The Wisconsin football team is the lone team in the Big Ten West that controls its own destiny now. With Minnesota losing to Iowa last weekend, Minnesota, Iowa, and Purdue will need things to go just right for them to take the division title.
Right now, it’s looking like the division probably won’t be decided until Week 13, when Wisconsin takes on the Gophers. If they can win their next two games, they will win the division.
It is, however, possible for the Badgers to clinch the division on Saturday if everything goes just right for them. It may not seem likely, but there’s still a chance, and here’s how it could work.
1. Wisconsin football beats Nebraska
Wisconsin’s conference record: 5-2; owns the tiebreaker over Purdue and Iowa
The Badgers will have to beat Nebraska first before any of this matters. If the Badgers lose, they can’t clinch this week.
A win over the Cornhuskers would guarantee the Badgers first place in the division no matter what heading into next week. A loss could very well drop them into second, should Iowa win Saturday. So first, and foremost, the Badgers must beat Nebraska.
The Badgers won’t play until 2:30, so we should know by game time whether or not they still have a chance to clinch.
2. Iowa loses to Illinois
Iowa’s conference record: 5-2; owns the tiebreaker over Minnesota
The game is in Iowa City, but we’ve seen the Hawkeyes lose at home earlier this year.
Illinois has also played this part before. They’ve gone on the road and taken down both Penn State and Minnesota while they were ranked. The Illini will be without head coach Bret Bielema, who is out with covid, so that could make this harder, but I’m not going to say it’s impossible.
If Illinois can knock off the Hawkeyes, they will be out of the running; assuming Wisconsin beats Nebraska.
3. Minnesota loses to Indiana
Minnesota’s conference record: 4-3; owns the tiebreaker over Purdue
Although the Gophers are a game behind the Badgers in the standings right now, the two teams will play next week.
If Minnesota wins this game, they are still very much alive. They will need to win out and hope Iowa loses one of their next two games for Minnesota to claim the division outright.
A Minnesota loss would put the Gophers two games behind the Badgers, assuming they beat Nebraska. With one week left, that would make it impossible for the Gophers to overtake Wisconsin for the Big Ten West.
4. Purdue loses to Northwestern*
*If Wisconsin beats Nebraska, the Boilermakers will be eliminated, so this game isn’t absolutely necessary for the Badgers to clinch.
Purdue’s conference record: 4-3; owns the tiebreaker over Iowa
If Purdue is going to win the division, they are going to need a lot of help. Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota are all ahead of the Boilermakers either in standings or by tiebreaker. If Wisconsin, who has a better record and the tiebreaker, wins, then the Boilermakers will be eliminated.
But a Boilermaker loss wouldn’t hurt either.
So while the chances of this happening probably aren’t great, there is actually a chance that the Wisconsin football team could head to Minnesota with the division clinched already.