CHAMPAIGN – While a close loss to No. 3 Michigan in Ann Arbor last Saturday along with two other defeats in November have hurt their chances of a Big Ten West division championship, there is still hope for the Illini.
If a few scenarios play out on Friday and Saturday in the final week of the regular season, Illinois can still punch its ticket to a first conference championship game.
At the moment, three teams are still eligible to win the Big Ten West.
- Iowa – 5-3 in Big Ten – 7-4 Overall
- Purdue – 5-3 in Big Ten – 7-4 Overall
- Illinois – 4-4 in Big Ten – 7-4 Overall
Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin have all been eliminated from contention for a division title and a shot at a berth in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis on December 3 against either Michigan or Ohio State.
So here’s what has to happen for Illinois to win the Big Ten West this weekend:
1. Iowa must lose to Nebraska
The Illini will be rooting against Hawkeyes on Friday as they host Nebraska for their final game of the season. Iowa enters the contest 7-4 having won four-straight games, including a 13-10 triumph over Minnesota on the road last Saturday while the Huskers enter with a 3-8 record.
Should the Hawkeyes win, they would win the Big Ten West regardless of what happens on Saturday.
2. Illinois must beat Northwestern
If the Huskers spring the upset on the Hawkeyes, then Illinois would have something to play for other than improving their bowl destination when they face in-state rival Northwestern in the “Land of Lincoln” game at Ryan Field in Evanston on Saturday at 2:30 PM.
The Illini are heavy favorites to beat the Wildcats, who have lost ten-straight games since an opening week victory over Nebraska in Dublin.
Illinois is looking for a second-straight win over Northwestern, having beaten them in Champaign 47-14 on November 27, 2021. Should Illinois win, it would be the first time they’ve had eight victories in a regular season since 2007 when the Illini made their last appearance in the Rose Bowl.
3. Indiana must beat Purdue
While the Illini are playing in Evanston, they’ll also be rooting for Indiana to knockoff Purdue when those teams meet in the “Old Oaken Bucket” game in Bloomington, Indiana at 2:30 PM central time.
Since the Boilermakers beat Illinois on November 12th in Champaign, a win by them would eliminate the Illini even if they beat Northwestern and Iowa loses to Nebraska.
In order for Purdue to clinch the division title, they would need Iowa to lose as well since the Hawkeyes beat them earlier this season.
Why is this the scenario?
If Iowa and Purdue lose and Illinois wins, each team will have a 5-4 record in the Big Ten.
Per league rules, the first three-way tiebreaker is percentage in the games between the tied teams. Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue are 1-1 against each other, so it goes to a second tiebreaker.
That’s winning percentage against division teams, which is Illini would triumph, should they win and the Boilers and Hawkeys lose this weekend:
- Illinois – 5-1
- Iowa – 4-2
- Purdue – 3-3