Spoiler alert: it's these two teams.
About a month ago, we presented a nightmare scenario—a "darkest timeline," if you will—of how Indiana can go to the Rose Bowl with a record of 5-8 on the season. It involves many things that did not come to pass, like Wisconsin hiring Tim Tebow as its head coach and the collapse of society as we know it. Thankfully, things are better than that.
There is still a bit of a doomsday scenario, one that can still embarrass the Big Ten and put a terrible team in the Rose Bowl by default. Read on.
Michigan handles Minnesota with ease and hangs on to the Little Brown Jug for another season. Meanwhile, Nebraska stumbles at Michigan State, so the Wolverines are back on top in the Legends Division. Indiana is actually favored to beat Iowa in Bloomington this week and does just that, setting off the loudest calls yet for Kirk Ferentz's head. Ohio State and Penn State have no problems beating Illinois and Purdue, respectively.
Drunk with power over its two-game conference winning streak, Indiana goes ahead and knocks off a Wisconsin team that's still flat from coming off its bye week and the loss of starting QB Joel Stave for the season. Michigan dispatches Northwestern, effectively ending the Wildcats' Legend Division title hopes, and Iowa rights the ship for a week by beating Purdue at home. Minnesota makes its bowl dream a reality with a win at Illinois, and Nebraska picks up its best win of the season by beating Penn State at home.
Here's where things get disaster-y for the Big Ten. Iowa goes into Ann Arbor and comes out with a win against Michigan. We have no idea how, but it probably involves something like an Iowa linebacker using a harpoon gun against Denard Robinson, at which point Kirk Ferentz challenges officials to find the word "harpoon" anywhere in the rule book. It's not in there.
Elsewhere, Purdue proves who the true worst team in the Big Ten is when it beats Illinois by 35 points. Indiana's recent fun comes to a quick end when Penn State hosts the Hoosiers and wins with ease, Michigan State prevails over Northwestern at home, Nebraska has no trouble with Minnesota at Memorial Stadium and Wisconsin topples Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten with a huge home win.
It's rivalry week! Friday sees Iowa pull the upset over Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium—again, we don't know how, but if it ends with Kirk Ferentz challenging the referees to find the word "botulism" in the rule book.
The headliner of the weekend is Ohio State upending Michigan in a heavyweight fight between the two teams (Denard Robinson recovers fully from his harpooning the week prior, don't worry). Northwestern finishes the regular season by dispatching Illinois for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, Indiana takes the Old Oaken Bucket from Purdue with a win, Michigan State thumps Minnesota and Penn State does what it's wanted to do all year long: ruin someone else's season.
With a win over Wisconsin at Beaver Stadium in the season finale, Penn State finishes at 8-4 and 6-2 in the conference. The day's action leaves the final standings looking like this.
Incredibly, Iowa holds the head-to-head tiebreaker (Big Ten tiebreaker rules are here) over all three other teams at 5-3 in the Legends Division, while the 4-4 tie in the Leaders Division goes to Indiana by way of the Hoosiers beating Wisconsin in Week 11.
So indeed, that's 7-5 Iowa facing 6-6 Indiana in the Big Ten Championship with a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl on the line.
Now remember, this isn't the darkest timeline, so that timeline's descent into chaos and madness doesn't apply here. But it does result in Danny Hope being shown the door at Purdue after a remarkably disappointing season, one that felt like Purdue's last chance at a Big Ten divisional title in a while and then turned into just another season in the cellar.
Hope finds a campus watering hole and there he meets the head of the engineering department, and that man has also been sacked that very day—he for using the Purdue research labs to further his studies in self-sustaining artificial intelligence and robotics.
As it turns out, Hope isn't all that interested in just tucking the buyout Purdue gives him under his mattress and calling it a career, and thus after the two men get to talking they agree to have Hope's buyout serve as seed money for what promises to be the next great technology company.
Hope even graciously allows the ousted professor to name the new company after himself.
That professor's name...is Dr. Horatio Q. Skynet.
Oh my God! This was the darkest timeline all along! Noooooooooooo!