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In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 10 Recap and Week 11 Preview

Business as usual in the West Division race, but two East contenders take a big hit to their chances.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10 Results

Nebraska 39, Michigan State 38

If I never see John O'Neill's crew officiate another game, it will be too soon. (That's not to say there weren't other reasons for the outcome. But those reasons do not change my opinion of the officials.)

Ohio State 28, Minnesota 14

The Gophers kept this a game for a surprisingly long time; it was scoreless until a Vonn Bell pick-six with five minutes left in the first half, and the Buckeyes only outgained Minnesota by a 376-314 margin. Ohio State led 21-0 at the end of the third quarter, but the Gophers cut it to just 21-14 with 2:10 to go. However, the onside kick went out of bounds and Cardale Jones added a 38-yard touchdown run to seal the win three plays later.

Iowa 35, Indiana 27

As the Hoosiers did against Ohio State and Michigan State, #CHAOSTEAM pushed Iowa to the limit. Indiana scored on consecutive drives in the second quarter to take a brief 17-14 lead and cut the deficit to 21-20 with a field goal with 13:22 left. Iowa answered with consecutive touchdowns to push the lead back out to 35-20 before a Nate Sudfeld touchdown pass to Michael Cooper cut the lead back down to 8 with 2:24 to go. Indiana failed to recover the onside kick, however, and Iowa ran out the clock.

I'm of the opinion that, down 15 prior to scoring, Indiana should have gone for two right away to find out if they needed one or two more scores. However, since there was so little time left, there's an argument that it really doesn't matter at that point; you're not going to have time for two scores, barring a miracle, even if you play assuming you need them. It would be a much bigger mistake with 4 or 5 minutes left, where two scores might be possible if you know you have to do it. Going for two also opens up the option of a pair of two-point conversions to win outright, which (as an underdog) might be the better play than going to overtime anyway.

Michigan 49, Rutgers 16

This was possibly more ugly than the score suggests - Rutgers's only touchdown came on a kickoff return, with three field goals (one set up by a long punt return) to add to the total. Michigan more than doubled up the Scarlet Knights' yardage total (487-225) and scored touchdowns on five consecutive first-half drives. Jake Rudock lit up Rutgers for 337 passing yards on 25 attempts; he hadn't even broken 200 yards since the opener at Utah.

Northwestern 23, Penn State 21

This game got off to a slow start; the first nine drives featured eight punts and a Northwestern missed field goal. The second quarter changed that in a hurry: Northwestern scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives (one with a missed PAT), Penn State responded with one of their own, and Solomon Vault returned the ensuing kickoff to put Northwestern back up 13. Another missed field goal and an interception snuffed out two chances for the Wildcats to extend their lead, and the Nittany Lions eventually pulled ahead when Saquon Barkley ran for a 13-yard touchdown with 12:22 to go. With 2:25 left, Penn State was stuffed on a 3rd and 1 rush, and given one more shot at redemption, Jack Mitchell hit from 35 yards out with nine seconds left for the win.

Illinois 48, Purdue 14

Purdue followed up their breakthrough win over Nebraska with an absolute disaster of an outing against the Illini. Illinois nearly reached the 600-yard mark and won the turnover battle 2-0 en route to a rout. Purdue only had one drive exceeding 20 yards in the first 43 minutes of the game and turned the ball over on downs on their next one, going for it on 4th and 1 at the Illinois 5 yard line while down 41-7.

Wisconsin 31, Maryland 24

Maryland actually outgained Wisconsin by a narrow margin (316-305), but an extra turnover and poor finishing of drives cost them. Three of Maryland's eight first-half drives started in Wisconsin territory and four more got there, but only three ended in points (a missed field goal and punts from the Wisconsin 46 (4th and 3), 41 (4th and 18), and 42 (4th and 11 after a false start) account for the other four). As a result, the halftime score was 17-17, and Maryland would rue all those missed opportunities when they failed to cross midfield in the second half until 3:30 remained and they trailed 31-17. With 2:39 to go, a Caleb Rowe touchdown pass to Levern Jacobs cut the deficit in half, but Maryland's onside kick failed and Wisconsin ran out the clock, even successfully converting on a 4th and 1 from the Maryland 35 to keep the ball and end the game.

With Maryland's late score, they missed an opportunity to make a smart game theory decision by going for two. It would have been moot since they didn't get the second score, but if they succeed on the two-point try, a second score wins the game outright, while if they fail a two-point conversion on the second could still force overtime. Assuming that both the two-point try and overtime are 50-50 propositions, that would have given Maryland a 62.5% chance of winning with a second score (50% making the two, plus 12.5% for missing the first, making the second, and winning in OT) instead of a 50% chance (either in OT or on a last-second conversion). As an underdog, that's an even better play because the chance of winning in OT is reduced but the chance of making the two-point try is not reduced as severely.

Week 11 Games

Odds are based on my margin-aware rating system (available here). If you want to see the ratings ignoring margin, you can find them here.

All times ET.

Trap Game of the Week: Ohio State at Illinois (Noon, ABC)

Believe it or not, this is only the fourth-most lopsided game of the week according to my odds - partly because the Buckeyes are on the road. With games against Michigan State and Michigan looming, it would be easy for the Buckeyes to overlook Illinois. The Illini spoiled an unbeaten season for Ohio State around this time in 2007, although the Buckeyes recovered to play in the title game thanks to the chaos of that season.

Odds: Ohio State 91.5% (15-point favorites)

Mismatch of the Week, East Division: Maryland at Michigan State (Noon, ESPN2)

It's clear that Michigan State's secondary is vulnerable, but Maryland is one of the least suited teams to take advantage of that. The Terps have a completion percentage of 46% on the season and, after adjusting for sacks, average over a yard more per rush (5.75) than per pass attempt (4.64).

Odds: Michigan State 98.0% (24.5-point favorites)

Train Wreck: Purdue at Northwestern (Noon, BTN)

Somehow a team in the CFP top 25 hosting Purdue is only the third-biggest mismatch of the week. That's how bad this week's conference slate is.

Odds: Northwestern 96.7% (21.5-point favorites)

Bowl Elimination Game: Nebraska at Rutgers (3:30, BTN)

Nebraska's surprise win over MSU kept their bowl hopes alive, while Rutgers's not-at-all-surprise loss to Michigan pushed theirs to the brink. The winner gets to keep hope alive for another week (two, in Nebraska's case, since they have a bye).

Odds: Nebraska 66% (4.5-point favorite)

Beware #CHAOSTEAM: Michigan at Indiana (3:30, ABC/ESPN2)

Indiana's already pushed three of the Big Ten's four best deep into the fourth quarter. Here's their chance at #4.

Odds: Michigan 89% (13-point favorite)

Mismatch of the Week, West Division: Minnesota at Iowa (8:00, BTN)

This is the third consecutive night game against a nationally ranked foe for Minnesota. The Gophers managed to keep the last two close, and Iowa typically doesn't blow teams out, so this might be closer than the ratings suggest.

Odds: Iowa 97.5% (23-point favorites)

Byes: Wisconsin and Penn State

Conference Title Race

Projected records are based on game-by-game odds. Division title chances are estimated based on 100,000 season simulations; tiebreakers are not included. A partial rundown of the tiebreaker scenarios will follow. The tiebreakers are as follows (restarting with head-to-head if only two teams are left after any particular step; it's not clear whether that also happens if one team is eliminated but three or more remain, but that can only happen in the event of a five-way or larger tie, which we don't need to worry about this year):

  1. Head-to-head record
  2. Division record
  3. Record against individual teams (or groups of tied teams) below the championship tie in the division, starting at the top
  4. Record against common conference opponents (this can never actually matter, since no group of three teams can have a common cross-division opponent)
  5. Highest-ranked team in the CFP rankings after the conclusion of the regular season, except that if another tied team is ranked one spot behind them, those two teams revert to head-to-head

East Division

Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Ohio State (#2) 7.30 0.54% 9.91% 48.22% 41.33% Yes 65.49% 91.99%
Michigan State (#17) 5.96 0.27% 14.48% 74.31% 10.94% Yes 3.11% 12.95%
Michigan (#14) 5.93 2.55% 26.05% 47.63% 23.77% Yes 2.25% 26.01%
Penn State (#33) 4.59 47.24% 46.02% 6.74% Yes <0.01% 0.73%
Rutgers (#91) 2.02 21.01% 56.07% 22.92% 12.45%
Indiana (#82) 1.01 26.65% 48.28% 22.92% 2.15% 25.07%
Maryland (#88) 0.96 25.01% 54.07% 20.52% 0.40%

None of the bottom three have beaten anyone other than each other in conference, and until last weekend none of the top four had lost to anyone except each other in conference.

Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 in conference)

Remaining games: at Illinois, Michigan State, at Michigan

Beat Michigan State and Michigan: Regardless of the game against Illinois, this would give Ohio State the outright crown.

Beat Illinois, split MSU and Michigan: The team that beats the Buckeyes would win the division if they win their other two games. If they lose one, the Buckeyes are back on top.

Beat only Michigan: Ohio State would need MSU to lose to Penn State to have any chance. If MSU loses to both Maryland and PSU, that would suffice. If MSU beats Maryland, Penn State would have to beat Michigan as well to create a three-way tie with a 1-1 head-to-head record all around and no other division losses. That would then go to the playoff rankings, with OSU needing to either be one spot behind Penn State or two spots ahead of Michigan State.

Beat only MSU: The Buckeyes would need Michigan to lose one, but it would not necessarily have to be to Penn State. If Michigan beats Penn State, MSU would also have to do so (and beat Maryland). A three-way tie with Michigan and MSU would go to Ohio State, as Michigan would be eliminated via division record. If Michigan beats Indiana but loses to Penn State, either MSU or PSU joining the tie would suffice for the same reason. If Michigan loses both, OSU would have a sweep of MSU and PSU to claim the tiebreaker over either.

Beat only Illinois: Ohio State's only chance would be for Penn State to beat both Michigan and MSU, and MSU and Michigan would also have to lose this week. In the event of a three-way tie, Penn State (and Michigan State, if involved) would beat out Ohio State on division record, so it must be a two-way tie with Penn State only.

Lose out: No chance. That would give both Michigan and MSU their fifth wins, and if both lose to Penn State to remain tied with OSU, Penn State would get to six.

Michigan State (8-1, 4-1)

Remaining games: Maryland, at Ohio State, Penn State

Win out: This would give MSU the tiebreaker over the Ohio State-Michigan winner and, therefore, the division title.

Lose only to Maryland: The Ohio State-Michigan winner would have to lose one additional game (not counting OSU-MSU), but if that happened, MSU would hold the tiebreaker at 6-2 with a sweep.

Lose to Ohio State: This would end MSU's chances; even if the Buckeyes lose out, MSU would need Michigan to split the other two and be part of the tie to avoid losing on head-to-head, but Michigan would drop out on division record anyway.

Lose only to Penn State: If Penn State loses to Michigan and the OSU-Michigan winner loses one, Penn State drops out of the tie and MSU wins on head-to-head. If Penn State beats Michigan, Ohio State would have to lose to Illinois but beat Michigan to create a three-way tie with 1-1 head-to-head records and no other division losses; then MSU would need to be one spot behind OSU or two spots ahead of Penn State in the playoff rankings.

Lose to Maryland and Penn State: One of Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State has to get to six wins in this case, so MSU could not even tie for the title.

Michigan (7-2, 4-1)

Remaining schedule: at Indiana, at Penn State, Ohio State

Win out: If MSU also wins out, the Spartans would hold the tiebreaker; however, with any MSU loss, Michigan would win the title.

Lose only to Indiana: A three-way tie does Michigan no good, as they would be eliminated on division record if it's 1-1 all around. Thus, Michigan would need two MSU losses and at least one additional Ohio State loss.

Lose only to Penn State: A two-way tie with Ohio State would work, but that would require a Penn State loss to MSU, MSU losses to OSU and Maryland, and an OSU loss to Illinois. If Penn State joins the tie by beating MSU, Michigan would fall out on division record even if they survive head-to-head; same if MSU joins the tie by winning two of their last three.

Lose to Ohio State: Doom. Michigan would have two losses; at best, they could tie Ohio State, but to do so they have to beat Penn State (knocking them out of any potential tie) and Michigan would then have lost to all potential tied opponents.

Lose to Indiana and Penn State: Also doom. Ohio State has to lose out, which means MSU picks up a fifth win and the winner of MSU-PSU will hit six wins.

Penn State (7-3, 4-2)

Remaining schedule: (bye), Michigan, at Michigan State

Win out: If Ohio State loses all three, that would result in at worst a three-way tie with the two Michigan schools, both of whom Penn State just beat. If OSU loses only two, at least one of Michigan and Michigan State must be part of the tie as well. If OSU's win is over Illinois, either or both of the Michigan schools being part of the tie would suffice; if only one is, OSU would drop out on division record, while if both are OSU would drop out on head-to-head at only 1-2. If OSU's win is over MSU, Penn State is out; even if Michigan joins the tie, they drop out on division record. If OSU's win is over Michigan, this would result in a three-way tie with 1-1 head-to-head and no other division losses; Penn State would need to be two spots ahead of Ohio State or one spot behind Michigan State in the playoff rankings to win.

Lose either game: Someone must reach six wins, so this will fail.

West Division

Team Avg wins 0-8 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-4 5-3 6-2 7-1 8-0 Bowl Outright Shared
Iowa (#10) 7.72 1 in 19,700 0.83% 26.67% 72.49% Yes 82.07% 99.49%
Wisconsin (#25) 6.60 3.94% 31.99% 64.06% Yes 0.51% 17.91%
Northwestern (#39) 4.89 0.70% 22.88% 63.47% 12.95% Yes <0.01% 0.11%
Nebraska (#53) 2.92 25.11% 58.23% 16.66% 16.66%
Illinois (#68) 2.74 41.05% 44.86% 13.21% 0.87% 58.95% <0.01%
Minnesota (#76) 1.85 29.91% 55.47% 14.29% 0.33% 14.62%
Purdue (#103) 1.52 50.07% 47.97% 1.95% 0.01%

Iowa's stranglehold on the division remains intact; thanks to their tiebreaker situation, it's nearly impossible for anyone to beat them.

Iowa (9-0, 5-0)

Remaining games: Minnesota, Purdue, at Nebraska

Win any two games: 7-1 with the tiebreaker over Wisconsin guarantees a spot in the conference title game.

Win any one game: As long as Wisconsin loses one, Iowa has the tiebreaker edge over both the Badgers and Northwestern.

Lose out: If Wisconsin loses two and Northwestern loses one, that limits everyone to 5-3, and Iowa would have the tiebreaker advantage against any set of them.

Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1)

Remaining games: (bye), Northwestern, at Minnesota

Win both games: Since Iowa holds the tiebreaker, Wisconsin would need Iowa to lose twice to claim the division title.

Beat Northwestern: Again, because of Iowa's tiebreaker situation, Wisconsin would need Iowa to lose out.

Beat Minnesota: Not only would Iowa have to lose out, but Northwestern would also have to drop a game.

Lose out: Hopeless, as Iowa holds all tiebreakers.

Northwestern (7-2, 3-2)

Remaining games: Purdue, at Wisconsin, Illinois (N)

Win out: Iowa losing all three would give Northwestern the tiebreaker edge at 6-2. Anything less won't cut it.

Lose at least one: Because of the tiebreaker situation, that's game over.

Illinois (5-4, 2-3)

Remaining games: Ohio State, at Minnesota, Northwestern (N)

Illinois can tie for the division title at 5-3, but Iowa wins all tiebreakers anyway, so Illinois will not be in the Big Ten title game.