- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The regular season is winding down, which means rooting interests is back. For those unfamiliar with this post, it 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. It will appear every Thursday or Friday the next few weeks.
For BCS at-large berths, I'm considering only teams currently in the BCS standings. So Michigan and Nebraska still have work to do.
Let's get started ...
B1G candidate: Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten)
Buckeyes should root for ...
Stanford to beat Oregon on Thursday night. The Ducks are a spot ahead of the Buckeyes in the BCS standings and would fall below them with a loss. Although one-loss Stanford could be a threat down the road, an undefeated Ohio State should remain ahead of the Cardinal as long as it keeps winning.
Oklahoma to beat Baylor on Thursday night. Although Baylor is behind Ohio State in the standings, a loss would take the Bears out of the title mix.
LSU to beat Alabama on Saturday. A loss would knock the two-time defending national champs from the top spot in the BCS standings and would likely eliminate the mighty SEC from the title picture, at least for now.
Wake Forest to beat Florida State. The Seminoles are No. 2 in the current BCS standings, and a loss to middling Wake would eliminate Jimbo Fisher's crew in the chase for the crystal football.
B1G candidates: Michigan State (8-1, 5-0); Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1)
The Spartans and Badgers should root for ...
Oregon to beat Stanford. A second loss could eliminate Stanford from at-large contention, although the Rose Bowl would want a Pac-12 team if it loses Oregon to the national title game. The best-case scenario for the Big Ten's at-large hopefuls would be an Oregon win this week and then a Ducks loss later in the season, leaving Oregon as the Pac-12's lone BCS representative in the Rose Bowl.
Pitt to beat Notre Dame. The Irish will hang around as a BCS possibility until they suffer their third loss. Although a Notre Dame loss doesn't help Michigan State's computer numbers -- the Spartans lost to the Irish on Sept. 21 -- it's better if the Irish are out of the picture.
The Oklahoma schools to lose to Baylor and Kansas, respectively. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the Big 12's best hopes for an at-large BCS berth, but losses this week -- OU is a much likelier candidate -- probably knock them out of the mix.
Fresno State and Northern Illinois to lose. Both teams are angling to bust the BCS, and both are in the top 18 of the BCS standings. A Bulldogs loss to Wyoming on Saturday and a Huskies loss to Ball State next Wednesday would eliminate both from contention.
Candidates: Michigan State; Nebraska (6-2, 3-1); Minnesota (7-2, 3-2); Michigan (6-2, 2-2); Iowa (5-4, 2-3)
Michigan State should root for ...
Michigan to beat Nebraska. As painful as it is for Spartans fans to pull for the Maize and Blue, a Nebraska loss gives idle Michigan State a two-game lead on everyone else in the division with three weeks to go. The Spartans next visit Nebraska on Nov. 16.
Penn State to beat Minnesota. It would give the Gophers three losses -- all in the division -- and essentially eliminate them from the race.
Purdue to beat Iowa. The Hawkeyes aren't much of a factor in the division race, but a loss to Purdue would eliminate them.
Michigan and Nebraska should root for ...
Losses by both Minnesota and Iowa.
Minnesota should root for ...
Michigan to beat Nebraska. This is a tough one as Minnesota would lose a tiebreaker with Michigan but not Nebraska. But the best-case scenario for the Gophers the next two weeks is a Nebraska loss, giving the Huskers two Big Ten losses, and then a Nebraska win against Michigan State, which is 6-0 in league play. Minnesota then could hope for Michigan to lose one of its final three games (Northwestern, Iowa, Ohio State).
Purdue to beat Iowa. A loss eliminates the Hawkeyes from division title contention. Minnesota would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Iowa because of a Sept. 28 loss.
Iowa should root for ...
Losses by Nebraska and Minnesota. The Hawkeyes' only hope for the division is a wild tie atop the standings at 5-3. Iowa still has games against both Nebraska and Michigan and could conceivably hand both teams their third Big Ten losses.
Ohio State is off this week and Wisconsin has a non-league game against BYU, so there aren't any significants rooting interests in the division.
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