Frontrunner: Michigan State
Beyond being a week-long glow sort of event, Saturday's domination of Michigan puts the Spartans in very strong position to win the division. Going into the bye at 5-0 in the conference, MSU fans will find themselves rooting for their vanquished rivals to beat Nebraska in the Big House, as it would give MSU a margin of error in the last 3 games, any of which could be potentially troublesome.
The defense is now getting its well-deserved recognition, but the offense remains an uncertain commodity. Still, with a week to rest and let the other contenders bash each other, MSU sits in comfortable position. Whether Nebraska can still overtake them in a single game when the two teams meet Nov. 16 will depend on the results of Nebraska's trip to Michigan this weekend.
Remaining schedule: Bye, @Nebraska, @Northwestern, Minnesota
What a difference a single play makes. If Northwestern properly defends the Hail Mary instead of playing volleyball, Nebraska would find itself in the same position as Minnesota: hoping against hope that MSU goes all New York Mets and implodes in epic fashion to open a chance at the division title. But with the Kellogg Miracle, Nebraska still controls their own fate. The schedule down the stretch is not easy, but if the Huskers run the table, they'll get a crack at Ohio State in the CCG. A loss to Michigan on Saturday would not technically eliminate the Huskers, but they would need to win out and have Michigan State lose out to win the division.
Remaining schedule: @Michigan, Michigan State, @Penn State, Iowa
Hoping for Chaos: Minnesota
A genuine round of applause is in order for the Gophers. After suffering back-to-back whippings to open the conference season, both the immediate and long-term future of the program were in serious jeopardy, as the Gophs faced a two-game hole in the division standings and their head coach was taking an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his epilepsy treatment. Yet here we are, and with the teams that have beaten Minnesota (Michigan and Iowa) having stumbled themselves, Minnesota remains very much alive in the division. The Gophers are a long shot- they would need to win out, and have at least one more loss by both Nebraska and Michigan State to take the division- but given their defiance preseason and midseason expectations, they have to be the best story in the conference this season.
Remaining schedule: Penn State, bye, Wisconsin, @Michigan State
Hoping for Lots and Lots of Chaos: Michigan
With a freshly minted second conference loss, Michigan finds itself in a similar position as Minnesota, but in need of even more good fortune if their conference title dreams are to survive. Saturday's matchup with Nebraska essentially functions as an elimination game for both teams. Should they prevail, however, Michigan is still on the outside looking in unless Michigan State goes winless in their last three games.
Of course, Michigan will also need to sweep the remainder of their schedule, and they face a much tougher slate than MSU or Nebraska does down the stretch, including The Game against a rolling Ohio State squad that will likely be looking to stay unbeaten.
Remaining schedule: Nebraska, @Northwestern, @Iowa, Ohio State
Just Nail Down the Bowl Game: Iowa
Iowa's divisional aspirations, while largely theoretical before the weekend, are now officially terminated; by virtue of their 3-game deficit and head-to-head loss against MSU, Iowa cannot win the division. The loss to rival Wisconsin stung especially badly, but it merely confirmed the fact that this Iowa team is still probably a year away from serious contention again.
The Hawkeyes do, however, still have plenty to play for. Sitting at 5 wins overall, Iowa can lock up bowl eligibility next week by beating pitiful Purdue on the road. They then wrap up the regular season with a pair of opportunities to ruin the days of conference bluebloods, either or both of which may still be in conference contention when they play Iowa.
Remaining schedule: @Purdue, bye, Michigan, @Nebraska
LOL. Sorry, That was Mean: Northwestern
Sometimes, things just don't work out. Sometimes there are reasons, other times it just feels like it wasn't meant to be. At this point, Northwestern's 2013 campaign is right up there with Napoleon's jaunt into Russia on the list of historical disappointments. Maybe the team was overhyped as a darkhorse conference contender in the preseason, but since coming up short against Ohio State with the entire country watching, the fall from grace has been hard indeed for the Wildcats. At 0-5 in the conference, bowl eligibility and a spoiler role are all that remains of formerly sky-high expectations.
As if losing on a Hail Mary wasn't bad enough, Northwestern now gets a bye week to simmer in it before hosting both Michigan schools and then wrapping the season with a trip to woeful Illinois. The Wildcats need to win two of their last three games to obtain bowl eligibility, but a trip to Dallas or Detroit would be a pretty sour consolation prize given Northwestern's preseason hopes.
Remaining schedule: bye, Michigan, Michigan State, @Illinois