If you're looking for suspense or down-to-the-wire races as the regular season reaches the finish line in college football, the Big Ten is not the place for it. The division champions and conference title game participants are set.
With one week left in the regular season, Ohio State and Michigan State have clinched a trip to Indianapolis on Dec. 7 to meet in the best Big Ten championship matchup since the playoff was instituted in 2011. Not only will a spot in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl be up for grabs, but the third-ranked Buckeyes could wind up in the Bowl Championship Series title game with a win and either Alabama or Florida State lose.
Ohio State's quest for perfection continued Saturday in Columbus. The Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0) established a school record with its 23rd consecutive victory, whipping Indiana 42-14 in Columbus to keep Urban Meyer's record unblemished since he took over as coach two years ago. The previous mark spanned the 1967-69 seasons and included a national championship in 1968 under Woody Hayes.
Though the annual showdown with four-loss Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich., will lack some of its traditional luster, the Buckeyes still have plenty of motivation. A loss would kill their BCS championship game hopes and also drop them into a tie for first in the Leaders with Wisconsin (assuming the Badgers beat Penn State on Saturday). Ohio State holds the division tiebreaker based on its win over the Badgers earlier this season.
Michigan State (10-1, 7-0) secured a chance to face Ohio State in Indy by claiming the outright Legends Division title with a 30-6 win at Northwestern on Saturday. The Spartans hold a two-game lead over Nebraska (8-3, 5-2) with one game to play at home this week against Minnesota.
Not since after the 1987 season has Michigan State gone to the Rose Bowl. If the Spartans don't reach the Rose, they're still in contention along with Wisconsin for an at-large BCS berth.
Wisconsin axed Minnesota's four-game winning streak with a 20-7 victory at home on Saturday over the Gophers. The Badgers' victory was their 10th straight in the Paul Bunyan Axe trophy series with their border rival and their sixth in a row after a Sept. 28 loss at Ohio State.
At the opposite end of the standings, Illinois is winless no more in the Big Ten. The Fighting Illini ended a 20-game conference losing streak with a 20-16 victory at Purdue on Saturday that took some heat off embattled second-year Illinois coach Tim Beckman.
Purdue and Northwestern remained winless in conference play, and both are staring at 0-8 finishes with road games left this weekend at rivals Indiana and Illinois, respectively.
The best matchup outside of Ohio State-Michigan in the final weekend could be Iowa-Nebraska on Black Friday. Both teams enter the game with a chance to move up in the bowl pecking order with a victory.
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 13 IN THE BIG TEN:
1. Michigan State-Ohio State in the Big Ten title game has the potential for one of the best conference championship games in the country. The two teams didn't meet during the regular season, the BCS stakes will be high, and it will be a classic confrontation between Ohio State's dynamic offense and Michigan State's brick-wall defense.
2. If not for an early season injury, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller might be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. The junior is getting the job done with his feet and his arm. The junior has fashioned some eye-popping numbers. Miller totaled 304 yards of total offense on Saturday. Miller has run for 184 and 144 yards the past two weeks.
3. Michigan's season is stuck in reverse. Since the Wolverines started 5-0, they're 2-4 and struggling on offense, producing only 158 total yards in a 24-21 loss at Iowa on Saturday. In two other games this month, Michigan managed just 168 yards against Michigan State and 175 against Nebraska in losses. And now the Wolverines face a daunting task against unbeaten rival Ohio State.
4. BCS at-large berths aren't out of the question for Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Badgers' resume is strong. They're likely to finish 10-2, with its losses by seven points at Ohio State and on a bad call at Arizona State. The Spartans could lose in the Big Ten championship game to Ohio State and still land an at-large bid with two losses. Both Big Ten teams should benefit from other contenders losing in the final weeks of the season.
5. The Big Ten won't have enough eligible teams for its eight-bowl tie-ins. Indiana and Northwestern were the last two teams with a shot at it, but both lost Saturday and fall short of the required minimum of six wins to get into the postseason. Northwestern has lost seven in a row since starting 4-0 and Indiana has dropped five of its last six.