I’m sitting watching the Michigan-Illinois game at the Big House. It’s halftime — and the score is 31-31! Huh? Is this really the Big Ten?
The Big Ten is very interesting this year for a lot of reasons. Four teams are tied for the lead with one loss — Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Traditional powerhouses like Michigan and Penn State are struggling. And the days of bruising 10-7 battles seem to be long gone. If anything, some Big Ten teams seem to be defensively challenged. (I’m looking at you, Michigan, Indiana, and Minnesota!)
Which team has the best chance to win the championship? Michigan State, which got pounded by Iowa last weekend, probably has the easiest road to the championship. The Spartans are crushing Minnesota today and have Purdue at home in two weeks before they must travel to Penn State for the last game of the season. Iowa, on the other hand, probably has the toughest schedule left. They are, surprisingly, locked in a tough game with Indiana today, play at Northwestern next week, and then have Ohio State at home before ending at hapless Minnesota. Ohio State also has a rugged schedule, playing Penn State next week, then traveling to Iowa, then ending with Michigan in a throw-out-the-records rivalry game.
I was impressed by Wisconsin in their win over the Buckeyes. Although they are struggling a bit in their game at Purdue today, I think Wisconsin is the odds-on favorite to win the conference championship. They have beaten Ohio State and Iowa head-to-head, and if they get by Purdue today they have Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern left. Wisconsin should be favored in all of those games.
The Big Ten has changed a lot since the days of Woody and Bo.