Deal with It: The Big Ten Title Game Might Have a Team with Losing Record

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterNovember 9, 2012

Oct. 27, 2012; Champaign, IL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) drops back to pass during the second half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. Indiana Hoosiers defeated Illinois Fighting Illini 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE
Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

The Big Ten title race could very well come down to the final week of play, but there's one game in particular worth watching this week, because it's likely to determine one of the two teams playing for the Big Ten championship. That game is Wisconsin at Indiana, and while it's not winner-takes-all, it's close.

Wisconsin and Indiana are the only two teams in the Big Ten Leaders Division that have any conference wins and are postseason-eligible, meaning that with the exception of one freakishly unlikely scenario involving Purdue winning out (again: freakishly unlikely), those are the two teams that are battling for the Leaders Division berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin's sitting at 6-3 and 3-2 in conference play, while Indiana is 4-5 and 2-3. If Wisconsin wins on Saturday it's in the Big Ten Championship Game, guaranteed, locked and loaded. Four Big Ten wins and a tiebreaker does it for Wisconsin.

But that one-game difference in the conference standings means Indiana can not only force a tie but hold the tiebreaker with a home win on Saturday. That means Indiana controls its destiny for the Big Ten Championship and thus the Rose Bowl.

It's what comes next that makes things really interesting/potentially disastrous for the Big Ten.

Usually, when a team "controls its own destiny" in situations like these, it still has to basically win out. And Indiana would be wise to do that. But Wisconsin finishes its season against Ohio State then at Penn State, both games where the Badgers are likely to be underdogs.

So if Wisconsin loses to Indiana and then can't beat OSU or PSU, that's effectively it—the Hoosiers will be ahead of Wisconsin at the end of the season, no matter what happens in the rest of Indiana's games.

Therein lies the rub: remember that Indiana is 4-5 right now, so in that scenario with Wisconsin losing out, Indiana wouldn't have to do anything past the Wisconsin win—its fifth win of the season—except have Purdue lose once. And Purdue will do that.

With that, Indiana would then run up Highway 37 to Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium, representing the Big Ten Leaders Division at the Big Ten Championship Game.

At 5-7.

Nebraska is a probable foe for Indiana there—though a Husker loss to Penn State this weekend throws everything into chaos and makes Michigan's season-ending trip to Columbus very interesting—and regardless of what record Indiana might bring into the Big Ten Championship, Nebraska should win that game.

But folks, just as our Darkest Timeline predicted so many weeks ago—and as our revised Iowa-Indiana title game timeline predicted in October—Indiana is still in great position to make the Rose Bowl with a losing record.

What a world we're living. What a conference. What a Big, Big Ten it truly is.