The Indiana Hoosiers find themselves in a unique position with three weeks to go in the regular season.
At 4-5, the Hoosiers need two more wins to become bowl-eligible. But because of the wacky circumstances in the Leaders division, they could reach the Big Ten title game with a 5-7 record. How? Indiana would need to beat Wisconsin on Saturday and drop its final two games, and the Badgers would have to drop their final two games as well.
Indiana also could enter the Big Ten title game at 6-6 but drop to below .500 with a loss to the Legends division champion.
How does all of this impact Indiana's bowl chances? I reached out to the Big Ten on Monday for answers on all the possible scenarios involving Indiana.
Here they are:
BIG TEN TITLE GAME WIN
If Indiana wins the Big Ten title game, even with a 5-7 record, it will go to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten's automatic BCS bowl representative. Think of a basketball team winning its conference tournament despite a losing record during the regular season. The same principle applies with football and the automatic berth in the Big Ten title game.
BIG TEN TITLE GAME LOSS
If Indiana enters the title game at 6-6 but loses to fall to 6-7, it could go to a bowl game, but only after all teams in the following two groups are selected:
Any 6-6 team with one win against an FCS opponent, regardless of whether the FCS team meets scholarship requirements
Any 6-6 team with two wins against FCS opponents
The new NCAA bowl selection procedures supersede conference bowl tie-in agreements, so a Big Ten tie-in bowl could only select 6-7 Indiana if no teams that fit the above categories are available. If a 6-6 team is available from another league, a bowl like the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl would have to select it ahead of 6-7 Indiana. There's no longer a waiver process like the one UCLA used last year after dropping the Pac-12 title game to finish at 6-7.
This is worth noting because the Big Ten's bowl selection procedures state that the loser of the title game can fall no further than the fourth bowl selection after the BCS selection. Because the Rose Bowl is the Big Ten's BCS selection, the fourth selection this year is the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, not the Gator Bowl, as previously reported. Yet this policy is only in place for teams with winning records. Since the NCAA selection policies supplant the Big Ten's, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl would be under no obligation to select a 6-7 Indiana team.
The NCAA's new procedures allow for 5-7 teams with top-five APR scores to be selected -- only after five other pools of teams are eliminated -- but Indiana wouldn't qualify this season.
WHAT IT MEANS
If Indiana wins out to finish 7-5, there's nothing to worry about. Regardless of the title game outcome, it will be going bowling. If Indiana finishes 6-6 but doesn't make the Big Ten title game, it'll be virtually assured of a Big Ten tie-in spot. If Indiana finishes 5-7 and loses the league title game to finish 5-8, its season will (mercifully) end.
The scenario to watch is the 6-7 record with a Big Ten title game loss. Indiana would have to sweat out the bowl selections, hoping for a postseason destination.
Got all that? Good.