Big Ten rooting interests: Week 12

It's time to check out the rooting interests around the Big Ten for Week 12. This post examines the Big Ten's contenders for certain goals -- national championship, BCS at-large berth and division titles -- and what they should root for in the upcoming weekend of games.

For BCS at-large berths, I'm considering only teams currently in the BCS standings. Nebraska and Minnesota aren't quite in the mix there.

Let's begin …


B1G candidate: Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten)

The Buckeyes should root for …

  • Mississippi State to beat Alabama and Syracuse to beat Florida State: Alabama and Florida State are both ranked ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings. A loss to a middling opponent would take either team out of the title chase.

  • USC to beat Stanford and Texas Tech to beat Baylor: Although Ohio State is ahead of both Stanford and Baylor, it doesn't have much of a lead and could be leapfrogged if the Cardinal and Bears keep winning. Losses to USC and Texas Tech would take both squads out of the race.

  • Wisconsin and Michigan State to beat Indiana and Nebraska, respectively: Wisconsin is Ohio State's best win, and the Badgers' success helps the Buckeyes' computer numbers. Ohio State wants Michigan State to be as highly ranked as possible for a potential meeting in the Big Ten championship, so the more Spartans' wins, the better.


B1G candidates: Michigan State (8-1, 5-0); Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1)

The Spartans and Badgers should root for …

  • Georgia Tech to beat Clemson. Clemson appears to be the biggest threat to a Big Ten at-large candidate, so the Big Ten wants to root against the Tigers the rest of the way. A second loss likely would knock Clemson out of at-large contention.

  • USC to beat Stanford, Utah to beat Oregon and Washington to beat UCLA. Losses by the Cardinal, the Ducks and/or the Bruins would significantly decrease the likelihood of the Pac-12 sending two teams to BCS bowl games. It would also damage the Pac-12's strong reputation this season.

  • Texas Tech to beat Baylor and Texas to beat Oklahoma State. The Big 12 isn't likely to send two teams to BCS games, but losses by the fifth-ranked Bears and 12th-ranked Cowboys would virtually assure this.


Candidates: Michigan State; Nebraska (7-2, 4-1); Minnesota (8-2, 4-2); Iowa (6-4, 3-3)

Michigan State and Nebraska have no outside rooting interests this week as both Minnesota and Iowa are off. The winner of Saturday's Spartans-Huskers game has control of its fate in the division.

Minnesota should root for …

  • Nebraska to beat Michigan State. This is a bit risky as the Gophers still would need Nebraska to lose a game in the next two weeks. But Minnesota already holds the tiebreaker against Nebraska, and its most realistic chance of winning the division would be a three-way tie at 6-2 with wins against both Nebraska and Michigan State. If Michigan State wins Saturday, Minnesota would need the Spartans to fall next week against Northwestern or the race would be over. That's asking a lot.

Iowa should root for …

  • Nebraska to beat Michigan State. A Spartans win would eliminate Iowa from the race. The Hawkeyes then would need all three of its competitors to lose their Week 13 games to maintain a slim chance of winning a complex tiebreaker.


Candidates: Ohio State; Wisconsin; Indiana (4-5, 2-3)

Ohio State should root for …

  • Indiana to beat Wisconsin. If Ohio State beats Illinois and Wisconsin loses, the Buckeyes will win the division title.

Wisconsin should root for …

  • Illinois to beat Ohio State. The Badgers need Ohio State to lose twice to win the division because the Buckeyes hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Indiana should root for …

  • Illinois to beat Ohio State. Indiana's only chance is to win out, handing both Wisconsin and Ohio State losses, and to have Ohio State lose out and Wisconsin to lose once more against Minnesota or Penn State. An Ohio State win eliminates Indiana from the race.