Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Minnesota all won last week with Wisconsin scoring a huge division victory over Iowa. Northwestern pushed itself to the top of the middle with a victory over Indiana. Nebraska survived the Purdue dead cat bounce while Illinois beat the spread in Ann Arbor. Minnesota did not lose. Using Bill Connelly’s Advanced Stat Profiles, we get the following projected records.
Nebraska is still undefeated but has yet to face a tough test. This changes in a hurry starting with a trip to Madison this weekend. The winner of this game looks to be the front runner for the division as Northwestern will likely lose to Ohio State, and Iowa and Minnesota both have 2 conference losses. A Wisconsin loss all but eliminates them from the division race. If Nebraska loses, they will still control their destiny but will need to beat Ohio State.
Northwestern only has one loss in conference, but it was to Nebraska. To earn a trip to Indy, the Wildcats will need the Cornhuskers to lose two more games and win out. To reach mere bowl eligibility, the Wildcats will need to win two more games. Their best bets are @Purdue (74%), Illinois (71%), and @Minnesota (34%). S&P+ gives Northwestern a 74% chance of getting to six wins.
Minnesota did not lose to Rutgers (though they tried very hard to do so.) If the Gophers win out (3% chance), they will need Nebraska (97.2%) and Iowa (99.4%) to lose one other game to win the division and go to Indy. Nebraska still has Ohio State on the Schedule and Iowa still has Michigan on the schedule. One of Nebraska/Iowa will also lose in the final week of the season. S&P+ has Minnesota as the West representative 2.88% of the time. I didn’t bother looking into ties with 3 losses, as Minnesota likely loses any tiebreaker involving 3 conference losses.
Iowa has two division losses to teams ahead of them, they will likely need to win out and not end up tied with Northwestern or Wisconsin if they want a repeat trip to Indy. Iowa’s chances of winning out are 0.6% so they are likely fighting for bowl slotting.
Illinois and Purdue are probably not making bowl games this year. Illinois is favored against Michigan State while Purdue is not favored in any remaining games.
The biggest matchup of the weekend is between Nebraska and Wisconsin in Madison. The winner of this game has a huge advantage in the race to Indy as Nebraska (and 1-loss Northwestern) still has to play Ohio State.
Northwestern heads to Columbus in a game that will likely end their hopes at the West crown but not for a bowl bid. Minnesota travels to Illinois and looks to avoid the same fate (see: flu game) as their last trip to Champaign. The Gophers need to win to keep their slim hopes for Indy alive. A win also clinches a bowl berth for the 5th straight season. WOOOOO APR!
Iowa is off while Purdue hosts Penn State. The Boilers have looked better through the air the last couple of weeks and I still don’t think Penn State, a team that needed OT to beat Minnesota in Happy Valley, is that good. That said, Purdue is bad and will likely give up too many big plays to score the upset.
There is at least one way to get a 5-way tie at 6-3:
- Iowa beats only one of Michigan/Penn State while sweeping Nebraska and Illinois
- Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska go 1-1 against each other.
- Minnesota wins their other three games
- Wisconsin wins their other three games
- Nebraska goes 1-1 against OSU and Maryland (losing to Iowa and one of WI/MN)
- Northwestern beats OSU, PU, and IL (losing to WI and MN)
This scenario would send the Badgers to Indy via Step 2: Best record in the Division.
If you can find any other five way ties, post them below!