Monday, November 5, 2012
Big Ten rooting interests: Week 11
By Adam Rittenberg
It's time to look at rooting interests around the Big Ten entering Week 11. I've decided to expand the rooting interests a little bit to include what would need to happen for a Big Ten team to earn an at-large bid to a BCS bowl (don't hold your breath).
There are only three semi-realistic candidates for at-large berths: No. 16 Nebraska, No. 24 Northwestern and Michigan. While unranked, Michigan actually might have the best chance if it wins out, as its only losses would be to No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Notre Dame and to Nebraska in a game where Denard Robinson got hurt. Northwestern already is in the BCS standings and would keep rising if it wins out to go 10-2, possibly finishing in the top 14, which is necessary for at-large consideration. Nebraska is the highest-ranked team, but it actually has the worst chance for an at-large bid because it would need to lose once more and likely won't face a ranked opponent the rest of the way. Michigan is the only Big Ten team with a realistic chance of finishing in the top 14 with three losses.
I'm also including rooting interests for Ohio State and Penn State as far as the Leaders Division championship. Michigan State and Minnesota both fall out of the rooting interest after suffering their fourth league losses (third in the division).
For BCS at-large purposes, Nebraska/Northwestern/Michigan should root for ...
Baylor to beat Oklahoma and Iowa State to beat Texas. A loss by the 12th-rated Sooners decreases the likelihood of the Big 12 getting multiple BCS bowl entries. Texas also is in the at-large mix at No. 17, but the Longhorns already have two losses and still have a game left against Big 12 front-runner Kansas State.
Virginia Tech to beat Florida State and Maryland to beat Clemson. It's very likely that Florida State or Clemson will earn the ACC's automatic BCS bowl berth, but a second loss by the Seminoles or Tigers would be a major blow to their respective at-large BCS bowl hopes.
Cal to beat Oregon, Stanford to beat Oregon State and Washington State to beat UCLA. Although an Oregon loss likely creates a nightmarish matchup for the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl, it also increases the likelihood that the Pac-12 has only one team in a BCS game. Oregon State is the league's best bet for an at-large berth if Oregon doesn't reach the national title game, so a Beavers loss to Stanford would help. UCLA has re-entered the at-large mix at No. 18, but a loss to Washington State would remove the Bruins from the picture.
Texas State to beat No. 20 Louisiana Tech. Boise State's loss last week eliminates the Broncos from at-large consideration, and a second loss by Louisiana Tech likely would do the same.
Nebraska (7-2, 4-1) should root for ...
Northwestern to beat Michigan. The Huskers hold the tiebreaker against both teams, but they have as many league losses as Michigan entering Week 11.
Purdue to beat Iowa. The Hawkeyes aren't a serious threat to Nebraska, but a fourth Big Ten loss likely eliminates Kirk Ferentz's squad from the race.
Michigan (6-3, 4-1) should root for ...
Penn State to beat Nebraska. The Huskers hold the tiebreaker against Michigan, which needs Nebraska to lose at least once down the stretch to win the division. A Michigan win and a Nebraska loss puts Michigan back in the driver's seat.
Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) should root for ...
Penn State to beat Nebraska. The Wildcats need Nebraska to lose two of its final three games to have any chance at winning the division. Nebraska holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Northwestern and also has beaten Michigan, so Northwestern's only chance is to finish with a better Big Ten record than the Huskers.
Iowa (4-5, 2-3) should root for ...
Michigan to beat Northwestern. Despite a three-game slide, Iowa is still alive because it has two division wins (Michigan State, Minnesota) and only one division loss (Northwestern). The Hawkeyes still have games with both Michigan and Nebraska that provide tiebreaker opportunities, but they'll lose any tiebreaker with Northwestern. So a Wildcats loss helps.
Penn State to beat Nebraska. The Hawkeyes are two games behind both Michigan and Nebraska in the loss column, so they'll need both of those teams to drop one more game besides their respective contests with Iowa. Penn State will be Nebraska's toughest test before the Iowa game, so a Huskers loss helps.
LEADERS DIVISION (championship)
Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) should root for ...
Nebraska to beat Penn State. A Lions loss would assure Ohio State of at least a shared division title, as every other team would have at least two losses.
Indiana to beat Wisconsin. If both Penn State and Wisconsin lose, Ohio State will clinch a share of the division championship, no matter what happens in the final two weeks. The Buckeyes already hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against Indiana.
Penn State (6-3, 4-1) should root for ...
Itself. Penn State's only hope for an outright division title is to win out and have Ohio State lose its final two games.
Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) should root for ...
Itself. Wisconsin's only chance for a division title is to win out -- it still faces both Ohio State and Penn State after Indiana -- and to have Ohio State lose its final two games.
LEADERS DIVISION (representation at Big Ten title game)
Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2) should root for ...
Itself. A Wisconsin win against Indiana clinches a spot in the Big Ten title game because of the tiebreaker.
Indiana (4-5, 2-3) should root for ...
Itself. The Hoosiers must beat Wisconsin to stay alive in the race to represent the Leaders Division. If they do, they'll have the inside track to get to Indy.