The Badgers have all but booked their trip to Indianapolis with a dominating 38-14 road win at Purdue Saturday. Of the eligible teams in the Leaders Division, Wisconsin controls a two-game lead in the standings and is the only team to win a conference game so far this season.
When it comes to making it to the second Big Ten Championship game, the Badgers only face one more opponent in the race: Indiana. That’s not to say it is the only important game left in the season for Wisconsin; beating Minnesota matters, you never want to lose to Michigan State and I would love to win the division outright by beating Ohio State and Penn State.
And I believe Wisconsin is capable of doing that.
But even if the Badgers drop one or more of those games, they will still be on the road to Indy. Who the representative from the Legends Division will be, I do not think anyone knows.
After a fairly exciting day in the Big Ten, Iowa and Michigan are tied at the top of the Legends Division, with Northwestern sitting in third. Nebraska follows and Michigan State is only one win above the bottom spot occupied by Minnesota.
With a lot of football left to be played, I can pretty much guarantee the Legends Division will not look this way come the end of the season. It is just too early to try to predict who will win the Legends Division.
But I’m going to try regardless.
After much consideration, I’m putting my money on Michigan to win the division. This was a tough call, mostly because I don’t believe Denard Robinson is a great, or even good, quarterback. Yes, he can run, but once he goes to the air, Michigan’s offensive production decreases significantly.
Robinson is completing a mind-numbing 54.8 percent of his passes and only has one more touchdown (nine) than interceptions (eight). I would not call that a dual-threat quarterback. He is a running back Michigan lines up as the quarterback.
Despite its lack of a real quarterback, Michigan appears to be the best of the Legends Division. Looking at the remainder of the schedule, the Wolverines have it the easiest.
They play Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa at home, and their toughest road division game left is Nebraska, a team that just got rolled over by Ohio State.
It is no secret going to Michigan and winning at the Big House is one of the toughest challenges in college football. They have yet to lose at home this season, and I cannot see the Wolverines losing any of their remaining home games. Fortunately for them, if they do win those games, they win the division.
What does that mean for Wisconsin? It means a shot at a third-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance is still a possibility.
I saw a Badger team Saturday that had all the stuff to beat any team in the Big Ten. The run game was in perfect form and Stave mixed in a good dose of play-action-passes. Wisconsin’s offensive balance was ideal and the defense, minus two big plays, was lights out.
If the Badgers continue to play the way they did Saturday, I would not want to be the teams who have to line up against them.
Big Ten teams, I mean.
Wisconsin’s resurgence and road to the conference championship game and even the Rose Bowl does not change the fact that whoever the PAC-12 sends to the Rose Bowl will likely walk away with another bowl victory.
The most probable PAC-12 representatives are Oregon, USC and Stanford. But those three aside, Oregon State, Arizona State and UCLA are not to be overlooked. Each of these teams has the capability to beat whoever wins the Big Ten, be it Wisconsin, Michigan or any other eligible team.
The Big Ten’s mediocrity this season is only matched by the parity that mediocrity brings. The Badgers are once again in control of their goal of a third-straight Rose Bowl. Realizing that goal would be a victory all on its own.
Who do you think will wind up in Indianapolis? Email Matt at email@example.com.