We’re halfway through the Big Ten season and the first ever Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis looks a little more clear than it did at the start of the season. In the Legends Division Michigan State has an early lead with a game in hand over rival Michigan. The Wolverines were undefeated overall until this past week’s 28-14 loss to the Spartans. That victory now gives Michigan State essentially a two game lead because of the head to head tiebreaking rules. Michigan State will host Wisconsin from the Leaders Division this week in a major showdown.
In the Leaders Division Ohio State’s mild upset of Illinois leaves just Penn State and Wisconsin left as unbeaten in league play. The Fighting Illini Still have to play the Nittany Lions and Badgers, but the setback against Ohio State was troubling. Penn State is 3-0 after being Indiana and Purdue within the Division.It is clear that Illinois, Penn State, and Wisconsin will battle for this division. Ohio State was expected to be up there, but losses to Nebraska and Michigan State have already put them back in the race.
So far Wisconsin has to be considered the favorite in the Leaders Division. They have already dominated Nebraska (the Legends favorite) and the next two weeks at Michigan State and Ohio State will make or break their season. As long as they gain at least a split you can likely pencil them in for Indianapolis, especially with lightweights Minnesota and Purdue left.
In the Legends Division the winner between Nebraska and Michigan State on October 29th will have the advantage. Nebraska travels to Minnesota this week and should win with ease over the weakened Golden Gophers.
As far as teams that could still throw a wrench into things, but likely have little shot of reaching the game themselves, look no further than Northwestern. the Wildcats have a potent offense, but the defense has failed them in the fourth quarter of all three Big Ten losses to date. If they figure things out they could be a tough out for Nebraska or Michigan State. Purdue also hosts Illinois this week in a rivalry game. It is likely a must-win for the Boilermakers if they are going to salvage a bowl season out of their 3-3 start. they have yet to win consecutive games this year, but they also have not lost consecutive games. Purdue was better than expected in a 23-18 loss at Penn State last week, and could have the ground game to shock the Fighting Illini.
Finally, anyone with both Minnesota and Indiana on their remaining schedule, such as Michigan State, should feel like they already have two more conference victories. The Hoosiers and Golden Gophers are a combined 2-11 overall, with only one victory over an FBS team.