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The Road to Indianapolis – Week #2

October 10, 2013

BTN Trophy

 

LEADERS DIVISION

Ohio State 6-0 (2-0) – The Buckeyes won a hard fought victory over Northwestern on Saturday night, and in doing so virtually assured themselves a spot in the Big Ten Title game.  It seems ridiculous to say just two weeks into the Big Ten season, but with the Buckeyes holding the tiebreaker over Wisconsin by virtue of their victory over them and the rest of the division looking more like MAC teams than Big Ten teams, its a fair statement.  If Ohio State were to drop a surprise game along the way to a team they are clearly better than and then lose to Michigan, Wisconsin would still need to run the table the rest of the way to overtake the Buckeyes. Barring something very strange, you can already pencil in Ohio State for Indianapolis.

Wisconsin 3-2 (1-1) – Wisconsin didn’t play on Saturday but likely spent the evening rooting for Northwestern.  Sadly the Wildcats couldn’t close out the game and now Wisconsin needs a surprise or two in the Big Ten season to displace the Buckeyes from the top of the Leaders Division.   Plus, they have to take care of their own business, starting with Northwestern this weekend.

Indiana 3-2 (1-1) – Given Indiana’s surprising win over Penn State, I’m not obligated to include them as potential “contender” in the Leaders Division.  Technically they could beat OSU and manage to finish ahead of them in the standings even with some losses elsewhere, but that is highly unlikely.  This would constitute the “very strange” scenario I outlined above.  But kudos to the Hoosier on the win.

Illinois, Purdue, Penn State – Illinois and Purdue are a combined 4-6 and each already have a Big Ten loss, and Penn State isn’t eligible for Indianapolis.  I’m already burying Purdue, and it will take a win in two weeks against Wisconsin by Illinois for me to mention them here again.

THE PICK FOR INDY – At this point its ridiculous to pick anyone other than Ohio State.  They are the best team and already have gotten past two of their biggest tests.  I expect them to have the division wrapped by before Thanksgiving.

LEGENDS DIVISION

Michigan 5-0 (1-0) – The Wolverines rebounded nicely from two sub-par performances against Akron and UConn to take care of Minnesota easily.  They once again looked like a Big Ten contender and technically sit atop the Legends standings though MSU and Nebraska are also 1-0.  Michigan will get a test this week against Penn State who is coming off a surprisingly loss at bottom feeder Indiana.  A win by the Wolverines should set them up to be undefeated when they head to East Lansing the first weekend in November.

Michigan State 4-1 (1-0) – The Spartans looked as good as they have all year with a convincing and at time dominating win at Iowa, a notoriously tough place to play.  This was a game the Spartans had to have in order to be a Big Ten contender, and they did so with some swagger.  With Indiana and Purdue at home followed by a trip to Illinois, it would be a surprise if the Spartans didn’t head into November 4-0 in the conference.

Nebraska 4-1 (1-0) – Despite the turmoil that plagued Nebraska in the non-conference schedule, they looked very good at home against Illinois, even without Taylor Martinez, and coasted to a 39-19 win.  Nebraska now has two very winnable games against Purdue and Minnesota before taking on Northwestern and traveling to Michigan.  We won’t know more about the Huskers until those two games, but for now they are right in the thick of things.

Iowa 4-2 (1-1) – If Iowa was going to be a contender in the conference race, they couldn’t afford to lose to MSU at home.  With road trips to Ohio State and Nebraska still looming, plus Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin still on the schedule, the road to Indy has some major roadblocks.  My prediction is that Iowa will effectively be eliminated in two weeks when they suffer their 2nd conference loss to OSU.

Northwestern 4-1 (0-1) – Speaking of devastating losses, the Wildcats home loss to Ohio State really put them behind the 8 ball in the division race.  They still get Michigan and MSU at home, but will likely need to beat both or steal a road win at Wisconsin or Nebraska to keep pace.  The winner of the division will likely have two losses, so all is not lost, but the Wildcats better rebound quickly this weekend against Wisconsin.  A loss there basically ensures they have to run the table the rest of the way. Minnesota – With it’s second straight conference loss, this is the last we’ll be hearing about the Gophers in this space, until they pull a surprising upset – which I think they will.

THE PICK FOR INDY – I’ll still call it a 5 team race for the title for now, but in the end I expect it to be one of Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern or Nebraska.  I still don’t believe in MSU’s offense enough to pick them, though I’m tempted and I need to see one more complete game from Michigan to jump on their bandwagon.  Northwestern already trails by a game, even if they are the most complete team. So for now, I’ll say Nebraska ends up in Indianapolis, but that is hardly a confident pick.

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