Dear Big Ten West member,


You — yes, you — are eligible to win a Big Ten West title. The prize comes with a banner to hang in your stadium, as well as an all-expense trip to Indianapolis on Dec. 3!

I know what you’re thinking. Your schedule is too full to fill out the forms. But guess what? You’re already entered!

The only requirement here is to win the remaining football games on your schedule.

We understand that’s asking a lot of you. But we must insist that you take advantage of this limited-time offer. Supplies are running short. Come 2024, you may never have another opportunity to take advantage of our Big Ten championship game sweepstakes.

To make things easier, we’ve broken down how each of you can claim this fabulous prize.


The people who used to send Ed McMahon to people’s homes with balloons and a giant check

Illinois: Prove you’re the real deal

Congratulations, Fighting Illini!

Winning at Wisconsin for the first time since 2002 is a real announcement of your arrival under Bret Bielema. And to beat the Badgers by the biggest margin since 1988? That would indicate you’re not to be trifled with.

But based on what we’ve seen thus far, beating the Badgers this season might not be such a big deal. Wisconsin thinks so little of you that it didn’t allow Paul Chryst to coach another game.

And that loss to Indiana? What were you thinking?

A win over Iowa this week would show us you’re serious about winning this division.

Iowa: Score points — with your offense

Howdy, Hawkeyes.

We sure love that Jack Campbell. There isn’t a finer linebacker in all the Big Ten. In fact, that entire defense of yours is the envy of the entire league, not just the Big Ten West.

My goodness. Anyone should be able to make it to Indianapolis if they allow just 10 points per game.

But it turns out you’re 3-2 overall. Even though your defense is doing that. Because 11 points per game from your offense is just asking for too darn much.

Let’s work on that and see how far it brings you.

Minnesota: Get Momentum from Ibrahim

Gophers, Gophers, Gophers.

We shouldn’t be having this conversation right now. A week ago, you had every appearance of being as good as teams in the Big Ten East.

Michigan. Penn State. Minnesota. The 3 teams looked like near equals. You seemed destined to win this competition by a 2-3 game margin.

But with Mohamed Ibrahim a late scratch against Purdue, you looked confused. Three trips into the red zone produced 7 points. PJ Fleck attempted to convert a fourth-and-1 from his own 29. In the first quarter. With a backup quarterback who was clearly on the field to run a quarterback draw. Out of the shotgun.

If Ibrahim is really all it takes to return to your September form, then you should be golden after your bye week. But your recent behavior is forcing us to make backup plans.

Nebraska: Play smarter, not harder

Congratulations, Cornhuskers!

Now that Scott Frost is pursuing his calling in the circus, you’ve got as good a chance as anybody to win this competition. And what a story that would be. Interim coach Mickey Joseph winning a division title after the Huskers appeared on their way to a fifth straight season missing a bowl game.

But this is a good time to forget some of the things Frost taught you. Right now you’re 98th in the country in turnover margin. Not smart.

You’re also 87th in the country with 7 penalties per game. Use your heads, fellas. But not to target opposing ball carriers. That’s a penalty.

Northwestern: Hope for chaos

You know what it takes to win this trip to Indy, Wildcats. This would be your third time doing it in 5 years! The class of the division.

But right now, you’re acting like the class clown. Losing to Southern Illinois? Come on, man!

Measured by success rate — it’s one of those advanced metrics for people smart enough to attend Northwestern — the Cats are only ahead of Iowa on offense in the West. On defense, only Wisconsin and Nebraska are performing worse.

So your best bet is crawling through the chaos of a 3- or 4-way tie among teams atop the division. If you can finish 5-4, that could be done.

Purdue: Be explosive, not implosive

You could be one of America’s darlings right now, Boilermakers, chugging down the tracks with a 5-0 record and a Top 10 ranking.

But your late mistakes against Penn State and Syracuse cost you both of those games. And now a loss at Maryland this week could be a pretty big blow to you in the Big Ten race.

You’d make things a lot easier on yourselves if you didn’t commit so many darned penalties. You’re 111th in the country in penalty yardage.

And try to be more explosive while you’re being less implosive. Folks would be surprised to learn that Iowa is the only Big Ten team with fewer 20-yard offensive plays this season. What’s up with that?

Wisconsin: Hope Paul Chryst really was the problem

Interim coach Jim Leonhard will give you a fresh new voice. But right now we’re not sure you’re good enough for it to matter who’s talking.

At the moment, Leonhard’s defense is 13th in the B1G in success rate. Only Nebraska has fared worse keeping offenses behind the chains. You’ll need to hope that’s just what happens when you play Ohio State early in the season.

Then there’s that infamous offense.

Iowa is the only team in the West passing for fewer yards. And what have you done to your normally unstoppable running game? You’re averaging fewer yards per carry than Purdue!

Mike Alstott is not rumbling through that door. If you want to get to Indianapolis, you cannot average fewer yards per carry than Purdue.

If Leonhard can fix all these things, maybe you can win this competition like you were expected to in the preseason. But it sure looks like your issues run too deep.