Wisconsin's Big Ten Title Game Chances

Skim Version:

  • If Penn State wins out, Wisconsin can’t make the championship game
  • If Ohio State wins out, Wisconsin can’t make the championship game
  • Wisconsin needs Penn State to lose at least twice
  • Wisconsin needs to beat Penn State
  • Wisconsin needs Ohio State to lose at least once
  •  Wisconsin needs to win out (Unless Penn State loses its 3 remaining games and Ohio State loses 2 out of its 4 remaining games, but for that to happen, Ohio State would have to lose to Purdue or Indiana)


Most Likely The Only Way We’re Getting In Version:

  • Penn State loses to Nebraska or Ohio State, Ohio State loses to Michigan, Wisconsin wins out


Detailed Analysis Version:

Another Saturday night, another last-second forty yard heave guided by some vengeful God (only explanation) into the hands of an opposing receiver. And now another week avoiding SportsCenter and all mainstream college football coverage.

So after sorting through all the what-ifs and how-comes, one question remains: what can be salvaged from this season? The answer: at the very least, a trip to the Big Ten conference championship game in Indianapolis. Simply, that can be achieved the same way every other team goal at any point in the season can be achieved—just win out. But it’s far from simple in the Leaders division right now.

Penn State sits atop the standings, with a 5-0 conference record and 3-0 division record. Ohio State is in second with a 2-2 conference and 2-0 division record. And Wisconsin is technically tied for third with Purdue, with a 2-2 conference and 1-1 division record (I’m going to ignore Purdue in this breakdown however, due to the fact that they’re Purdue).

Penn State’s 2.5 game lead in the division means that they control their own destiny. Or, in other words, all they have to do is win at least two of their remaining three games to clinch a berth to Indianapolis and send Wisconsin to the Gator Bowl.  However, the Nittany Lions’ remaining schedule makes this an extremely difficult proposition. They have a bye this week, then host Nebraska and travel to Ohio State and Wisconsin.

So the first step for the Badgers getting to Indianapolis is for Penn State to lose at least twice, which looks like it could definitely happen. Penn State’s five conference wins have come against five of the bottom six Big Ten squads, and their two-headed QB offense went 9-28 with 98 yards against Illinois on Saturday, while putting up 10 total points. Yes, they won, but the manner in which they did signals hope for those trailing them.

And since the tiebreaker for winning the division is head-to-head record, and a loss to Penn State would make the best-case scenario a tie atop the division, Wisconsin must beat Penn State to have any chance at the title game.

So the Badgers need Penn State to lose to Nebraska or Ohio State, and then once again at Camp Randall in the last game of the season.

But what about Ohio State? They’re tied with Wisconsin right now with that 2-2 conference record, with each team having four remaining games.  And once again, since the main tiebreaker is head-to-head matchup, if Wisconsin winds up tied with the Buckeyes after those four remaining games, Ohio State will finish ahead of them. Which leads us to another scary conclusion: If the Buckeyes win out, Wisconsin cannot make it to the Big Ten championship game.

Ohio State’s remaining schedule is Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, and Michigan. It’s certainly possible that they could win out, but once again, not probable. Ohio State’s quarterback is averaging less than five completed passes per game (I will now bang my head against the wall repeatedly). Ohio State is dead last in the Big Ten when it comes to yards-per-play, with less than five, and they’re ninth in the conference when it comes to scoring (banging my head again). Moreover, matchups with Penn State and Michigan on the last two Saturdays of the season will be tough.

And what about the Badgers themselves? The schedule reads Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Penn State, and Wisconsin needs to beat all four. Technically hope could still be alive with a loss, but it would be nearly impossible.

There are a few scenarios for the Badgers making it to Indianapolis, but two seem most probable.

The first scenario has Penn State losing to Nebraska (which is likely considering the way the two teams have been playing of late) and then beating Ohio State, with Wisconsin winning out. This would tie the Badgers with Penn State atop the division, and have Wisconsin advance to Indy on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The most likely scenario, however, would provide some serious drama on November 26. First, regardless of whether or not Penn State beats Nebraska, if Ohio State can handle the Nittany Lions on the 19th, and Wisconsin can beat Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois, everything would come down to the last day of the season. Then, Wisconsin would need to handle Penn State, and Michigan would need to topple Ohio State. It’s a lot to hope for no doubt, but it’s definitely possible, if not probable, that Wisconsin will have a shot at the title game coming into the last day of the season.

At the very least, remember this: those vengeful Gods owe us a few.

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