Big Ten Digest: Anarchy In The BT!

IOWA CITY IA - OCTOBER 30: University of Iowa Hawkeyes fans celebrate their win over the Michigan State Spartans at Kinnick Stadium on October 30 2010 in Iowa City Iowa. Iowa won 37-6 over Michigan State. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

Week 10 in an on-going series on the teams of the Big Ten conference...

So it's come to this. Michigan State headed to Kinnick for a must-win game on their way to a Big Ten Championship and... got curb-stomped by a Hawkeye team out for revenge. Really, the game wasn't close. At all.

We now have no undefeated teams in the conference, and four teams sitting at a single conference loss. One of those teams, Iowa, also has an out-of-conference loss. And, the tie isn't exactly easy to resolve. Wisconsin thumped Ohio State 31-18 while hosting them at Camp Randall. But, of course, they dropped their first conference game to Michigan State way back when 34-24. Except... Michigan State just lost to Iowa 37-6. But Iowa lost to Wisconsin 31-30. And Arizona. And they play Ohio State in a few short weeks. Oh, and thanks to having an eleven team conference, Michigan State and Ohio State miss each other this year.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

It means it's time for the Digest to review the Big Ten tiebreaker rules! Yey!

The tiebreaker rules in the Big Ten state:

The BCS consists of five (5) bowl games: BCS National Championship Game, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. Participation by a Big Ten Conference member institution will be determined as follows:

A.     BCS National Championship Game. In the event the conference has one or two football teams ranked No. 1 and/or No. 2 in the final BCS poll, these conference team(s) shall participate in the BCS National Championship Game.

B.     Rose Bowl. Unless ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS poll, the conference champion shall participate in the Rose Bowl. The championship shall be determined on the percentage basis of conference games (tie games counts ½ win and ½ loss). If there is a tie for the championship, the Rose Bowl representative will be determined as follows:

1.     An ineligible team shall not be considered in the standings for determination of the conference representative.

2.     If there is a tie for the championship, the winner of the game between these two teams shall represent the conference.

3.     If there is still a tie, or if the tied teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on the percentage basis of all games played.

4.     If there is still a tie, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

5.     If more than two teams tie for the championship, the same selection procedures shall be followed with the following exceptions:

a.     If three teams are tied, and if one team defeated both of the other teams, then that team shall be the representative.

b.     If three teams are still tied, and if two of the three teams defeated the third team, the third team is eliminated, and the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

c.     If three teams are still tied, and there is a tie game between two of the three teams, or if two or all three of the teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on a percentage basis of all games played.

d.     If three teams are still tied, and one of the three teams is eliminated through the percentage basis of all games played, the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

e.     If three teams are still tied, and all three teams have the same winning percentage of all games played, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

6.     If four or more teams tie for the championship, the following selection procedure shall be followed:

a.     If one team defeated each of the other three teams, then that team shall be the representative.

b.     If two of the four teams defeated each of the other two teams, the latter two teams shall be eliminated, and the two remaining teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

c.     If three of the four teams defeated the fourth team, the fourth team is eliminated, and the remaining three teams shall revert to the three-team tie procedure.

d.     If there is a tie game between two of the four teams, or if two of the four teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on a percentage basis of all games played.

e.     If one of the four teams is eliminated through the percentage basis of all games played, the remaining three teams shall revert to the three-team tie procedure.

f.      If all four teams are still tied and have the same winning percentage of all games played, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

Wow. That's long. But, lucky for you, I'm currently in law school. Sooo I read very long boring things all day and try to (often an exercise in futility) make sense of them. With no more undefeated teams, section A is basically not applicable, so we can skip it. Section B is the meat of our analysis right now.

No teams in the Big Ten are currently ineligible for the post season, so B(1) also does not apply. We currently have a four-way tie for the championship. If the season ended today, the provisions in B(6) would apply. However, Iowa and OSU have yet to play each other. One of those teams has to lose that game (don't even bring up the possibility of a tie game, seriously, just don't). It's also possible that one or more of the other teams currently in the tie drops a game from here to the end of the season. Were that to happen, things might shake out enough that the tie breaker procedures become un-necessary. But, I need to fill more column space, so let's take a look at what were to happen if Wisconsin, MSU, and one of Iowa/OSU all win out. The season would end with a three-way conference tie, and tiebreaker provision B(5) would go into effect. Sooo:

If the tie is between Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin:

No team of this three defeated the other two. B(5)(a) does not apply. Similarly, none of these teams was defeated by two of the others, so B(5)(b) also does not apply.

There are no tie games, and these teams all played each other. B(5)(c) does not apply.

Ah, here we go! Finally, a provision that applies - B(5)(d). Even if all these teams win out, Iowa's loss to Arizona will mean that they will have a worse overall winning percentage across all games played. They will drop out of the tie, leaving Wisconsin and Michigan State in the two-team tie procedures.

Because Michigan State won the head-to-head over Wisconsin, B(2) dictates that they will be win the conference bid to the Rose Bowl.

At that point, Wisconsin and Iowa would both be considered for at-large BCS bids. Because of the head-to-head victory overall better record, and higher BCS ranking it's likely that Wisconsin would be selected ahead of Iowa for a BCS bowl. Iowa would then head to the Capital One bowl, with fourth place finishing Ohio State relegated to the Outback Bowl.

But that's not the only possibility...

If the tie is between Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin:

No team of this three defeated the other two. B(5)(a) does not apply. As with the scenario above, none of these teams was defeated by the two others, so B(5)(b) does not apply.

There are no tie games. Though the fact that MSU and OSU did not play each other would seem to invoke B(5)(c), it doesn't resolve anything, because with identical records all of the teams would have the same percentage basis of all games played. Because all the teams have the same percentage basis, B(5)(d) also does not apply.

That means we're down to B(5)(e). The representative to the Rose Bowl will therefore be determined by who has the better BCS ranking. As of this week, that would be Wisconsin. It's possible, but unlikely, that Ohio State leapfrogs Wisconsin in the BCS standings.

At that point both MSU and OSU would be available for an at-large BCS bid. Things get tricky here. Because these teams don't play each other, there is no head-to-head victory to help a bowl make a selection. OSU has a reputation for traveling well and drawing TV ratings, but Michigan State has the novelty card going for them. Though many Buckeye fans will tell you that OSU definitely wins this contest, I wouldn't be so sure. If it did happen, though, despite starting the season 8-0 and winning a share of the conference championship, Sparty would head to the Capital One Bowl, with Iowa most likely occupying the Outback Bowl slot.

 

News Update:

With the victory against Michigan, Joe Paterno moved one step closer to his 400th victory. He now has 399 career victories the most of any FBS coach. He'll look for 400 against Northwestern this weekend.

Iowa and Northwestern both picked up bowl eligibility with their victories over Michigan State and Indiana. Each team now stands at six wins. Michigan's loss to Penn State means they continue to search for bowl eligibility, after starting the season 5-0. Sounds kind of like 2009, doesn't it?

Last week's victors Penn State and Illinois also join the hunt for bowl eligibility this weekend. Both teams currently stand at 5-3. The Nittany Lions host Northwestern, while the Illini travel to the Big House to take on Michigan.

 

Rankings Watch:

Michigan State's steamrolling dropped them quite a bit in the BCS standings. Oregon has surpassed Auburn in the BCS standings and is now the No. 1 ranked team in the country with an average of .9777.

Iowa:

Was: No. 18 in the AP poll, No. 19 in the Coaches' poll, and No. 18 in the BCS standings

Now: No. 15 in the AP poll, No. 16 in the Coaches' poll, No. 16 in the BCS standings (.4291)

Michigan State:

Was: No. 5 in the AP poll, No. 5 in the Coaches' poll, and No. 5 in the BCS standings

Now: No. 16 in the AP poll, No. 15 in the Coaches' poll, No. 14 in the BCS standings (.5136)

Ohio State:

Was: No. 10 in the AP poll, No. 10 in the Coaches' poll, and No. 11 in the BCS standings

Now: No. 8 in the AP poll, No. 8 in the Coaches' poll, No. 11 in the BCS standings (.6127)

Wisconsin:

Was: No. 9 in the AP poll, No. 9 in the Coaches' poll, and No. 10 in the BCS standings

Now: No. 7 in the AP poll, No. 7 in the Coaches' poll, No. 9 in the BCS standings (.6740)

 

Week Nine Recap:


Big 10 Conference Standings

(updated 10.31.2010 at 2:32 AM CDT)


 

Northwestern at Indiana (Northwestern, 20-17):

This game definitely did not turn out as expected. Two prolific offenses (before this game, Ben Chappell and Dan Persa were the top ranked quarterbacks in the conference by passing stats), two shaky defenses? Clearly a low-scoring slug fest! In fact, were it not for some last second heroics by Chappell, the score would have been even lower, with Northwestern winning 20-10. Unfortunately for Hoosier fans, the team was apparently unable to correctly execute an onside kick, as the last ditch victory attempt rolled out of bounds before even travelling ten yards. Bottom line from this game: Indiana's defense is still bad. Northwestern is still playing inconsistently. Indiana's bowl hopes have once again dimmed, while Wildcat fans find themselves wondering if Northwestern will make it to a bowl that's not in Detroit.

Purdue at Illinois (Illinois, 44-10):

I have one question. Who are these Illini and what did they do with Ron Zook's real team? Previews of this Illinois squad doubted their ability to win more than one conference game, let alone make it to bowl eligibility. Now, they find themselves only one game away from the postseason. Much of this is due to the outstanding play of the Illini defense, the emergence of Mikel Leshoure,  and the quick adaptation of Nathan Scheelhaase to the speed of the college game. Scheelhaase had a great game, rushing for 118 yards, throwing for 195 more, and notching four TDs. Meanwhile, Purdue is still suffering from injuries. They started yet another quarterback this past Saturday, after Rob Henry was limited by his finger injury at the Ohio State game. Sean Robinson managed to pass for only 52 yards, but did record a TD. At this point, Boilermaker fans must be asking themselves, "Is it basketball season yet?"

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa (Iowa, 37-6):

Wow. That's really all I have to say about this game. I thought Michigan State, with so much on the line, would show up and fight for the conference crown but ultimately drop the game to Iowa. I never expected a result like this. The Hawkeyes were clearly out for blood after their narrow loss to Wisconsin the week before, but where was Sparty? It's not enough to just say that the Spartan's luck ran out this week. It did, but this wasn't a defeat. It was a thumping. Kirk Cousins looked awful, throwing three interceptions and 198 yards. Ricky Stanzi had a pretty good day, with 190 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with zero INTs. Adam Robinson added another two touchdowns on only 69 yards of rushing. He's clearly a big part of the Hawkeye game, so hopefully he stays healthy. Maybe this was just a down week against a good Iowa team. But maybe MSU fans should get their "Sparty, NO!" signs ready for the rest of the season.

No. 11 Ohio State at Minnesota (Ohio State, 52-10):

I still can't believe this was one of the featured evening games on ABC last week. Ugh. Terrelle Pryor had a decent road game, with 222 passing yards and two touchdowns, an interception, and a rushing touchdown. Dan Herron added a 100+ rushing performance of his own along with a touchdown. The Buckeye defense limited Adam Weber to 162 yards and a single TD. The result in this game was completely predictable, and completely boring.

Michigan at Penn State (Penn State, 41-31):

JoePa gets his 399th win and Michigan's slide continues. Denard Robinson, who has already set the Big Ten single season rushing record for a quarterback, had a pedestrian passing day with 190 yards and a single touchdown. He did manage 192 yards on the ground and three touchdowns to go along with it, however. But, despite all that offense, the story of this game is the same as it has been for the Wolverines all season - the cheesecloth of a defense. Despite not being able to start Rob Bolden, Penn State still managed to put 41 points on the board. The Nittany Lions looked a lot better this week, but wouldn't almost anyone against Michigan?

BONUS: No. 6 Missouri at No. 14 Nebraska (Nebraska, 31-17):

Well that was a nice bounce back. After dropping their undefeated record against Texas (who just lost to Baylor), the Huskers hosted the No. 6 team in the country and thumped them but good. The big news out of this game is the absolutely insane day out of running back Roy Helu Jr. Helu had an absolutely great day, setting a Nebraska record for single game rushing yards at 307. Yes, that's right, 307. Oh, he also had three touchdowns. I wasn't aware that Mizzou was this vulnerable to the run... but Helu tore through them like everyone in the Big Ten tears through Minnesota. The take-away from this is that the Big 12 North race is once again a two-team affair.

 

Week Ten Preview:

The question for the conference in week ten is: can all the one conference loss teams keep from adding another L to their records? Ohio State is on a bye, but all of Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are in action. They all play teams with less than stellar records, but all three are going to have to stay on their game to avoid the trap.

No. 16 Iowa at Indiana (11:00 a.m., Big Ten Network):

So, the Hawkeyes know that they absolutely cannot lose any more games if they want a BCS bowl bid this year. Oh sure, technically if every other one-loss conference team loses again too then Iowa can afford to drop another, but the chances of that happening? Slim. Iowa is on thin enough ice as it is. If they want a BCS at-large bid then they need to win out. This week is a good first step. Indiana's defense has been near Minnesota levels this year, and Iowa is a bruising enough team that they will likely roll the Hoosiers in Bloomington. Perhaps the only danger for the Hawkeyes in this game is that it could be a let down after knocking off the undefeated Spartans. But if they stay focused? It'll be an easy victory.

Minnesota at No. 14 Michigan State (11:00 a.m., Big Ten Network):

The alternate morning game on the BTN this weekend sees the Gophers leave The Bank for East Lansing. Can they pull off an upset against a reeling Sparty? Possibly, but not likely. Just as with last week's game against Ohio State, a win here for the Gophers would give their fans just something to take away from this year, but Minnesota has been playing so poorly that it'd be a massive upset. The only real chance for Minnesota here is for the Spartans to completely roll over in the wake of their loss at Iowa. While most of their special season has been dashed, I don't think anyone should count the Spartans out yet. They still have the best path to Pasadena, and I think they know it.

Illinois at Michigan (11:00 a.m., ESPN/ESPN3):

Your third option for morning football goodness is the battle for bowl eligibility... part III. I feel like I've been writing this preview paragraph several weeks in a row now. Well, the good news is that one of these teams will hit bowl eligibility this weekend. Barring, of course, an asteroid obliterating the Big House, something I'm sure some residents of Ohio might hope for every single weekend. Who do I think clears the post-season hurdle this weekend? Improbably enough, Illinois. The Michigan defense is as bad as it has ever been, and unfortunately for Blue, the Illini strength has been on D this year. If Illinois can follow the shut-down Denard Robinson plan laid out so well by other teams this season, I think they celebrate bowl eligibility on the road.

No. 9 Wisconsin at Purdue (11:00 a.m., Big Ten Network):

I feel like this must be, "Let's get the game in early so I can go rake my yard..." week in the Big Ten. What's with all the 11:00 am start times? I mean, really. Well, this is the last of the trio of potential trap games mentioned above. Wisconsin heads to the Boilermakers to see if they can keep on their march to a share of the conference crown. Purdue has been playing, well, terribly of late, and Wisconsin should probably be able to run over their defense like the Buckeyes and Illini just did. Then again, Bucky sometimes drops games like this...

Northwestern at Penn State (2:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2):

Finally, a game that doesn't start at 11:00! And it involves Northwestern... wait... what?? Oh, it's a road game, okay. The Wildcats just gained bowl eligibility in Indiana, and now they travel to Happy Valley to see if they can get themselves out of a game in Detroit. Meanwhile, JoePa looks for a 400th victory and Penn State looks for the post season. Rob Bolden should be back for PSU, as should Dan Persa for NU after he suffered a concussion during the fourth quarter of the Hoosier game. Can Northwestern roll into Happy Valley and claim a seventh win? Yeah. Can Penn State trample an inconsistent Wildcat team and gain bowl eligibility? Also yeah. What, that's not helpful to you? Er, sorry. This game, like many of Tuesday night's elections, is officially "too close to call." Penn State has been looking better lately, and Northwestern has been rather up and down. But you never know what you're going to get with these teams from week to week. Maybe we should have recount officials standing by...

BONUS: No. 7 Nebraska at Iowa State (2:30 p.m., ABC):

If you aren't seeing the Northwestern game on ABC Saturday afternoon, that means you live somewhere where this game will be on. Ordinarily, I'd say this would present no trouble for the Huskers, but then again, Iowa State did beat Texas, who beat Nebraska. Confused yet? Just know that while the Cyclones are 5-4, another major upset (of course, some may argue that the way Texas has been playing, that game wasn't really a major upset) anyway, another upset of a traditionally good team is just not in the cards for them. The Huskers will run away with this one.

 

Hilary's Picks:

Most likely rout: Wisconsin at Purdue. Have you seen what Illinois and Ohio State just did to the Boilermakers? Now think about John Clay. Yeah.

Most likely upset: Illinois at Michigan. Okay, so Michigan is only a 3-point favorite, but I still count this as an upset. What, you thought I was going to bank on Minnesota? Yeah, no thanks. I'm a lot of things, but crazy isn't one of them. The Illini defense has been really good as of late, and Michigan's... has not. It all comes down to Shoelace.

Best game to watch: Of your morning four, Illinois at Michigan should be the only competitive game. It is also the only conference game this week on ESPN. In the afternoon you only have one option for Big Ten football, so tune in to Happy Valley on ABC or ESPN2, depending on your location.

Big Ten player of the week: Nathan Scheelhaase, quarterback, Illinois. I think he goes pass happy against the porous Blue D and puts up some very nice numbers as the Illini gain bowl eligibility.

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