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The Road to Indy Week 5

October 30, 2013

Between last week (which I missed) and this week, we’re getting a little more clarity on who is primed to end up in Indy.

THE LEADERS

Ohio State 8-0 (4-0) – The Buckeyes continued to roll with a come from behind win over Iowa at home and a throttling of Penn State on Saturday night.  OSU continues to leap over the hurdles put in their way.  With at least a 2.5 game lead over everyone except Wisconsin in the division and de facto 2 game lead over Wisconsin due to owning the tiebreaker, the Buckeyes will need to lose 2 of their last 4 in order to not end up in Indy.  With a remaining schedule of @Purdue, @Illinois, Indiana and @Michigan, that seems highly unlikely.

Wisconsin 5-2 (3-1) – The Badgers continue to stay mathematically in the race, but still need 2 Buckeye losses if they want to go to Indy.  If Wisconsin gets past a road game at Iowa this week, they could end up 10-2 very easily, with BYU, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State remaining on the schedule, but I still don’t see them in Indy.  They could sneak into a BCS bowl if they finish 10-2 though and things fall right for them.

Everyone else – Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois have a combined 2 wins in Big Ten play.  That’s all you need to know.  The only excitement left among these 4 is to see if Indiana can win 3 of the last 5 to get bowl eligible.  That’s probably not going to happen with road games at Wisconsin and Ohio State left, but you never know.

THE LEGENDS

Michigan State 7-1 (4-0) – The Spartans rebounded from a lackluster 14-0 win over Purdue at home by thumping Illinois 42-3 on the road.  The Spartans continue to improve, and though the offense doesn’t scare good defenses, it doesn’t need to with the #1 ranked defense in the country to protect them.  MSU hosts Michigan this week in a huge game for both.  If MSU wins, they will stand alone a top the Legends division and have a 2 game lead over Michigan.   While the final three games feature road games to Nebraska and Northwestern, MSU would control their own destiny and could basically sew up the division with a win in Lincoln.

Michigan 6-1 (3-1) – After the loss to Penn State 3 Saturdays ago, Michigan got “well” against Indiana last week.  They enjoyed a bye this past weekend, which they desperately needed as they prepare for a huge matchup against MSU in East Lansing.  As noted above, an MSU win basically eliminates Michigan from the division race, as they’d either need a 3-way tie at 6-2  or an MSU collapse in the final 3 games to have a shot.  The 6-2 scenario is unlikely, as it would require Michigan to beat Nebraska, and Nebraska to beat MSU, but then for Nebraska to win their remaining games and for MSU to drop another.  And even then, who knows who would win those tiebreakers?  And MSU starting 7-1 and then dropping the last 3 just isn’t going to happen.  In short, this is an absolute MUST win for Michigan.

Nebraska 5-2 (2-1) – Nebraska, who held the inside track to Indy until this week by virtue of hosting MSU at home and already a game up on Michigan, blew that position by losing at Minnesota this week.  The Cornhuskers, who seemed to rebound after their period of flux from earlier in the season may be back in a tailspin with fans in Lincoln calling for coach Bo Pelini’s head.  The schedule is not kind to Nebraska either, as they play Northwestern, @Michigan, MSU, @PSU and Iowa in consecutive weeks the rest of the way.  They still control their own destiny and will win the division if they go unbeaten the rest of the way – but that’s asking a lot for a team that just lost on the road to Minnesota.

Everyone else – Iowa and Minnesota are still in the running technically, but its going to require some serious work on their part, and some luck, as both are 2-2 and have lost to teams ahead of them in the standings which means they need multiple losses by others in order to have a shot.  Oh, and they have to win out too.  Minnesota will play in a bowl by virtue of their victory over Nebraska to get to 6 wins, and Iowa should get their soon too.  As for Northwestern….4 straight Big Ten losses have taken the Wildcats from Big Ten to contender to questionable bowl team.  Northwestern needs to win 2 of their last 4 just to get to 6 wins and the schedule is brutal.  Nebraska and Illinois on the road, and Michigan and MSU at home.  They can win 2 of those, but given they’ve lost 4 in a row, I’m not sure I trust them too.

BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION:  I’ve said it since Week 1 of the season was in the books, and I’m not changing my pick – OSU will win the Leaders.  As for the Legends, I had thought Nebraska was the favorite, but their loss to Minnesota has changed that.  MSU has looked the best recently and also has the record and the schedule in their favor.  If MSU doesn’t beat Michigan, all bets are off – but for this week it looks like a Sparty vs. Buckeyes party in Indy.

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