Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
Just when you thought the division races were over ...
Last week, it appeared that the West was finally starting to shake itself out and the East was all but over (among eligible teams). Then the bottom three in the West won and two of the top three lost. Out East, Wisconsin's loss and Indiana's victory make that race mildly interesting again.
As always, ratings are here and division title chances are calculated from 100,000 simulated seasons. The East isn't quite simplified enough yet to switch over to scenario calculation yet; that will happen next week for both divisions.
Last Week's Results
Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 (OT)
For 55 minutes, Wisconsin was on the verge of putting the East all but out of reach. Now? It's still not likely that they'll get caught, but it's a lot less implausible than it was a week ago. Meanwhile, this makes MSU's quest for a bowl much, much easier.
Northwestern 28, Iowa 17
The Wildcats raced out to a 28-3 lead less than five minutes into the third quarter. True to form, they had to sweat out the ending a little bit as Iowa closed the gap to two scores halfway through the fourth quarter, but Northwestern hung on. Kain Colter and Venric Mark each topped 160 rushing yards in the win.
Nebraska 23, Michigan 9
With Northwestern's victory, Michigan had a chance to take a two-game lead in the loss column in the division. The Blackshirts had other ideas. Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez both missed time with injuries, but Martinez returned and Robinson did not. The Michigan offense disappeared entirely with Russell Bellomy at the helm, and now the Huskers are the sole team in the West to control their own destiny.
Minnesota 44, Purdue 28
Not nearly as close as the score says; Purdue scored the last 21 after Robert Marve (and later Rob Henry) replaced Caleb TerBush at QB. This edges Minnesota one game away from bowl eligibility with a trip to Illinois still ahead, while Purdue will need three of their last four to see postseason play.
Ohio State 35, Penn State 23
The Buckeyes' rampage continues, as a 21-point third quarter spree broke open what had been a low-scoring game at halftime. Three more games stand between OSU and an undefeated but bowlless season.
Indiana 31, Illinois 17
The Hoosiers have their first Big Ten win under Kevin Wilson after several close calls earlier this season. Remarkably, in combination with Wisconsin's loss, Indiana now controls its own destiny to reach Indianapolis. The Illini can take consolation in staying within two scores, I guess; that's the first time they've achieved that against a Division 1-A team since the opener against Western Michigan.
West Division Tables
|Michigan State (#43)||3.51||N/A||N/A||12.25%||37.37%||37.75%||12.63%||N/A||N/A||N/A||87.75%||0.06%||5.26%|
Big swing due to Nebraska's victory, changing from a half-game advantage for Michigan to a 3/4 game advantage for Nebraska. A good chunk of this is remaining strength of schedule - Michigan has a trip to Ohio State and a home game against Northwestern remaining, while Nebraska's toughest are at MSU and home against Penn State. MSU's odds in the remaining games are practically indistinguishable from "flip three coins". It remains fairly likely that the entire division will get postseason invitations, in part thanks to Iowa's games against Indiana and Purdue.
|Michigan State (#45)||3.86||N/A||N/A||5.45%||26.83%||43.87%||23.85%||N/A||N/A||N/A||94.55%||0.04%||8.29%|
Nebraska's lead is a little less pronounced here, and Iowa's bowl chances drop from just short of 2/3 to just over 1/2. MSU is considerably better off in these projections, with all three future opponents being rated lower than they are in the basic system.
East Division Tables
|Ohio State (#4)||7.57||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.12%||4.53%||33.13%||62.22%||N/A||94.42% (N/A)||99.58% (N/A)|
|Penn State (#48)||5.29||N/A||N/A||N/A||2.27%||16.67%||39.04%||34.01%||8.01%||N/A||N/A||0.39% (N/A)||4.60% (N/A)|
|Wisconsin (#46)||4.29||N/A||N/A||N/A||16.36%||44.92%||32.37%||6.35%||N/A||N/A||Yes||0.02% (78.46%)||1.16% (93.88%)|
|Indiana (#85)||2.46||N/A||15.66%||38.01%||32.94%||11.91%||1.47%||N/A||N/A||N/A||13.38%||0% (5.56%)||<0.01% (18.44%)|
|Purdue (#89)||1.76||8.82%||31.11%||38.03%||18.83%||3.21%||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||22.04%||0% (0.48%)||0% (4.61%)|
|Illinois (#102)||0.95||29.90%||47.19%||20.61%||2.24%||0.05%||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.05%||0% (0.01%)||0% (0.30%)|
Ohio State is now a prohibitive favorite after winning at Happy Valley; they do have two potentially difficult games left (at Wisconsin, home vs. Michigan), but they're still quite likely to finish 12-0. The bottom trio are officially eliminated from an outright title, and Purdue and Illinois are also eliminated from even sharing the title. Ignoring the two ineligible teams, Wisconsin's chances are still very, very good - and they can clinch a trip to Indianapolis with a win against Indiana in two weeks - but the odds that it will at least come down to tiebreakers grew by a factor of four.
|Ohio State (#7)||7.44||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||0.06%||5.56%||44.61%||49.77%||N/A||91.50% (N/A)||99.38% (N/A)|
|Penn State (#40)||5.46||N/A||N/A||N/A||1.24%||12.15%||36.49%||39.55%||10.57%||N/A||N/A||0.61% (N/A)||7.57% (N/A)|
|Wisconsin (#31)||4.35||N/A||N/A||N/A||15.93%||41.81%||33.75%||8.52%||N/A||N/A||Yes||0.01% (74.57%)||1.14% (92.08%)|
|Indiana (#64)||2.76||N/A||7.43%||31.86%||40.18%||18.31%||2.22%||N/A||N/A||N/A||20.53%||0% (7.52%)||<0.01% (23.54%)|
|Purdue (#82)||1.68||9.93%||33.41%||37.82%||16.46%||2.38%||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||18.84%||0% (0.35%)||0% (3.64%)|
|Illinois (#104)||0.82||35.82%||47.14%||16.37%||0.66%||1 in 18,400||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||1 in 18.400||0% (<0.01%)||0% (0.06%)|
Pretty much the same here, although OSU's odds of running the table drop from 5 in 8 to 1 in 2. Illinois is on the verge of being the first team eliminated from bowl contention by way of on-field competition.
This Week's Games
Game of the Week: Nebraska at Michigan State
The Cornhuskers just have to win out to reach Indianapolis. MSU's faint hopes of a division title would be officially extinguished with a loss, while a win would guarantee bowl eligibility. The basic method suggests that Nebraska is the favorite at 54% to win, but margin-aware has MSU favored at 61% (3 points).
Mismatch of the Year: Illinois at Ohio State
Ohio State has three games left. Two of them are legitimate chances to lose. This is the other one. No-margin says Ohio State is about a 30-to-1 favorite (97%); margin-aware thinks that's being too kind and pegs it at 90-to-1, a whopping 31-point advantage.
Two Teams Going Opposite Directions: Penn State at Purdue
Man, have the wheels come off of Purdue's season. The team that played Notre Dame and Ohio State close appears to have been a mirage. Meanwhile, Penn State has recovered from an 0-2 start to look downright competent, at least by B1G standards this year. Home field keeps it a little bit close, but Penn State is the favorite in both systems: 63% by the basic method, 68% by margin-aware (5.5 points).
Probable Bowl Elimination Game: Iowa at Indiana
Iowa needs two wins to get eligible; Purdue provides a good chance for one, but the last two - Michigan and Nebraska - are doubtful at best. Indiana's chances are a bit slimmer; they need three wins, with Wisconsin and Penn State on the schedule along with Purdue. The loser can pretty much write off their bowl hopes; the winner still has a chance (a good chance, if it's Iowa). Big difference of opinion between the two systems here (thanks to Indiana keeping it close against Ohio State and Michigan State): ignoring margin, Iowa is a 53% favorite; including margin, Indiana is a 71% favorite (6.5 points).
Cool Trophy of the Week: The Little Brown Jug (Michigan at Minnesota)
The Illibuck (a wooden turtle) could qualify, but that one already has an easy headline. The oldest traveling trophy in college football hasn't done a whole lot of traveling in recent decades - it has only spent three years in Minneapolis since the moon landing. Michigan is a favorite to hang onto the trophy again, though not by a whole lot due to home field: 55% according to the basic method, 61% (3 points) by margin-aware.