It’s time to go over some stuff. Because I hear a lot of talk around campus about the Big Ten title – who’s going to win, who’s got a chance and who’s out.

Jess Cox

It seems as if people can talk about nothing else at this point in the year. Michigan has always been a football town, so, even with basketball season just starting and hockey as the No. 2 team in the country, football still gets top billing.

And in honor of notorious rapper 50 Cent – who this month is coming out with a new video game, “Bulletproof,” and a new movie, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'”- I have decided to answer 21 Questions about the Big Ten race. Let’s get right to it.

Who’s actually going to win? Can Joe Pa really win another one?

Penn State has just one game left – on the road against Michigan State – and if the Nittany Lions win they’re in. It’s that simple. Ohio State is the only other team with just one loss, but the Buckeyes still have to play both Michigan and Northwestern. Paterno’s glasses are thicker than bricks, but it looks as if he’s still able to relate to young players. A year ago, there were more questions about Paterno’s health than ridiculous, unbelievable plot twists in ABC’s Lost. But he’s finally silenced all the critics, and the fans at Beaver Stadium appear to be back behind the old man.

So is Penn State pretty much set? Do the Wolverines have to win out? Is there a scenario where Michigan could actually go to a BCS game?

Interestingly, Michigan is the team that scares Penn State the most – it is the only one of the four teams contending for the title that has actually beat the Nittany Lions. All that has to happen for Michigan to go to a Big Ten game is: 1) Michigan has to win its last two games; 2) Penn State has to lose to the woeful Spartans; 3) Wisconsin has to lose to Iowa. That three-way tie between Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan would give the Wolverines the nod. If Wisconsin wins but all the other stuff happens, then Penn State goes because of its overall record. Confusing, huh?

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said he and the players talk every Sunday about where they stand in the conference, and where they stand right now is way out on the outside using a telescope to see in. In fact, I recently learned in my Naked Eye Astronomy class that over the last week or so, Mars was the closest it’s going to be to Earth in the next 100-plus years. So I guess it’s safe to say that even Mars is more down to Earth than Michigan’s hopes of a Big Ten title.

How many teams are in the race? Who could win besides Penn State and Ohio State?

Five. Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern are all technically in the race. All three of those teams have two losses – meaning they all need help. Maybe not as much help as Lewis Libby, but they are all long-shots at this point.

But how many are really in the race? Would it be possible to have a five-way tie?

No. Though all five teams are technically in the race, only four teams could actually tie for the Big Ten championship. Since Ohio State has to play both Northwestern and Michigan, one of those three teams has to finish the year with three losses.

Will Wisconsin choke? Again? Has Barry Alvarez become more of a choker than Latrell Sprewell at this point?

Yeah, you almost feel bad for the Badgers – but not really. All they had to do was win their last two games and they would have been guaranteed at least a share of the title. It’s kind of reminiscent of last year, when Wisconsin lost its final two games to lose the Big Ten title by just one game. I still remember Brutus the Buckeye stomping on roses last year when Ohio State beat the Wolverines in the last game of the year. The Buckeyes thought they had taken the Big Ten Championship away from Michigan – but then Wisconsin had to go and blow it, losing to Iowa 30-7 to give away the title.

But what happens if Penn State and Ohio State lose? What happens if there’s a two-way tie? How about a three-way or even four-way tie?

Let’s see – what are the other options? It’s possible that Penn State and Ohio State both tie with just one loss. It’s possible that Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State – or Penn State, Ohio State and Northwestern – will all tie. This is the most contested Big Ten race in recent memory, and, unless Jim Delany, the conference’s commish, gets incredibly lucky, there will be a contested, split title when the year’s over. So what would happen? If it’s just two teams – say Penn State and Ohio State – the conference’s BCS bid goes to the winner of the head-to-head matchup (in that example, Penn State). In the event of a multiple-team tie, the winner is determined by overall record, including nonconference games. With its undefeated nonconference schedule, Penn State is in the lead around the final turn.

Where will the Wolverines end up if they don’t win the Big Ten? Back to Central Florida?

Probably – if they’re lucky. A record of 8-3 could get Michigan into the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl, but if the Wolverines lose to Ohio State (or Indiana) and drop to 7-4, it could be off to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. Ugh.

Since the Rose Bowl is the national championship game, where will the winner of the Big Ten go? Who will they play?

I don’t know. I really have no idea. I’ve heard plenty of talk about it – including the possibility of a Penn State-Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl. That would be fun because it would pit a football coaching god against the coach South Bend is currently worshiping – at least for a couple years.

I know you’re excited, but how much do you really want to see “Get Rich or Die Tryin'”? Will you buy the video game?

I think I’ll leave Bulletproof on the shelf, but the movie is another story. My philosophy has been, and will always be, that any movie with a rapper in it is good and any movie about a rapper is even better. Take a look at “Belly,” “How High,” “8 Mile” or anything that Mos Def has been in if you want more than my word.


– Ian Herbert can be reached at iherbert@umich.edu.


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