If this has been discussed and I missed it, I apologize. But, after watching some of the Wisconsin/Purdue game this weekend, I began to wonder if this wasn't the final play-in game for the B1G championship. Certainly, we have a long way to go in deciding who wins the Leader's Division crown, but with only 4 teams fighting for a ticket to the final game (PSU and OSU being "unworthy"), did the Badgers secure their trip to the title game on Saturday? Let's look at the remaining schedule for our 4 Leaders. WARNING: there is an awful lot of guess work, below. However, were you really going to do anything worthwhile at work today, anyway? Embrace the "what if"!
Illinois: Let's start with the team in free fall, Illinois. The Illini are 2-5 (0-3) and have lost their last 4 straight.
Worst case: The worst case scenario obviously wipes Illinois off the map with a winless B1G season.
Best case: If everyone's favorite punching bag thus far miraculously turns this thing around, the best Illinois can do is finish 7-5 (5-3). The 5-3 in the B1G theoretically could win the trip to the title game, but would need to see Wisconsin go no better than 2-3 in their last 5 (a 5-3 Wiscy team holds the head to head tie breaker).
My prediction: 2-10 (0-8), bottom of Leader's Division. Realistically, I don't think anyone sees Illinois beating OSU (even though the Buckeyes do love making it interesting against the Illini) or Northwestern. If I was a gambling man, I'd even put my money on Illinois losing out. Sorry, Illini, it's all over
Indiana: The Hoosiers are really the most dangerous 2-4 (0-3) team that I can think of in recent years. Indiana has shown flashes of offensive brilliance and even played a tough defensive first half last Saturday against OSU. If they can play a complete game, they may be able to surprise some teams. That said, they are digging out of a deep hole.
Worst case: Once again, a worst case scenario that leaves a team winless in the B1G. But, realistically, I think Indiana picks up AT LEAST one win against the woeful Illini in a few weeks and could be competitive against Purdue and Iowa. I'll put their worst at 1-7 in the B1G.
Best case: It would be no small task, but if the Hoosiers could rattle off 5 B1G wins in a row, they could be slightly more dangerous than the Illini, above. With two of those wins occurring over teams above them in Purdue and Wisconsin, they could inch closer to winning a head to head tie. At 5-3 in the B1G and controlling the tie, Indiana would need Purdue to go no better than 5-1 in their remaining schedule (certainly a tall order; see below) and Wisconsin would have to lose only one game outside of the Indiana match-up, with big dogs like PSU and OSU left on the schedule.
My prediction: I feel that Indiana is actually the biggest threat to Wisconsin claiming the trip to Indy. However, I think the Hoosiers finish the year at 5-7 overall, with a 2-6 B1G record.
Purdue: After a good start, the Boilermakers have struggled the last two weeks with two decisive losses. It certainly doesn't get any easier this week, with a trip to the Horseshoe. Purdue is number two behind Wiscy, currently, with a record of 3-3 (0-2). However, they are essentially three games back of the Badgers after losing the head to head last week.
Worst case: I don't think that Purdue will drop 6 in a row to end the year (I mean, Illinois is still on the sched), but I think their basement is rather low. I'm putting their worst case scenario at a 2-4 finish that will leave Purdue at 5-7 (2-6) with wins over Minny and Illinois.
Best case: Purdue has 6 B1G games left, so a 6-2 tally at the end of the season is still a possibility, however slight. They would need Wiscy to drop two games in order for Purdue to head to Indy. With games against OSU, Iowa, and PSU left for Purdue, I don't see it happening.
My Prediction: 6-6 (3-5) looks reasonable, to me. I think Purdue has the talent to rebound and beat Illinois, Minnesota, and even Iowa to grab 3 B1G wins in what will be overall, a very disappointing finish.
Wisconsin: At only 2-1 in the B1G, Wisconsin has full control of their destiny.
Worst case: I'm putting the Badger's worst case scenario at finishing the season 2-3 in Big Ten play, which leaves them at 7-4 (4-4). The scary part is, this record still most likely propels them into the title game. Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois have to play virtually lights out to have a shot to pass a 3 loss down the stretch Wisconsin team.
Best case: 5-0. If the Badger team of this past week continues to show up as the offense improves, this team is very dangerous, even with OSU at home and a trip to Beaver Stadium remaining.
My Prediction: Pack your bags for Indy. I see Wisconsin finishing the season off at 3-2 and heading to Indianapolis with an 8-4 overall record and a respectable 5-3 B1G finish. Losses could come at the hands of OSU, PSU, or MSU. Lucky for Bucky, none of those teams can pass Wisconsin for the division representation, so the Badgers are all but a lock.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Here's hoping our boys still take the Leader's division crown, but I think Wisconsin is heading to Indy. Let the discussion/dissection begin! We Are!