Dienhart's Mailbag: You Ask, He Answers

Have a Big Ten football question you want answered? I’m Tom Dienhart and I want you to fire off an email to me. This is a great place for us to interact, sharing our passion for all things Big Ten as the season prepares to hit the home stretch. This week, there were many good questions—as usual—but there was a theme in many emails that I received, asking: What are the tiebreakers to determine division champs? I address that, as well as—get this—a BASKETBALL question. Really.

I apologize if you’ve already answered this and I just didn’t dig deep enough, but I believe the champion of each Big Ten division is decided first by overall conference record, not division record. Can you confirm?  – Steve Booton

Dienhart: Correct. This question has come up often as we inch closer to the end of the season. The first tiebreaker is simple: If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative. Here’s a link to the Big Ten’s official site that addresses all of the tiebreakers.

What will have to happen in order for the Badgers to be in the Big Ten Championship game?  After losing to Ohio State, it doesn’t appear as if they could still make it. – Mary

Dienhart: Don’t give up hope! Yes, the Badgers have lost two in a row and are looking up at Penn State. But Wisconsin is through the most difficult part of its schedule. Conversely, the Nittany Lions have to play their most challenging collection of games in November after being off this week. Penn State plays host to Nebraska on Nov. 12 and finishes the year at Ohio State on Nov. 19 and at Wisconsin on Nov. 26.

Bottom line: The Badgers need to be 9-2 as they welcome Penn State and hope the Nits have at least one Big Ten loss when they come to Madison. It’s all not a farfetched notion.

And Wisconsin also will need Ohio State to lose one of its last four games—which could happen. The Buckeyes play host to Indiana this Saturday, then travel to Purdue, welcome Penn State and finish at Michigan

Here’s what has to happen for Penn State and Ohio State to get to the title game:

Penn State: Simple—win out. Or just lose one of its final three games, another scenario that would guarantee Penn State to Indy.

Ohio State: Win out, including Nov. 19 against Penn State, plus have the Nittany Lions lose one other game.

Can you give us a rundown on the Legends Division title hunt between Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska? Does the winner of the Nebraska vs. Michigan game win the division? What potential scenarios are there for these three teams? – Eric Grinnell

Dienhart: Here is a rundown of scenarios for those involved in the Legends chase:

Nebraska: Easiest scenario—win out, and the Huskers head to Indy.

Michigan State: Needs to win out and hope Big Red loses once.

Michigan: Needs to win out and hope Sparty falls.

Iowa: Yes, IOWA still controls its destiny even after that horrid loss at Minnesota last Saturday. If Herky wins out, it will pack for Nap Town. Incredible!!!

What are the chances that Iowa wins out and goes to the Big Ten championship game? – Eric Benzing

Dienhart: Two chances for Herky:

1.   Slim
2.   None

That may be too harsh and unfair, but the deck looks stacked vs. Iowa. As I stated above, the Hawkeyes still control their fate. Beat the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska—and Purdue—and Iowa would stamp its ticket for Indy because it would have the head-to-head tiebreaker or better record than schools it would be tied with.

Now, is it likely for a struggling Iowa team to win out? Not really, unless the defense that ranks ninth in the Big Ten overall and last vs. the pass begins to play much better.

What are your picks for the Big Ten tournament? – Harry

Dienhart: A basketball question? In early November? I like it! I’ll admit, I’m still in full-bore grid mode, but I’m starting to get dialed in to hoops. Heck, some exhibition games already have begun.

At this very moment, I like Ohio State to play Wisconsin for the title. But I’m not counting out Michigan or Michigan State. I even think Purdue could be a dark horse, along with perhaps Indiana, Minnesota and Illinois. It’s gonna be a fun season.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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