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How to win the Big Ten East

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Nebraska's recent upset of Sparty has made an exciting race for the Big Ten East title even crazier.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

It's not too often that we get this deep into conference play with so little having been decided. A lot of credit goes to whoever generated this year's schedule, which features four games between the top four teams in the division over the course of the final two weeks of the regular season. Here's a rundown of the events to come.

Date Ohio State Michigan State Michigan Penn State
November 14 at Illinois Maryland at Indiana BYE
November 21 Michigan State at Ohio State at Penn State Michigan
November 28 at Michigan Penn State Ohio State at Michigan State

As long as nobody loses in Week 10 (I've got my eye on you, Penn State), we'll enter the final stretch with an undefeated Ohio State along with Michigan and Michigan State owning one loss a piece. Penn State has two losses because it couldn't stop Northwestern's backup quarterback from converting 3rd-and-15.

So who wins the chance to trounce undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten Football Championship Game? That's what we're going to try to figure out.

If Ohio State wins all three of its games...

Then the Buckeyes are the champs and (if/when they beat Iowa) will likely advance to the College Football Playoff based on its No. 3 spot in last week's initial rankings. Ohio State hasn't been as dominant as some thought they would be this season, but they still haven't lost, and besides, everyone will forget about that close game in Bloomington if Urban Meyer's boys beat the khakis off of Michigan.

If Michigan State defeats Ohio State...

Then Michigan State has some redemption. Sparty may have already blown its shot at the Playoff when it lost on Saturday to Nebraska in stunning fashion. Ranked No. 7 last week by the selection committee, it looks like Michigan State is going to need help to surpass Notre Dame, Baylor, and Alabama. However, the Spartans still control their own destiny in the Big Ten, where an upset over Ohio State would put them in the title game based on a head-to-head tiebreaker.

If Michigan wins all three of its games...

Then they'll own a head-to-head tiebreaker over Ohio State but not Michigan State, whom the Wolverines probably should have defeated two weeks ago. That means that for Michigan to claim the division championship, it needs the Spartans to lose to Penn State or Ohio State (or maybe even Maryland!).

If Penn State wins both of its games...

Then that would be good news for the Buckeyes, who would in turn only have to win two of their remaining three games to take the division title. However, if Ohio State loses to Michigan State and Michigan, who both lose to Penn State, we'll have a four-way tie among two-loss teams. According to Big Ten bylaws, the first step towards breaking a tie between more than two teams is to compare their records against the other tied teams. Here's what that would look like.

OSU MSU UM PSU Record
OSU X L L W 1-2
MSU W X W L 2-1
UM W L X L 1-2
PSU L W W X 2-1

The 1-2 records for Ohio State and Michigan would eliminate them in this scenario and leave Penn State and Michigan State in a head-to-head tiebreaker for the division championship. With the Lions having hypothetically defeated Sparty, Penn State moves on to the title game despite being crushed by Ohio State earlier in the season.

Other scenarios

With the way the schedule is set up, we can't have a three-way tie if none of the competitors lose this weekend. The only way to have multiple teams tied at the end of the season would be for Penn State to win the rest of its games and Ohio State to lose its final two games. However, if something trippy happens this weekend, it will throw another monkey wrench into the process and open up a whole new can of worms. I'm running out of idioms for things devolving into chaos, so let's just say that if any of the Big Ten East favorites lose on Saturday, we'll revisit the title race a week from now.