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Across The Empire: Early Games Open Thread

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We have a de facto Division Championship Game, a couple of probable blowouts, and all the conference sadness in one place

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

As we hit week 12 of the college football season, the Big Ten picture is in pretty clear focus: Ohio State is going to win the Leaders Division, and the winner of today's Michigan State-Nebraska game will probably win the Legends.

The only other team that can topple the Legends narrative is Minnesota.

Wait...WHAT?!?!

First, the games:

11:00

Purdue at Penn State, BTN

Indiana at Wisconsin, ESPN 2

Ohio State at Illinois, ESPN

2:30

Michigan at Northwestern, BTN

MSU at Nebraska, ABC

There's nothing redeeming about the early games, with maybe the exception of Indiana and Wisconsin. Ohio State and Penn State should and will win going away. Indiana still has an outside shot at a bowl, but they have to win two of their final three games. Unfortunately, two of those opponents are the Badgers and OSU, who they play next week. Of the two, Wisconsin offers the best shot at a win. But by 'best shot', I mean like a 0.183% chance, though.

Which, coincidentally, is better than Michigan's yards per carry the last two weeks.

Speaking of Michigan, they meet Northwestern in The Disappointment Bowl. Michigan is already bowl eligible, but they really need a couple more wins to shake off the dark cloud that's been hanging around Schembechler Hall the last couple of weeks. Northwestern, a pre-season favorite to win the division, has imploded and still needs two wins to become bowl eligible. They finish the season with Illinois, but need to beat UM or MSU. A loss today, and they're probably not even going to a bowl. Ouch.

Finally, our marquee game of the week is MSU at Nebraska, with the winner the probable opponent for Ohio State in the B1G Conference Championship game. Minnesota still has a slim shot, but they have to win out, MSU would have to lose to Nebraska and Minnesota, and Nebraska would have to beat MSU and then lose to Penn State or Iowa. At least I think so. Basically, Minnesota, MSU, and Nebraska all have to have two conference losses, and the Gophers need to have wins over MSU and Nebraska to win the tiebreaker. I don't see all of that happening, but it's still kind of cool to be able to discuss a remote, yet not 100% unrealistic way Minnesota could get to the Big Ten Championship game in November. Granted, it's 95% unrealistic...but I'm tellin' ya there's a chance.

Standard open thread rules remain the same as always: No links or discussion of sites that illegally stream games, no links to porn, and play nice with each other.

Enjoy the games, everyone!