Team of destiny? In the Big Ten West, there is literally no such thing
Some, like Darth Vader, believe very strongly in the concept.
Others, such as the members of the Big Ten West, do not.
With 2 weeks remaining in the regular season, college football’s most egalitarian division is doing things its own way. Four teams are tied for first place, and not one of them is in control of its own destiny.
No team controls its destiny. 🤯
Should be a fun final two weeks in the West. pic.twitter.com/sEqak8iNpi
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 13, 2022
Really, it’s true — no matter how many times you blink at the statement.
No team can win the Big Ten West by simply winning the final 2 games on its schedule. Each one needs something to happen outside of its own control.
Some might find that a fun quirk. Others will find it disturbingly mediocre. Either way, scoreboard watching is now guaranteed.
So, who does all this madness favor?
Once again, it’s all a matter of the lens you view things through.
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
Purdue: The mathematical favorite
Of course the numbers favor Purdue. A Boilermaker probably programmed the calculator.
— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) November 13, 2022
Just kidding! I know you engineers can sometimes take things a bit literally.
The reason the numbers favor Purdue at the moment is both due to what the Boilers have done and what lies ahead of them.
With wins over Illinois and Minnesota, Purdue owns tiebreakers over both. That would also hold true in a 3-way tie between that trio of teams.
Purdue also has the friendliest finish to the season of any team in the Big Ten. Or possibly even any team outside of the SEC, which primarily plays FCS opponents next week.
The Boilermakers host 1-9 Northwestern, which has not won a game on American soil this year. After that, they close at 3-7 Indiana. The woeful Wildcats are on a 9-game losing streak, and the hapless Hoosiers have lost 7 straight.
If Purdue doesn’t win both of these games, it’s the biggest embarrassment in program history.
But winning both, as expected, still isn’t enough to guarantee a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
Iowa: History’s darling
Thanks to its 24-3 win over the Boilermakers, Iowa is the primary roadblock keeping Purdue from a short trip to Indianapolis. If both teams win out, the Hawkeyes have the edge.
But will Iowa keep that edge?
The Hawks are a 2.5-point underdog in this week’s game at Minnesota, then finish a day ahead of the remaining contenders with a Black Friday game against Nebraska.
Those matchups are where history favors Iowa.
Kirk Ferentz is 5-0 against PJ Fleck, and overall Iowa has kept Floyd of Rosedale for 7 straight seasons. The Hawkeyes also have 7 straight wins over Nebraska, which has been offensively lifeless without injured quarterback Casey Thompson.
But winning both of those games isn’t enough without another Illinois stumble.
Illinois: Road warriors needed
With a win in either of its final 2 home games, Illinois would have wrapped a bow on the Big Ten West title. Instead, the Fighting Illini lost both and now find themselves in a heck of a bind.
Illinois needs to beat Michigan for the first time since 2009, for the first time in Ann Arbor since 2008, and for the first time that the Wolverines weren’t coached by Rich Rodriguez since 1999. All of this is a very tall order against the No. 3 team in the country.
But if Bret Bielema’s team is able to achieve that Herculean task, things get much friendlier in the season finale. It may be a road game, but it is at Northwestern. And with the division title on the line, Ryan Field would be an overwhelming sea of orange-and-blue.
Also, all is not lost if Illinois loses to Michigan. Illinois would prevail in a 4-way tie if the West’s leaders all finish 5-4.
- Illinois loses to Michigan, beats Northwestern
- Purdue loses to Northwestern or Indiana
- Minnesota beats Iowa, loses at Wisconsin
- Iowa loses to Minnesota, beats Nebraska
Minnesota: Controller of destinies (except its own)
Last week, Wisconsin at Iowa was the ultimate swing game. Once Purdue defeated Illinois, the winner of the Heartland Trophy was arguably going to be in the best position in the West.
This week, Iowa is once again in the biggest swing game, this time at Minnesota.
As noted previously, the math becomes simple if Iowa wins. The Hawkeyes would just need to beat Nebraska to clinch the division.
But if the Gophers win, all 4 teams will enter the final week with a shot at the Big Ten championship game.
Minnesota has the ability to provide the most help to Illinois and Purdue, but also needs the most help in return. The Gophers can’t win the West unless both the Illini and Boilermakers lose another game.
In the case of Illinois, that seems simple enough with Michigan looming. But having to root for either Northwestern or Indiana to upset Purdue may require St. Paul residents to appeal directly to Saint Paul.