I don’t like the idea of the “Legends” and “Leaders” divisions of the Big Ten, but I have to admit that the first years of the new format has turned out to be very interesting. Even the most diehard Big Ten fans grudgingly must admit that there are no dominant teams in the conference this year — which means everything is up for grabs.
In the “Legends” division, Michigan State leads at 4-1, with Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa right behind at 3-2. Yesterday’s games made the division race a lot more interesting, with Northwestern gutting out a shocking win at Nebraska and Iowa toppling Michigan. All of the leaders in the Legends division (pun intended) have tough games remaining; Michigan State must play Iowa and Northwestern; Nebraska plays Iowa, Michigan, and Penn State; Iowa has Michigan State and Nebraska; and Michigan still has Illinois, Nebraska and the Buckeyes. The eventual winner of this division is anybody’s guess.
In the “Leaders” division, Penn State leads the way. The Nittany Lions are undefeated in the Big Ten and have only one loss overall, but they aren’t getting much respect — largely because the general perception is that the team hasn’t played many tough games. That will change straightaway, as Penn State must close with Nebraska at home and then Ohio State and Wisconsin on the road. Ohio State and Wisconsin are 3-2, and both will be rooting for the other to knock off the Nittany Lions — but then lose another game, besides.
The Buckeyes hope to be in a position to win the division by winning out, but yesterday’s closer-than-expected win over Indiana shows the danger of looking ahead and coming out flat. The Buckeyes can’t afford another uninspired performance. They had better be ready to play when they travel to West Lafayette to take on the Boilermakers next Saturday if they want to stay in contention for the Big Ten title game.