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In a B1G Country: 2015 Week 11 Recap and Week 12 Preview

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Two weeks of the top teams in the East playing each other will settle the question of who plays Iowa (or Wisconsin, but who are we kidding, it'll be Iowa) in Indianapolis.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Week 11 Results

Michigan State 24, Maryland 7

When Maryland answered MSU's first touchdown drive with an easy one of their own and Connor Cook got hurt, I was more than a little nervous. Then the secondary settled down and Maryland's quarterbacks, as they usually do, forgot which jerseys their receivers were wearing.

Ohio State 28, Illinois 3

Illinois hung around for a while, thanks in part to the Buckeyes missing a field goal on their first drive. Down just 7-3 late in the second quarter, the Illini forced a fumble and took over at the OSU 31. They promptly went backward a yard, missed a 50-yard field goal try, and gave up a quick touchdown drive to OSU after an exchange of three-and-outs. On the first Illinois drive of the second half, a field goal try to cut it to 14-6 was halted by a botched hold, the Buckeyes scored on the next drive to extend the lead to 21-3, and Illinois never threatened again.

Iowa 40, Minnesota 35

For the third week in a row, Minnesota played a Big Ten title contender tough but couldn't pull out the win. The Gophers never led, but they immediately answered Iowa's first two scoring drives and were only down 17-14 before a 97-yard touchdown drive for Iowa, culminating in LeShun Daniels's second of three scores on the day, padded the lead out just before halftime. Minnesota cut the deficit back down to six late in the third quarter and five twice in the fourth (after trading touchdowns but Iowa had failed a two-point try that would have pushed the lead to 14), but the last-minute onside kick did not go ten yards and Iowa was able to kneel out the clock.

Michigan 48, Indiana 41 (2OT)

#CHAOSTEAM was so close to eliminating the Wolverines from the division title hunt (they could potentially have survived a loss to Indiana if either OSU or MSU had lost), but, as they have all season (like Minnesota), they couldn't finish the job. The Hoosiers took the lead midway through the third quarter at 26-24 on Griffin Oakes's fourth field goal of the day; after Michigan made a field goal with 6:30 to go, Jordan Howard ran it in from 24 yards out and again on the two-point conversion to put Indiana up 34-27 with under three minutes left. But Jehu Chesson hauled in a touchdown catch on the final play of regulation to force OT. The teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime, and Michigan scored again on the first play of 2OT. With Indiana facing fourth and goal, Mitchell Paige couldn't hang on to a potential touchdown and the Wolverines escaped.

Northwestern 21, Purdue 14

Three Wildcat turnovers kept this one close, as they never led by more than seven points. Purdue scored exactly 2:57 into each half (the first coming on a 68-yard pass after Northwestern's opening drive, the second on the opening drive of the second half), both times tying the game. In between, Purdue was picked off once (setting up Northwestern's second touchdown) and turned the ball over on downs in Northwestern territory twice. With a chance to take the lead after a Wildcat turnover on downs, Purdue missed a 43-yard field goal midway through the third quarter and failed to capitalize on two interceptions on the next two Northwestern drives. Justin Jackson finally broke the stalemate from two yards out with under five minutes to go in the game, and after a quick three-and-out for the Boilermakers, the Wildcats were able to burn the last 3:39 of clock to hold on.

Nebraska 31, Rutgers 14

Rutgers had very little success moving the ball until it was too late; 110 of their meager 259 yards came after Nebraska had gotten the three-score lead that they would finish the game with, and even those didn't matter (resulting in a turnover on downs, a missed field goal with four minutes left - which I would ordinarily laugh at, trying that down 17 that late, but it was 4th and 20 - and an interception). Both Rutgers touchdowns came after interceptions set them up deep in Nebraska territory.

Conference Title Race

Slightly different format this week, now that we're down to just two games to go. No more season simulations; division title odds are based on the game-by-game odds with tiebreakers taken into consideration. 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. Game times are ET.

East Division Contenders

Ohio State (10-0. 6-0 in conference, #2 in margin-aware ratings)

Week 12: Michigan State (3:30, ABC) - 88% (projected margin +12.5)
Week 13: at Michigan (Noon, TV TBD) - 62% (+3)
Record probabilities: 54.0% 8-0, 41.2% 7-1, 4.7% 6-2
Division title: Win both OR beat MSU and PSU beats Michigan OR beat Michigan and PSU beats MSU: 68.9%

Ohio State is the only team in the East that has any chance of winning the division with a loss in the next two weeks; however, they cannot win a tiebreaker at 7-1 or 6-2 and must rely on Penn State to knock off any team that beats them.

Michigan (8-2, 5-1, #12)

Week 12: at Penn State (Noon, ABC) - 59% (+2.5)
Week 13: Ohio State (Noon, TV TBD) - 38% (-3)
Record probabilities: 22.7% 7-1, 52.1% 6-2, 25.2% 5-3
Division title: Win both and MSU loses at least one: 20.3%

Unlike MSU, Michigan does not control its own destiny; however, getting OSU at home and Penn State on the road is a big help to their odds of winning twice.

Michigan State (9-1, 5-1, #13)

Week 12: at Ohio State (3:30, ABC) - 12% (-12.5)
Week 13: Penn State (3:30, TV TBD) - 86% (+11.5)
Record probabilities: 10.6% 7-1, 77.0% 6-2, 12.4% 5-3
Division title: Win both: 10.6%

MSU actually has a slightly higher projected win average than Michigan (5.981 to 5.975), but the distribution is much more heavily concentrated at 6-2, and only 7-1 offers a chance at the division title. The good news: if MSU gets to 7-1, they need no help to claim the division title.

Penn State (7-3, 4-2, #37)

Week 12: Michigan (Noon, ABC) - 41% (-2.5)
Week 13: at Michigan State (3:30, TV TBD) - 14% (-11.5)
Record probabilities: 5.8% 6-2, 43.4% 5-3, 50.7% 4-4
Division title: Win both and hope OSU loses both: 0.27%

In the event of a four-way tie at 6-2, Penn State and Michigan State would each be 2-1 in the head-to-head and Michigan and Ohio State would be 1-2; then, with those two eliminated, Penn State would claim the tiebreaker on head-to-head over MSU.

East Division Scenarios:

If OSU and PSU win this week: Ohio State is the division champion.
If OSU and Michigan win: The OSU-Michigan game is for all the marbles.
If MSU and PSU win: If Michigan beats Ohio State, the MSU-PSU winner takes the division title. If Ohio State wins, MSU still claims the division with a win, b
ut Ohio State gets it if the Nittany Lions win.
If MSU and Michigan win: The winner of OSU-Michigan will have to root for Penn State to take down MSU. If that happens, they win the division. If not, MSU wins it.

West Division Contenders

Iowa (10-0, 6-0, #11)

Week 12: Purdue (Noon, ESPN2) - 98.8% (+28)
Week 13: at Nebraska (3:30 on Friday, ABC) - 70% (+5)
Record probabilities: 68.8% 8-0, 30.8% 7-1, 0.35% 6-2
Division title: Win either game OR Wisconsin loses either game: 99.78%

Thanks to the tiebreaker situation, Iowa has it easy. All they need is one win or a Wisconsin loss to ensure at least a tie, which they cannot lose. And a home game against Purdue is on the schedule.

Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1, #25)

Week 12: Northwestern (3:30, BTN) - 82% (+9.5)
Week 13: at Minnesota (time TBD, BTN) - 77% (+7.5)
Record probabilities: 63.0% 7-1, 32.8% 6-2, 4.2% 5-3
Division title: Win twice and hope Iowa loses twice: 0.22%

Having lost to Iowa, the Badgers must win the division outright to go to Indianapolis. Their schedule is favorable enough to do what they need to do; the problem is that Iowa's is also very favorable.

West Division Scenarios

If Iowa wins this week or Wisconsin loses: Iowa makes what's been the most likely scenario since mid-October official and clinches the division title.
If Iowa loses and Wisconsin wins: Iowa can still clinch by beating Nebraska, but if they fail to do so, Wisconsin steals the division title if they retain the Axe.

The Rest of the East

Rutgers (3-7, 1-6, #94)

Week 12: at Army (Noon, CBS Sports Network) - 58% (+2)
Week 13: Maryland (Noon, BTN) - 60% (+2.5)
Record probabilities: 59.7% 2-6, 40.3% 1-7
Bowl eligibility: Nope.

By virtue of the comeback against Indiana, Rutgers is in the driver's seat for fifth place in the East despite being the lowest-rated team of the trio.

Maryland (2-8, 0-6, #87)

Week 12: Indiana (Noon, BTN) - 63% (+3.5)
Week 13: at Rutgers (Noon, BTN) - 40% (-2.5)
Record probabilities: 25.3% 2-6, 52.5% 1-7, 22.2% 0-8
Bowl eligibility: Nope.

Indiana (4-6, 0-6, #83)

Week 12: at Maryland (Noon, BTN) - 37% (-3.5)
Week 13: at Purdue (TBD) - 49.3% (0)
Record probabilities: 18.3% 2-6, 49.8% 1-7, 31.9% 0-8
Bowl eligibility: Win both (18.3%)

Indiana projects last due to having both games on the road, but if they do win both they get to go to a bowl.

The Rest of the West

Northwestern (8-2, 4-2, #41)

Week 12: at Wisconsin (3:30, BTN) - 18% (-9.5)
Week 13: vs. Illinois at Soldier Field (considered neutral site for calculations; 3:30, TV TBD) - 75% (+7)
Record probabilities: 13.8% 6-2, 65.9% 5-3, 20.3% 4-4
Bowl eligibility: Yes

Northwestern can, in theory, even tie for the division title, but they lose the tiebreaker in that case as Iowa beat both the Wildcats and Wisconsin (who could be part of that tie). Winning both could get Northwestern to the fringes of New Year's Six discussion, but only to the fringe as several other Big Ten teams have better claims.

Nebraska (5-6, 3-4, #49)

Week 12: Bye
Week 13: Iowa (3:30 on Friday, ABC) - 30% (-5)
Record probabilities: 30.4% 4-4, 69.6% 3-5
Bowl eligibility: If they beat Iowa (30.4%)

The Huskers pulled off one miracle two weeks ago to keep their bowl hopes alive; they'll have to do it again to finish the job.

Illinois (5-5, 2-4, #73)

Week 12: at Minnesota (Noon, ESPNEWS) - 34% (-4)
Week 13: vs. Northwestern at Soldier Field (3:30, TV TBD) - 25% (-7)
Record probabilities: 8.5% 4-4, 42.1% 3-5, 49.3% 2-6
Bowl eligibility: Win either game (50.7%)

Illinois has two chances to reach bowl eligibility, but they're an underdog in both.

Minnesota (4-6, 1-5, #74)

Week 12: Illinois (Noon, ESPNEWS) - 66% (+4)
Week 13: Wisconsin (time TBD, BTN) - 23% (-7.5)
Record probabilities: 14.9% 3-5, 58.4% 2-6, 26.6% 1-7
Bowl eligibility: Win both (14.9%)

If Minnesota can beat Illinois, they'll be playing for both the Axe and a bowl bid on Thanksgiving weekend.

Purdue (2-8, 1-5, #100)

Week 12: at Iowa (Noon, ESPN2) - 1.2% (-28)
Week 13: Indiana (TBD) - 50.7% (0)
Record probabilities: 0.59% 3-5, 50.7% 2-6, 48.7% 1-7
Bowl eligibility: Nope.

This week looks hopeless, but Purdue will have a virtual toss-up for a shot at their second conference win in the final week.