Big Ten rooting interests: Week 12

Nebraska has moved into the top 14 of the BCS standings, making it eligible for at-large BCS consideration. But the Big Ten's best -- and really only -- chance for an at-large berth is Michigan, which returned to the standings at No. 23 following its dramatic win against Northwestern. It would be hard for Nebraska to lose a game, even to Wisconsin in the league championship, and still finish in the top 14.

If the Huskers and Wolverines both win out, Nebraska would go to the Rose Bowl because of its head-to-head-win against Michigan. Would Michigan be able to climb into the BCS top 14 for at-large consideration? We'll take a closer look in rooting interests.

Despite Alabama's loss Saturday, the SEC is a lock to have two BCS bowl entries. The ACC suddenly has a stronger position, while the Pac-12's hopes for a Rose Bowl team -- if Oregon runs the table to go to the BCS title game -- look shaky at best. Notre Dame is a BCS at-large lock, even if it struggles down the stretch.

We'll also look at the Legends Division race, which is down to Nebraska and Michigan. The Huskers control their own fate.

One half of the Big Ten equation is set, as Wisconsin punched its ticket to Indianapolis for the league title game. But the Leaders Division title is still at stake in the home stretch.

Here's the Week 12 schedule in the Big Ten.

Let's get started ...


For BCS at-large purposes, Nebraska/Michigan should root for ...

  • Maryland to beat Florida State and NC State to beat Clemson. The ACC finds itself in a favorable position to send two teams to BCS bowls for the second straight season. If both Florida State and Clemson win out, FSU will earn an automatic berth as the league champion, and Clemson likely will finish in the top 10 of the final BCS standings, a good position for an at-large selection. But second losses by both the Seminoles and the Tigers would almost certainly eliminate them from at-large consideration.

  • West Virginia to beat Oklahoma. Colleagues Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach both project the Sooners as an at-large BCS team, and Bob Stoops' team should get there if it can survive trips to both West Virginia and TCU as well as the Bedlam game. A third loss would drop OU out of the top 14 and most likely out of the at-large mix.

  • USC to beat UCLA and Oregon to beat Stanford. It's becoming less and less likely that the Pac-12 receives a second BCS team, even if Oregon wins out to go to the national title game. All it would take is a second team in the top 14, which the Rose Bowl would select to face the Big Ten champ, but if No. 13 Stanford loses to Oregon this week, it will fall out of the at-large mix. UCLA might be the only Pac-12 team that can lose the league title game to Oregon and still earn an at-large berth. That's why a USC win would knock the Bruins out of the mix. While USC would re-enter the at-large mix, it still would face the Pac-12 North champ in the title game. Either it wins to go to Pasadena, or it loses to likely fall out of the top 14. The Trojans also still have undefeated Notre Dame on Nov. 24.


Nebraska (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) should root for ...

  • Iowa to beat Michigan. A Huskers win against Minnesota combined with a Michigan loss to Iowa gets Nebraska to Indianapolis regardless of what happens in Week 13 (because of its win against Michigan on Oct. 27).

Michigan (7-3, 5-1) should root for ...

  • Minnesota to beat Nebraska. If Minnesota wins and Michigan beats Iowa, the Wolverines once again control their own fate in the division. Michigan then could punch its ticket to Indianapolis by beating Ohio State the following week.


(Wisconsin will represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten title game following its win against Indiana. Both Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for the title game and postseason play.)

Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) should root for ...

  • Itself. If the Buckeyes beat Wisconsin this week, they'll win the Leaders Division title outright regardless of what happens in Week 13. Wisconsin and Penn State both have multiple Big Ten losses, while Ohio State could finish with a maximum of one.

  • Indiana to beat Penn State. The Lions' third Big Ten loss would eliminate them from securing a share of the division title, even if Ohio State loses to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin (7-3, 4-2) should root for ...

  • Itself. If the Badgers lose to Ohio State, the Buckeyes claim the division title outright. Wisconsin can only clinch a share of the division by beating Ohio State and then Penn State next week. The Badgers and Buckeyes would be tied atop the division with two losses, and they would be co-champions, but Wisconsin would own the head-to-head win and would be a truly legitimate division representative in Indy.

Penn State (6-4, 4-2) should root for ...

  • Wisconsin to beat Ohio State. The Lions can only clinch a share of the division title with Ohio State, which defeated them on Oct. 27. The only way this happens is if Penn State wins out against both Indiana and Wisconsin, and Ohio State falls to both Wisconsin and to Michigan next week.