The Big Ten is having a down year. It’s not as rotten a year as the ACC, but it is, nonetheless, pathetic. There’s no more telling indicator of that than the fact Indiana, a team that has lost to Ball State and Navy, has a reasonable shot at winning the Big Ten title…in football.
Let’s look at the Leaders Division. Ohio State and Penn State, with a combined 10-1 conference record, are ineligible for the postseason. Purdue and Illinois are eligible, but also terrible, with a combined 0-10 in conference play. That leaves Wisconsin (3-2) and Indiana (2-3) to battle for the division’s place in Indianapolis.
Indiana has improved in Kevin Wilson’s second year. The Hoosiers are 4-5 after 0-11 vs. FBS. Four of those losses were by four-points or less. The fifth was away at Northwestern. They hung with Ohio State and nearly picked off the Spartans. This is barely a bowl team, but one with a plausible chance.
A Hoosiers upset of Wisconsin at home this Saturday would leave both teams at 3-3 with two games left. Both play at Penn State the final two weeks. The Badgers have a much tougher second game, playing Ohio State at home while Indiana travels to hapless Purdue. Indiana could steal the division. They could even do it finishing 5-7.
Whether this upset happens probably depends on whether Wisconsin can run the ball. Against Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue, they rushed for 6.8 yards per carry and put up 11 touchdowns. In losses to Oregon State, Nebraska and Michigan State, the Badgers ran for only 1.1 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns.
Indiana is No. 85 overall in rushing defense, but, looking closer, the Hoosiers’ trouble has been against running quarterbacks. They conceded six-plus yards per carry against both Northwestern and Ohio State. Wisconsin’s best offensive comp is probably Michigan State. Indiana held the Spartans under three yards per carry.
Even if Indiana does not win the conference, they still might reach bowl eligibility. With the Big Ten’s ambitious, bowl tie-ins that could leave them matched up with a Texas A&M/Florida/South Carolina level SEC draw in the Gator Bowl or the fourth-place team in a strong Big 12. If you thought the regular season was ugly for the Big Ten, just wait for the postseason.
[Photo via Presswire]