Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 12, 2012 at 8:20 PM
Saturday’s Wisconsin/Purdue game set for a noon ET kickoff on the Big Ten Network could turn out to be the de facto Big Ten “Leaders” Division championship game. It’s certainly not a matchup that most thought would be critically important back when the season started. But, check out the current standings.
BIG TEN LEADERS DIVISION
Ohio State 2-0
Penn State 2-0
Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for the division title this year and the automatic berth in the Big Championship game that goes with it. That means the REAL standings run from Wisconsin on down…with the Badgers currently holding a half game lead over the Boilermakers…who find themselves as a “contender” despite being drilled last week by Michigan.
That’s how bad things are right now in the Big Ten…particularly this half of it. There are no good options in terms of the eventual winner. Wisconsin had a string of unimpressive results to start the year. Purdue had a “good loss” at Notre Dame when the Irish were jet-lagged after a trip to Ireland. But, last week’s bad loss to Michigan may have exposed them as a permanent pretender. Illinois has injury issues, and lack of talent issues (plus they find themselves as 23-point underdogs at Michigan this week). Indiana is still Indiana, though maybe things are moving in the right direction under new leadership.
There’s a limited number of “big” games when only four teams are in the running and one or two of them are likely doormats. Wisconsin just beat Illinois last week. Wisconsin plays Purdue Saturday. That may be all that’s needed for a Badgers’ divisional title. Should Wisconsin lose to Purdue, then it’s the Boilermakers who control their own destiny. Note that the Wise Guys in Vegas have come in fairly strong on Purdue at the early line of pick-em and then after subsequent moves to -1 and -2 points. The surge stopped at -2.5, with an assumption that smart money would come in on Wisconsin at plus a field goal.
The market is telling you that Purdue may still be a serious threat to win the Leaders division (even if they’re not technically “leading” the division at the end of the season!) thanks to getting this battle with Wisconsin at home.
The Big Ten “Legends” Division currently looks like a five-team race of mediocrities because early contenders Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska have underachieved expectations on multiple occasions. Here are the current standings there heading into Saturday’s action.
BIG TEN LEGENDS DIVISION
Michigan State 1-1
The Gophers are a longshot to become relevant this year. But, each Michigan, State, Northwestern, and Nebraska have taken turns as seeming frontrunners before losing prominent games (Michigan and Michigan both lost to Michigan State, and missed Vegas expectations elsewhere, Northwestern flunked a big test last Saturday and Penn State, while Nebraska has left road games with both UCLA and Ohio State with its tail between its legs.
Today’s Games for the “Legends”:
Iowa at Michigan State (-10) (noon ET on ESPN)
Northwestern (-3.5) at Minnesota (noon ET on ESPN2)
Illinois at Michigan (-23) (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC)
Nebraska has a bye this week before playing three straight divisional testers. Iowa will either enter the race this week with a good performance in East Lansing, or will establish that they’re NOT a contender by playing to the spread or worse.
Things are far from pretty this year in the Big Ten. But we may have a compelling race shaping up in the Legends division down the road, after the Leaders division is virtually decided today in Wisconsin-Purdue.
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