- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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You've waited patiently for it, and it's finally here. Rooting interests has returned.
Unlike previous seasons, when the Big Ten was a little more nationally relevant, the rooting interest pieces I'll post the next few Mondays (or Tuesdays) are conference-centric. The Big Ten's hopes for a BCS at-large bid are essentially dashed after both Michigan and Wisconsin lost Saturday. Nebraska would be the only other team with a chance, but I can't see the Huskers ending up in the top 14 -- needed for at-large selection -- with one more loss.
As a result, rooting interests will be all about the Big Ten race. Ohio State and Penn State are eliminated because of NCAA sanctions, and Purdue and Illinois are out of the picture in the Leaders division. All six Legends division teams are alive, although Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa need a lot of help. Check out the Big Ten's Week 10 schedule.
Here are the rooting interests entering Week 10 (both Wisconsin and Northwestern are off) …
Nebraska (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) should root for …
Minnesota to beat Michigan. The Huskers and Wolverines are tied atop the division, and although Nebraska holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, Michigan remains the biggest threat to the Huskers. Nebraska still gets its chance to beat Minnesota on Nov. 17 in Lincoln.
Indiana to beat Iowa. Despite looking awful the past two weeks, Iowa remains alive in the Legends division at 2-2 in league play. A third loss all but knocks the Hawkeyes out of the race. Nebraska would like to get to its Nov. 23 game at Iowa with the division title locked up.
Michigan (5-3, 3-1) should root for …
Michigan State to beat Nebraska. As difficult as that may be for Wolverines fans, Michigan loses the head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska and needs the Huskers to lose at least once in November to have a chance to reach Indy. Although Michigan State could become a bigger factor in the race with a win and a Michigan loss to Minnesota, the Wolverines need to worry about Big Red primarily.
Indiana to beat Iowa. See above. The faster the Hawkeyes are officially out of the race, the better for Michigan, which has struggled with Iowa in recent years and hosts Kirk Ferentz's crew Nov. 17.
Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) should root for …
Michigan State to beat Nebraska. After losing to the Huskers by a point Oct. 20, Northwestern becomes a big fan of whichever team is playing Nebraska the rest of the way. Northwestern needs Nebraska to lose at least two of its final four games to have any chance at reaching the title game.
Minnesota to beat Michigan. Northwestern gets its shot against the Wolverines next week in Ann Arbor, but it wouldn't hurt to be tied with Michigan in the standings rather than a game back. The Wildcats already own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Minnesota, which isn't a huge threat to win the division.
Iowa (4-4, 2-2) should root for …
Minnesota to beat Michigan. Iowa already holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Minnesota, and still faces Michigan in three weeks. But Michigan is tied for the division lead, so the Hawkeyes would benefit from a Wolverines loss.
Michigan State to beat Nebraska. The Hawkeyes also own the tiebreaker against Michigan State, and they end the regular season against Nebraska on Nov. 23. Like Michigan, Nebraska has only one conference loss and none in the division, so an MSU win definitely benefits Iowa.
Michigan State (5-4, 2-3) should root for …
Minnesota to beat Michigan. The Spartans are essentially three games behind the Wolverines after falling in Ann Arbor on Oct. 20, so they need Michigan to really stumble down the stretch to have any chance at returning to Indy.
Indiana to beat Iowa. Michigan State also loses the head-to-head tiebreaker with Iowa and likely needs the Hawkeyes to lose at least twice more. A Spartans win against Nebraska and losses by both Michigan and Iowa would give Mark Dantonio's team some real hope.
Minnesota (5-3, 1-3) should root for …
Indiana to beat Iowa. The Gophers lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Hawkeyes, so they need Iowa to struggle in the month of November.
Michigan State to beat Nebraska. Although Minnesota has yet to play the Huskers or the Spartans -- it closes the season against the two teams -- it needs Nebraska to start losing to have a chance of unseating Big Red atop the division.
Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) should root for …
Iowa to beat Indiana. The Hoosiers are very much alive in the division if they beat Iowa, and host the Badgers the following week. Indiana has a more favorable closing schedule than Wisconsin, which ends against Ohio State and Penn State. If Indiana suffers its fourth league loss, Wisconsin could clinch a spot in the title game next week.
Indiana (3-5, 1-3) should root for …
Itself. Wisconsin is off in Week 10, so the Hoosiers' hopes to push the Badgers in the Leaders division rest on their ability to beat Iowa at home. Indiana still has trips to both Penn State and Purdue, so it's critical Kevin Wilson's squad defends its home turf to set up a pivotal game against Wisconsin.
You've waited patiently for it, and it's finally here. Rooting interests has returned.Unlike previous seasons, when the Big Ten was a little more nationally relevant, the rooting interest pieces I'll post the next few Mondays (or Tuesdays) are conference-centric.