a moot point.
Chance of Making it to Indy: 65%
The Slightly Less Ridiculous Division (Legends)
This is not as cut and dry as the Leaders, but this division won't be worrying about the potential of a below .500 team representing them in Indianapolis. The fascinating thing, in my opinion, is that so many people are just writing the Legends' representative into Pasadena. Considering how each team in this division can, and probably will, shoot themselves in the foot, that is a terrible idea.
Better Than Last Year, So That's a Plus
I would like to live in a world where Jerry Kill's squad is still in the race for Indianapolis come November, but that world will have to wait. Due to the loss to Michigan, there is no mathematical way for Minnesota to make it to Indy with tiebreaker going to Michigan in a worst-case scenario. It was a nice ride, though, and a win over Illinois makes you bowl eligible. After the atrocity of last year, there is nothing wrong with that!
Chance of Making it to Indy: 0%
Not Better Than Last Year Which Definitely Sucks
Michigan State (2-4)
I don't really know what to write about Michigan State... This is an average team with a stellar defense that wears thin at times and a mediocre-to-bad offense that shows up in strange incremental fashion. Sure, you can think to yourself that the B1G officials are out to get you, but the bigger picture is that officials in this conference are just plain bad. Regardless, Michigan State could have won this game if they didn't give up over 300 yards of rushing. I strongly believe Michigan State is a great defense, but the resume is weaker when you have a game like that on your resume. With that said, Sparty can still go bowling, so... yay?
Chance of Making it to Indy: 0%
I Mean, Technically They're Still Contending
The upside to Iowa's season is that it is backloaded with contenders that they could plausibly beat thus putting them into contention for Indianapolis. Of course, the downside is that the reality of that schedule is that they will probably be fighting for bowl eligibility... Losing to Indiana pretty much makes this a terrible situation for Iowa and not only do they not control their own destiny, they probably can't spend too much time worrying about anyone but themselves. If Iowa wants to go bowling, they more or less need a win this weekend. Then it's either knocking out Michigan at the Big House or Nebraska on Black Friday in what might be an extremely red stadium if things really go off the tracks in the next two weeks.
Chance of Making it to Indy: 3%
Still Just Need A Little Help From Our Friends
Not much changed for the Wildcats in a week. They had a bye, Michigan and Nebraska won their games. Etc. A make or break situation does arise for the Wildcats this weekend, though. If they lose to Michigan, they are toast as the best they can finish would be 5-3 and the worst the Wolverines could finish would be 5-3, but the Wolverines would own the tiebreaker. If the Wildcats want to be Indianapolis bound, they're going to need to figure out how to stop whatever QB Michigan starts. I think Northwestern fans are expecting the worst at this point, but hey, at least they still have a fairly controlled shot at Indianapolis...
Chance of Making it to Indy: 13% (Decrease due to Michigan and Nebraska wins over potential losses)
I was really impressed with Gardner last week as he did what he needed to do against Minnesota. Now the real question is can he continue that if Denard is unable to go, and if Denard is able to go, can Michigan keep up that overall offensive momentum going in general? The thing that sucks for Michigan is that they do not control their own destiny. Now, quite a few people believe that Nebraska will lose at least one more game before the end of the year, but Michigan has no room for error regardless. With games against Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State, the slate isn't exactly clean, so keeping and eye on the prize is super important. I have a feeling Penn State will have quite a few Legends' fans this weekend.
Chance of Making it to Indy: 25% (Another Nebraska win lowers these odds each week)
You Are Going to Cause Some Fans a Heart Attack But You Still Control Your Own Destiny
They kind of took care of business last Saturday in East Lansing, but does anybody think they are going to really win out? I am obviously a little bit of a cynic anyways, but I think anything short of winning out keeps Nebraska home right now. Relying on a loss by Michigan doesn't sound like a fun idea, though. The key to making it to Indy at this point is playing to potential. As we have all seen, this team can score at will when they aren't panicking. Now they just have to not panic more often than not. On an upside, Taylor Martinez is a legitimate weapon. Sure he makes mistakes and makes you want to scream, but I'm glad the Huskers have him on their side.
Chance of Making it to Indy: 59%