Around the Big Ten: Week 13
Heading into the last week of the regular season, the question at the front of Big Ten fans’ minds is whether or not the conference will get a team into the playoff.
Wisconsin currently appears to be the main catalyst that could make that happen, though Ohio State remain very much alive and, in a near apocalyptic scenario, Penn State as well.
Wisconsin is undefeated and will face No.9 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship a week after closing the regular season at Minnesota. Despite being one of just three teams remaining unbeaten in the power five, Wisconsin still remains on the outside looking in in terms of the College Football Playoff. Some had speculated whether their ranking would change after possibly beating a then ranked Michigan squad since they finally would have proved that they can beat a good team, at least relative to the rest of the teams they had played. However, the committee had decided that the 24-10 win was not enough to move Wisconsin ahead of any of the top four teams who all held steady last week.
If Wisconsin can indeed win out, they will surely be in the playoff. The same cannot be said for Ohio State. Sitting at No.9, the Buckeyes will likely need to make strong statements on the road against Michigan as well as against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Beyond this, the Buckeyes may need Alabama to wallop Auburn and Georgia, Miami to beat Clemson, and/or at least one Oklahoma loss. If all of those plausible events were to occur, the Buckeyes may even still need a miracle in the form of a Stanford upset over Notre Dame.
Though it may barely be worth mentioning, Penn State would essentially need everything I speculated Ohio State might need and couple that with an improbable Michigan victory over Ohio State. Should that dream scenario work out, I’d still put the No.10 Nittany Lions’ College Football Playoff odds at less than probable. Regardless, the Nittany Lions are still looking at a potential New Year’s Six bowl, which certainly wouldn’t be a bad way to end their roller-coaster of a season.
With seven teams already having clinched bowl berths, three teams in the conference have left their eligibility up in the air heading into the final week. Indiana will travel to Purdue in an in-state rivalry game to decide which team will become bowl eligible. The setup for this game could make it the most high-stakes matchup between 5-6 teams in recent memory. Purdue are currently favored, though I think Indiana will outclass them in the contest.
The other 5-6 team looking to become bowl-eligible this week are the Minnesota Golden Gophers. I’m sure they would love to play either Indiana or Purdue to become bowl-eligible, but unfortunately for them they will have to go through undefeated Wisconsin. I give the Golden Gophers a shot being at home in the final game of P.J. Fleck’s first season, though the task is clearly tall and they will be dealing with a Wisconsin team who knows their playoff aspirations will be killed with a loss.
After this week is up, we can begin to speculate more on which bowls the Big Ten participants will wind up in, but until then we can enjoy the last hearty week of conference football.
Patrick Murphy is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.