Crunch Time On The Road To The Big Ten Title

Leon Halip

This weekend's game between Michigan and Michigan State will do a lot to determine the winner of the Big Ten title, but it won't influence everything. Who is in the running and how does it play out?

Michigan (10-3)

Remaining Schedule:
vs. MSU
@ Purdue
vs. Minn
@ Illinois
vs. Indiana

Destiny? Controlled. If Michigan wins out it puts Michigan State a game behind with Iowa and gives MIchigan outright control of the title. Even one loss down the stretch (Minnesota and Indiana are the toughest challengers, and both are home games) still gives Michigan a share of the title. A loss to Michigan State would be pretty bad either way, but probably the most painful would be also dropping either Minnesota or Indiana (or both) and finishing the season with five losses and well away from the conference title. Still, of either favorite, Michigan has to like its odds the best. It gets its three toughest games at home and can steal the title outright by winning out.

Michigan State (10-3)

Remaining Schedule:
@ Purdue
@ Michigan
vs. Illinois
vs. Iowa
@ Ohio State

Bumpy Road. The Spartans also have the benefit of controlling their destiny. The problem is that the schedule doesn't set up nearly as neat. The Spartans have to beat Michigan on the road, still have to take on Iowa at home, and then finish the season with a game against Ohio State in Columbus. That is no easy stretch of games, and Michigan State isn't as invincible at home as normal as both Michigan and Nebraska have won games there this season. When healthy Michigan State is one of the best teams in the country. In its current state, the Spartans are good enough to win the Big Ten, but not quite good enough to feel overly confident about this closing stretch. Even a win at Michigan doesn't shut the Wolverines out of a shot at the title as Iowa could take on MSU for the three way tie.

Iowa (8-4)

Remaining Schedule:
@ Indiana (PPD)
vs. WIsconsin
@ Minnesota
vs. Purdue
@ Michigan State
vs. Illinois

Needing Help. Iowa is still in good position in the Big Ten conference race. Iowa is a game behind the two frontrunners from Michigan, but those top three teams still have two games left with each other — and more importantly, two losses. Iowa can inflict a loss on Michigan State, but the Hawkeyes need some help. A Michigan win over MSU on Sunday is bad for Iowa, which has got to be hoping that its trip to the Breslin Center in early March has a share of the Big Ten title on the line.

Wisconsin (8-5)

Remaining Schedule:
@ Iowa
vs. Indiana
@ Penn State
vs. Purdue
@ Nebraska

Wisconsin still technically exists in the conference race, but the Badgers need to win out while hoping that Michigan State and Michigan both lose two games. Iowa can help that with a win over MSU, but the Badgers need a lot of help while having to win games at Iowa and against a not-so-bad Nebraska team in Lincoln.

Finishing scenarios based on my biased guess on the likelihood of them happening

1. Michigan and Michigan State tie
2. Michigan State outright win
3. Michigan outright win
4. Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa tie
5. Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin tie

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