Earlier in the week, Ben “The Big Phlegm” Kercheval touched on the myriad possibilities in the hotly-contested race for the Big Ten title, including the very real possibility of a three-way tie at the end of November.
While that still remains a possibility this afternoon, one game — and at a time a second one — nearly made that post and the numerous possibilities a moot point.
No. 15 Iowa came into their road game with unranked Indiana as 18.5 point favorites, but were challenged deep, deep into the fourth quarter by the Hoosiers. In fact, IU held a one-point lead with just under three minutes left before Ricky Stanzi‘s 52-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt that gave the Hawkeyes — following a failed two-point conversion — an 18-13 lead. The Hoosiers weren’t done, however, as they drove to the Iowa 18 yard line on the ensuing possession; the last gasp attempt was dropped — literally — as what would’ve been potentially the game-winning touchdown fell through the arms of a Hoosier receiver with just 28 ticks left on the clock.
Regardless of how it happened, though, Iowa remains one of three Big Ten teams at 4-1, with another at 5-1 with two/three games apiece remaining.
Ohio State was idle today, while Wisconsin — who found themselves leading by seven going into the fourth quarter against Purdue — and Michigan State — an easy win over Minnesota — were able to keep pace and set up a tremendous November stretch run in the conference.
Here are the remaining games for each school:
vs. Ohio State
@ Penn State
vs. Penn State
Obviously, the biggest wrench the simian has tossed into the works is that, due to a scheduling quirk, the Spartans and Buckeyes do not face each other this year. Just as obvious is that the Ohio State-Iowa game in Iowa City Nov. 20 will be the biggest conference game during the month of November. The winner of that game will keep pace with the Badgers and Spartans, who will each be favored in every one of their games down the stretch.
So, if Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State/Iowa* finish the season without another loss, there will be a three-way tie for the Big Ten Title. Based on the conference’s rules for a three-way tie, the tiebreaker will be based on… ta-da!!!… the final BcS rankings. Those rankings would then determine the conference champion and their automatic BcS bid.
Right now, Wisconsin is No. 9 in the latest set of rankings, followed by Ohio State (No. 11), Michigan State (No. 14) and Iowa (No. 16).
As Iowa-Indiana proved today, however, we’re a long way from a three-way tie and the BcS determining the Big Ten’s automatic berth.
(*The relevant rule as it was explained to me that keeps Iowa in a three-way tiebreaker all the way up to the BcS standings if they win out and despite their two losses:
5c. If three teams are still tied, and there is a tie game between two of the three teams, or if two or all three of the teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on a percentage basis of all games played.
Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa all played each other.)
(Writer’s note: sent an email to the Big Ten seeking clarification of “5c” as it relates to Iowa. Will post response here if/when we get an explanation.)