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Big Ten West Division Title Breakdown: Wisconsin Is The Favorite, Minnesota Has GIFs, Iowa Is Alive, Nebraska Let Wisconsin Score Again

Why Wisconsin is your favorite (duh, sadly), why Minnesota has the next best shot (though still a long one) to a West title, and how Iowa remains alive. Nebraska, go sit in the corner and think about what you've done and maybe we'll talk about your chances too.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Quadrangle of Hate. 4 more games between Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin to determine who wins the Big Ten West Division title. Honestly, this is exactly the reason I was so glad that the B1G finally showed some intelligence and split the conference geographically. It's just more fun when the final stretch of a division race can be decided among geographically close teams, many of whom are rivals.

I'd been pondering how to talk about the B1G West race and all of the talk about tie-breakers in an earlier comment thread got my mind running. At first I was going to focus only on the ways Minnesota could win the West, but that seemed too narrow since the wider picture is important if you want to see how reasonable Minnesota's path is. So I expanded my view and looked the paths to a West Division crown for the other three teams as well. As I was writing this, Bill C. from Football Study Hall dropped his updated Big Ten Conference Projections and made some of what I was attempting to do look, well, not as good. So I'm going to start with a few key facts, run through the official tiebreakers, and then share some fun GIFs to go along with some of the stats/info Bill pulled together in his post. You really should give his whole post a read before, during, or after reading this one though.

Bill C's B1G Title Math Party

Important Things To Know

- Wisconsin has a game in hand. This is the part where you commence your grumbling about Illinois.

- Only Minnesota and Wisconsin control their own destiny in every scenario where they win out. If either team wins out they earn a trip to Indianapolis.

- Only Wisconsin can make it to Indy without winning out.

- Nebraska's loss to Wisconsin really hurts them in terms of viable paths to a division crown.

- Minnesota would have had several more paths to a division title if it weren't for the unpleasantness in Champaign. However, there is no scenario where this loss hurts them in a 3 way tie breaker. This shouldn't make you feel better.

Big Ten Tiebreaker Rules For Divisions

From the B1G website:

The following procedure will determine the representative from each division in the event of a tie:

(a)    If two teams are tied, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.
(b)    If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made.  If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.
1.    The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other.
2.    The records of the three tied teams will be compared within their division.
3.    The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (4, 5, and 6).
4.    The records of the three teams will be compared against all common conference opponents.
5.    The highest ranked team in the first College Football Playoff poll following the completion of Big Ten regular season conference play shall be the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game, unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of each other in the College Football Playoff poll.  In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big Ten Championship Game.
6.    The team with the best overall winning percentage [excluding exempted games] shall be the representative.
7.    The representative will be chosen by random draw.

There is no scenario where 3 of the Quadrangle teams end up in a tie for the division title, so the "in division" metric that might have hurt Minnesota is a moot point. Essentially, the only tiebreaker that comes into play now is head to head record.


Bill C. built this nifty table at the same time I was in the process of building mine. Note to self, let Bill build the table in the future instead of starting one only to have him beat me to it.

There are four teams still with a shot at the Big Ten West title, and they almost play a round robin these last two weeks: it's Minnesota at Nebraska and Wisconsin at Iowa this Saturday and Minnesota at Wisconsin and Nebraska at Iowa next weekend.

So that makes for some easy scenario-building. Four games means 16 possible results, and with a one-game lead on the field (and a tie-breaker advantage over Nebraska), Wisconsin wins in eight of them, including the six most likely.

Minnesota at Nebraska Wisconsin at Iowa Nebraska at Iowa Minnesota at Wisconsin Odds it happens Champ
Minnesota Wisconsin Nebraska Minnesota 3.1% Minnesota
Minnesota Wisconsin Nebraska Wisconsin 14.6% Wisconsin
Minnesota Wisconsin Iowa Minnesota 0.9% Minnesota
Minnesota Wisconsin Iowa Wisconsin 4.1% Wisconsin
Minnesota Iowa Nebraska Minnesota 0.5% Minnesota
Minnesota Iowa Nebraska Wisconsin 2.4% Wisconsin
Minnesota Iowa Iowa Minnesota 0.1% Minnesota
Minnesota Iowa Iowa Wisconsin 0.7% Iowa
Nebraska Wisconsin Nebraska Minnesota 8.6% Wisconsin
Nebraska Wisconsin Nebraska Wisconsin 40.9% Wisconsin
Nebraska Wisconsin Iowa Minnesota 2.4% Wisconsin
Nebraska Wisconsin Iowa Wisconsin 11.5% Wisconsin
Nebraska Iowa Nebraska Minnesota 1.4% Nebraska
Nebraska Iowa Nebraska Wisconsin 6.6% Wisconsin
Nebraska Iowa Iowa Minnesota 0.4% Iowa
Nebraska Iowa Iowa Wisconsin 1.9% Iowa

Ignoring the odds for a second, how many paths to a West title does each team have available?

Wisconsin: 8 of the 16 possible paths. 4 of these are if UW wins out, the other 4 are if they win 1 of the next 2. The Badgers cannot win a trip the title game if they lose their next 2 games.

Minnesota: 4 of the 16 possible paths. They have to win out to get to Indy.

Iowa: 3 of the 16 possible paths. They also have to win out in order to get to the conference title game.

Nebraska: That last path? It's Nebraska's. The Huskers must win out while the Badgers lose out. It's...well, it's not going to happen.

Visualizing The Scenarios

Wisconsin: As already noted, Wisconsin has the best odds and most numerous paths to the Big Ten Championship Game. Here's how I'm visualizing all the scenarios:

I suppose the fact that the math says Ohio State will beat you should be some small consolation, but Ohio State also struggles against the run which leaves me less than pleased with the whole possibility.

Minnesota: We're going to ignore the overall odds for a minute so that I can bring you the "Win and In" GIF Collection. This collection shows you the details behind all 4 paths that the Gophers could take to Indianapolis. It's the perfect gift for the Minnesota fan in your life who wants to enjoy some fine daydreams:





Iowa: Per Bill C, Iowa's overall odds for winning the division and going to Indy are 2.9%. Thanks to the shellacking they took at the hands of Minnesota, there is even a scenario where they win out and still lose to the Gophers on the head to head tiebreaker. With that in mind, here's my visualization of their chances:


Oh...yea, the visualization of their chances for Indy. Well, thanks to their record breaking loss to Wisconsin they really don't have any. So when I think of the Huskers and Indy I think of this:

/Wisconsin scored again

Did You Read Bill C's Article Yet? What's Wrong With You?

One last tidbit to convince you to go do so immediately:

Nebraska and Minnesota kick off at noon ET, followed by Wiscy-Iowa at 3:30.

By the time Wisconsin and Iowa kick off, we'll be looking at one of these two sets of odds:

If Nebraska wins (73.8% chance): Wisconsin 95%, Iowa 3%, Nebraska 2%.
If Minnesota wins (26.2% chance): Wisconsin 80%, Minnesota 17%, Iowa 3%.

And then by Saturday night...

If Nebraska and Wisconsin win (63.5% chance): Wisconsin 100%
If Nebraska and Iowa win (10.3% chance): Wisconsin 64.5%, Iowa 22.0%, Nebraska 13.5%
If Minnesota and Wisconsin win (22.5% chance): Wisconsin 82.7%, Minnesota 17.3%
If Minnesota and Iowa win (3.7% chance): Wisconsin 64.5%, Iowa 18.2%, Minnesota 17.3%

Again, Wisconsin's the likely winner here. But here are your rooting interests...

If you're a Wisconsin fan: Go Huskers, Go Badgers
If you're a Nebraska fan: Go Huskers, Go Hawkeyes
If you're an Iowa fan: Go Huskers, Go Hawkeyes
If you're a Minnesota fan: Go Gophers!

Bill is right...