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Spanning the Empire...Your Conference Open Thread

Gophers Interim Coach Jeff Horton addreses the media.  Athletic Director Joel Maturi looks on.
Gophers Interim Coach Jeff Horton addreses the media. Athletic Director Joel Maturi looks on.

So when I pulled up the scoreboard to look at the games this week, it said I was at week 9.  "Can't be," I thought, "it's only like week 6 or 7."

Alas.  It is, in fact, week 9.  Time flies, doesn't it?  A remarkable Big Ten season winds inexorably on, on to it's dramatic conclusion.  There are a couple of big games this weekend, and one of the big boys has a day off.

After a Friday night spent dragging a broken dryer out to the garage and dragging a new one upstairs and installing it...ALL BY MYSELF BECAUSE I AM THE STRONGEST MAN EVAH...ahem, sorry...I will spend most of the day in front of the TV, enjoying some Leinie's Sunset Wheat and icing various sore parts of my body, including but not limited to:  back, shoulder, knees, neck, and calf.  I feel like Denard Robinson, only with not as many injuries.

Oh, one more thing.  Should my small intestine be sticking through my belly button?  Is that bad?

Enjoy the games, quick previews after the jump.

Northwestern at Indiana:  This has almost become a must win for Northwestern.  I thought they had an outside shot at nine wins before the season, but after a couple of tough losses, they really need this to make sure they get to 7.  Indiana must win this game if they want to go bowling; lose and they can kiss the post season goodbye.

Purdue at Illinois:  Another near must-win scenario game.  Purdue must have this game if they want to get to 6 wins.  It's not as daunting a task for Illinois, but a win today virtually guarantees them a bowl bid, as they still have games against Minnesota, and winnable games against Northwestern and Fresno State.

Michigan State at Iowa:  This is a must win for different reasons.  Iowa has to win this game if they are to find a path to the Big Ten title and a BCS game.  A loss, barring cicumstances that I can't even contemplate, relegates Iowa to Capital One Bowl Week.  Michigan State needs to win to stay on pace for the conference title and an outside shot at the BCS National Championship.  A loss puts them in the one loss barrel and having to rely on tie breakers and the whims of selection committees to determine whether they get a BCS bowl. 

Ohio State at Minnesota:  A loss by Ohio State here means that the Mayan Apocalypse hits in 2010 and those idiots were off by two years, and pretty much eliminates them from the Big Ten title and BCS picture, at least for the time being.  Jeff Stewart reminds me of Jonathan Wainwright, the American commander in the Phillippines after Douglas MacArthur skedaddled and left Wainwright to surrender to the Japanese.  He can't win, his troops are demoralized, and there are pink slips waiting for all of them at the end of the season, which is better than the Bataan Death March, I suppose.  They're the Battling Bastards of the Bank.

Michigan at Penn State:  Speaking of must win, Penn State really needs this game to go bowling, which is kind of amazing in and of istelf.  The only game left on their schedule that I can consider them the prohibitive favorite is Indiana, so a win here today is essential.  Michigan needs a win to get two straight bad losses behind them and get them to the 6 win threshold.  They could probably drop this game and still get to 6 or 7 wins, but let's face it, 6 or 7 wins really puts Rich Rodriguez in the hot seat again.  8 wins probably saves his job, or 7 wins if one of those is Ohio State.