Although the Buckeyes have looked shaky at times this season, they are still the Big Ten’s best shot to make it to the College Football Playoff. J.T. Barrett cemented his status as the starting quarterback, completing 15-of-23 passes with a touchdown in a 28-3 win over Illinois. Ezekiel Elliott continues to be one of the nation’s premier backs, rushing for 181 yards last week. The Buckeyes have their two biggest Big Ten tests of the season in the next two weeks, with Michigan State at home and then Michigan in Ann Arbor. They will need to win both to clinch a spot in the championship game in order to avoid relying on other teams to get in. If Barrett and Elliott can continue their dominance, Ohio State will pack their bags for a showdown in Indianapolis.
After beating a mediocre Wisconsin team by an impressive 10-6 score, Iowa has continued their undefeated season with even more impressive wins over the perennial powerhouses in the Big Ten West. Despite their cakewalk of a schedule, Iowa has impressed voters enough to be considered the sixth-best team in the country. In all seriousness, junior quarterback C.J. Beathard has had a stellar season, leading the Hawkeyes’ offense with 16 total touchdowns. Iowa should run over Purdue this weekend, but will face a tough test in Lincoln in the final week. Regardless, the Hawkeyes just have to win one of the two to earn a berth in the championship game. So, mosey your way out of the corn fields and book a ticket to Indianapolis, Iowa fans.
If an outbreak of the flu hits the Hawkeyes and all their starters and backups are unable to play against Purdue this week, the Badgers may have a chance at the Big Ten West title. Wisconsin can give themselves a fighting chance with a win against Northwestern, but they will need a miracle for the Boilermakers to upset Iowa. If this somehow happens and the Badgers win out, UW will limp into the championship game on the backs of linebacker-turned-running back Alec Ingold and Joel Stave. After the embarrassing 59-0 loss last year with Melvin Gordon in the backfield, Badger fans might be better off cheering for the Hawkeyes.
The Fightin’ Harbaughs still have a chance to make it to Indianapolis, but Michigan fans will have to commit a deadly sin and root for the Buckeyes this week. If Ohio State takes care of business against Michigan State and Michigan defeats Penn State on the road, it will set up a game for the Big Ten East title in Ann Arbor the following week. If quarterback Jake Rudock can continue his impressive season, a winner-take-all game in the final week of the season could be another instant classic in the storied rivalry.
Despite a one-point loss to Nebraska, Sparty still control their own destiny in the Big Ten East. They will need to put together their best game of the season this week against Ohio State in Columbus, but if they can pull out a victory, they will take over first place in the East. Redshirt senior quarterback Connor Cook, who has thrown for 21 touchdowns, must play a phenomenal game to give Michigan State a chance. An upset this week would all but guarantee a Spartan berth in the conference championship, as they face Penn State in East Lansing during the final week of the season.