Ohio State and Iowa fight to smell roses

Saturday’s games kick-off the final bowl plunge for Big Ten teams.

Ohio State and Iowa fight to smell roses

Austin Cumblad

ItâÄôs that time of year again. Four BCS rankings have been released and dozens of teams around the country have four or five wins and have waning postseason hopes. Bowl hysteria has arrived. And the Big Ten is once more jam-packed with teams on the verge of eligibility. In fact, every Big Ten team has a chance, however remote, of picking up that magical sixth win and a chance to travel somewhere warm âÄî or Detroit âÄî for the holidays. Purdue, Illinois and Indiana all must win out; Michigan State, Michigan and the Gophers need just one win; Northwestern, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa are already bowl eligible. Of course, thereâÄôs also the small matter of which team will play in which game. But for now, hereâÄôs a look at this weekâÄôs games and the bowl implications of each. No. 10 Iowa (9-1 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) at No. 11 Ohio State (8-2, 5-1) On Saturday, as IowaâÄôs dream of a perfect season was crushed by a 17-10 loss to Northwestern and Ohio StateâÄôs dream of a Rose Bowl was kept alive by a 24-7 win at then-No. 11 Penn State, this matchup became simultaneously less and more intriguing. The game is less intriguing because the question of what would happen if the Hawkeyes ran the table was rendered pointless; itâÄôs more intriguing because this game will decide the Big Ten champion and, by extension, the Big TenâÄôs Rose Bowl representative. Iowa hosts Minnesota its final week, and the Buckeyes travel to Michigan âÄî games both teams should win. The Big Ten likely wonâÄôt send two teams to BCS games this year, so the loser would be relegated to the Capital One Bowl âÄî possibly lower, depending on how Penn State and Wisconsin finish. Michigan State (5-5, 3-3) at Purdue (4-6, 3-3) Believe it or not, Michigan State at Purdue is this weekâÄôs second most important matchup in terms of bowl implications, because itâÄôs the only game that pits two teams against each other that are not yet bowl eligible. After starting the season 1-5 under first-year head coach Danny Hope, the Boilermakers have won three of their last four, including an upset victory over then-No. 7 Ohio State and a win last week at Michigan. They need to win their final two games to sneak into a bowl, but few are counting out Purdue with the way it has rebounded. The Spartans, meanwhile, would love to get bowl eligibility out of the way this weekend with 18th-ranked Penn State coming to East Lansing to close the season on Nov. 21. Northwestern (6-4, 3-3) at Illinois (3-6, 2-5) Like Purdue, Illinois has surged after a dismal start, having won two straight and keeping the possibility of a bowl berth alive. The Illini have the toughest path to eligibility, however, with a trip to No. 5 Cincinnati slated for Nov. 27. Of course, they also have to deal with Northwestern, fresh off a 17-10 upset of Iowa. With a win, the Wildcats would plant themselves firmly in the fifth Big Ten bowl slot, which this year would most likely mean a trip to Orlando on Dec. 29 for the Champs Sports Bowl. Michigan (5-5, 1-5) at No. 20 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2) Michigan is in serious danger of missing a bowl game for the second straight year. The Wolverines must win at Camp Randall or the following week against Ohio State to become eligible. The Badgers are as good as any team in the country at home, and the Buckeyes may well be playing for a Big Ten title. Losses the past two weeks to Illinois and Purdue will haunt Michigan for some time if it finishes the season on a four-game skid. The Big Ten standings are crowded at the top, and Wisconsin is right there. ThereâÄôs a good chance three conference teams finish with two losses overall and in the Big Ten. Even if Wisconsin wins its final two games, its bowl destination will remain largely a mystery. Indiana (4-6, 1-5) at No. 18 Penn State (8-2, 4-2) The Hoosiers have taken Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin to the wire but lost by three points or less in all three contests. Now, to become bowl eligible, the Hoosiers must defeat Penn State in Happy Valley and Purdue back in Bloomington. For the Nittany Lions, a Rose Bowl berth is impossible, but winning out gives them at least an outside chance at the Capital One Bowl.