As the regular season winds down, it's time to examine the rooting interest for Big Ten teams, both within the conference and beyond.
Three teams -- Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin -- control their own fate in the division races. Two other squads, Nebraska and Michigan, are in the mix for a possible BCS at-large berth if Michigan State holds on in the Legends Division. Remember, the Big Ten has sent multiple teams to BCS bowls in each of the past six seasons.
Each Big Ten team has two losses, and I really can't see a three-loss team from this conference earning a BCS at-large berth. So for this post, we'll only include at-large rooting interests for Nebraska and Michigan, the only Big Ten squads that can finish the regular season at 10-2 and not reach the Big Ten title game.
Let's start off with the at-large possibilities.
For a BCS at-large berth, Big Ten teams should root for ...
Cal to beat Stanford. Not only would it make this Berkeley boy happy, but it would all but eliminate the Cardinal from at-large consideration. The SEC will get two teams in the big bowls. The Big 12 likely will, too. The final at-large berth likely will come down to Big Ten vs. Pac-12. If there's one team the Big Ten should root against in the final two weeks, it's Stanford.
SMU to beat Houston. The Cougars' first loss would take them out of the BCS at-large mix.
San Diego State to beat Boise State. A second loss would eliminate Boise State from BCS bowl contention.
Iowa State to beat Oklahoma State and Baylor to beat Oklahoma. Losses by the Big 12's top two teams Saturday would virtually ensure the league gets only one team to a BCS bowl.
NC State to beat Clemson, respectively. While the ACC shouldn't get two teams in BCS bowls, losses by Virginia Tech and Clemson ensure it won't happen.
Moving onto the Big Ten division races. Eight teams are still mathematically alive.
Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) should root for ...
Michigan to beat Nebraska. Mark Dantonio refuses to pull for the Maize and Blue, but his Spartans can clinch the division with a win against Indiana and a Nebraska loss in the Big House.
Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) should root for ...
Indiana to beat Michigan State. A Spartans loss combined with a Nebraska win at Michigan would put the Huskers' fate back in their hands. They could then win the division by beating Iowa on Nov. 25.
For at-large purposes, see above.
Nebraska also wants to enhance its BCS profile and should root for teams it beat in nonconference play like Wyoming (6-3) and Washington (6-4).
Penn State to beat Ohio State. While Nebraska beat both, Penn State is ranked and the Huskers won in State College. A Penn State win enhances Nebraska's BCS profile.
Michigan (8-2, 4-2) should root for ...
Indiana to beat Michigan State. A Michigan State win eliminates Michigan from the division race.
For at-large purposes, see above.
Notre Dame, a team Michigan defeated, to beat Boston College.
Ohio State, a team Michigan faces next week, to beat Penn State, a team the Wolverines don't play.
San Diego State, which Michigan beat in Week 4, to beat Boise State.
Illinois, a team Michigan beat last week, to beat Wisconsin, a team it doesn't play.
Penn State (8-2, 5-1) should root for ...
Illinois to beat Wisconsin. A Penn State win combined with a Wisconsin loss gives the Nittany Lions the Leaders division title.
Wisconsin (8-2, 4-2) should root for ...
Ohio State to beat Penn State. The OSU-PSU game doesn't matter to Wisconsin if it beats Illinois, but if the Badgers stumble in Champaign, they would be eliminated if Penn State beats Ohio State. Wisconsin wants to avoid a head-to-head tiebreaker with Ohio State, but the Badgers should pull for the Buckeyes this week and root against them next week at Michigan.
Ohio State (6-4, 3-3) should root for ...
Illinois to beat Wisconsin. If the Badgers win, the Leaders Division will be decided next week in Madison.
Iowa (6-4, 3-3) should root for ...
Indiana to beat Michigan State. A Spartans win eliminates Iowa from the division race.
Michigan to beat Nebraska. The Hawkeyes hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Michigan and still get a chance to face Nebraska next week. Iowa wants to create a three-team tiebreaker with Michigan and Michigan State at 5-3.
Purdue (5-5, 3-3) should root for ...
Illinois to beat Wisconsin. A Wisconsin win eliminates Purdue in the division race. The Boilers lost to Wisconsin and beat Illinois.
Ohio State to beat Penn State. A Penn State win eliminates Purdue in the division race. The Boilers lost to Penn State and beat Ohio State.