How A 5-7 Big Ten Team Could Go to the Rose Bowl
Look, when every football team in the Big Ten is either inconsistent, ineligible, or both, you have to start thinking about alternate postseason scenarios. For us the bowl season is going to resemble something out Reservoir Dogs, and whoever the Big Ten champion faces in the Rose Bowl, Michael Madsen will be coaching the other team. Under the circumstances it’s time to start thinking about the ultimate scorched-earth, burn-down-the-village-to-save-it scenario.
It will not do for the Big Ten to send a three- or four-loss team to face Southern Cal (I’m guessing here) in Pasadena. We need to show our many national detractors that we’ve been holding back, only sending the best of our mediocre teams to the postseason. You want tepid? We’ll show you tepid.
It’s time to start rooting for a 5-7 Indiana team in the Rose Bowl.
I know, I know, Wisconsin has the Leaders Division all but locked up already. The problem lies in those two words “all but.” It’s not a done deal. Purdue and Illinois can’t quite get the job done, though technically neither team is mathematically eliminated from contention yet. Indiana, at 2-5, still has a shot and the Hoosiers don’t even need a winning record to get it done.
Looking past Ohio State and Penn State for a moment, here are your current records in the Leaders Division:
- Wisconsin: 3-1 in conference, 6-2 overall
- Purdue: 0-3, 3-4
- Indiana: 0-3, 2-5
- Illinois: 0-3, 2-5
Wisconsin has already beaten Purdue and Illinois. The Boilermakers and the Illini thus need to finish with one fewer loss than the Badgers do. On their part, they’d have to win out and hope for at least one more Wisconsin loss. But the Hoosiers have not played the Badgers yet. If they can pull off what would be a bit more than a mild upset on Nov. 10, they could finish tied with the Badgers and still get the (short) trip to Indianapolis. They would need the Badgers to lose at least once more, obviously, and they’d have to win out. Right? Right?
If the Badgers were to lose out, Indiana would just have to finish ahead of its division foes Purdue and Illinois, both of which it still has to play. If the Hoosiers beat them both, it wouldn’t matter if IU lost to Iowa and Penn State so long as both the Boilermakers and the Illini lost at least one more game. A 5-7 Indiana team with a 3-5 conference record would “win” the Leaders Division. Far-fetched, I know.
Or … is it?
The Badgers’ schedule is backloaded. Here are their remaining games: Michigan State, at Indiana, Ohio State, at Penn State. Three of those four games are very losable for the Badgers (if you think Michigan State isn’t going to strike camp, that is) and the fourth is on the road, in Bloomington. 6-2 could just be a point Wisconsin passes through on its way to 6-6. Purdue looks lost and Illinois is playing Calvinball. This could actually happen.
But there’s no way Indiana could actually win the Big Ten championship game, of course. Unless Michigan collapses and sends Nebraska (with its shaky defense), Northwestern (unlikely), or Iowa (with its patented “three anemic mice on an exercise wheel” offense) to Indianapolis, where the Hoosiers would have a solid shot. I mean, just ask Urban Meyer if Indiana can score great big thick clots of points in a hurry.
As a fan of the Big Ten and somebody who still believes there’s something good, noble, and right about Big Ten football, I don’t want to see this happen. As somebody who respects the tradition of the great bowl games and looks forward to a holiday break laden with great football, I don’t want to see this happen. As somebody who loves a good sick cosmic joke as much as the next guy, I am so hoping this happens.