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How Indiana could play for a Big Ten title

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer
Implausible as it may seem, Kevin Wilson's Indiana team could win the Big Ten. (US Presswire)

Given the way the Big Ten season has gone, you can't help but wonder if the Mayan calendar was designed with the conference in mind. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Indiana playing in the Big Ten Championship Game and possibly going to the Rose Bowl would surely be a sign of the apocalypse.

And it could actually happen.

On Saturday, Indiana won its first Big Ten conference game since 2010, beating Illinois 31-17. In doing so, the Hoosiers thrust themselves right into the Leaders Division race.

It's obvious that Ohio State is the class of the division, followed by Penn State. Of course, neither of those schools are eligible to play for the Big Ten title. Which leaves only Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois.

With Purdue and Illinois already 0-4 in the Big Ten, they can quickly be dismissed from the division title discussion.

Which leaves only Wisconsin and Indiana. So, how could Indiana go about winning the division? Well, it's easier than you think.

While Indiana is only 3-5 overall this season and 1-3 in the Big Ten, it's playing better than you might think. The Hoosiers have one of the best offenses in the Big Ten and lost to Ohio State 52-49 only a few weeks ago.

This week, the Hoosiers will play an Iowa team that hasn't been playing well. In fact, Indiana is considered a favorite in the game, as it's giving up 1½ points to the Hawkeyes. If Indiana lives up to expectations and wins that game, it'll be 2-3 in the Big Ten and only one game behind a Wisconsin squad that's idle this week.

All setting up for a game in Bloomington on Nov. 10 that could decide the division. That's when Wisconsin and Indiana will meet at Memorial Stadium. And with Wisconsin losing starting quarterback Joel Stave for the rest of the season, it's a team that has its own flaws at the moment. While Wisconsin would be favored, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Indiana could pull off the upset.

The Hoosiers played tough against both Michigan State and Ohio State in Bloomington this season.

Should Indiana pull it off, both teams would be 3-3 in the conference and Indiana would have the tie-breaker thanks to beating the Badgers. The Hoosiers would then finish their season with road games against Penn State and Purdue. Wisconsin finishes with a home game against Ohio State and a trip to Penn State.

While I have a tough time seeing Indiana going on the road to beat Penn State, Purdue is definitely beatable. If the Hoosiers did that, that would leave them at 4-4 in the Big Ten, and it's not crazy to think that Wisconsin would lose one of its final two games as well. Which would leave the Badgers at 4-4 as well.

Which would mean Indiana would be going to Indianapolis with a 4-4 record in the conference and 6-6 overall.

Now, I don't think all of this is going to happen. In fact, I'm confident Wisconsin will still win the Leaders Division. However, the fact that it's even possible shows you just how strange of a season it has been in the Big Ten.

 
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