It’s still possible that the Leaders Division will be represented in the Big Ten Football Championship Game by…the Indiana Hoosiers.
Do not adjust your screen, call your eye doctor or accuse the author of making things up. It’s true.
Indiana has a football team, and it’s a team with a chance to play in Indianapolis on Dec. 1 — and, by extension, Pasadena on Jan. 1.
Indiana hosts Wisconsin on Saturday, and the winner will have a leg up heading to the stretch run in the strangest divisional race since, well, probably ever. With unbeaten Ohio State and once-beaten (in Big Ten play) Penn State ineligible for the postseason, third place very well could be enough to win the bid.
Right now, Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2 in Big Ten play) holds third place by a game over Indiana (5-4, 2-3). A Wisconsin win Saturday means Badgers fans can make reservations in Indianapolis, but a Hoosiers win would keep one of college football’s most improbable stories alive.
Indiana last had a winning season in 2007 and was 1-11 last year, the first under coach Kevin Wilson.
Indiana started this season 2-0, beating Indiana State and UMass. The Hoosiers then lost five straight — to Ball State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan State and Navy — before winning their last two, over Illinois and Iowa.
If Indiana can win on Saturday, it will hold third place and an eventual tiebreaker over Wisconsin. The Hoosiers finish at Penn State and at Purdue, and they’d control their own conference title-game destiny heading into those games.
If the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin but lose the following week at Penn State and finish with a win over Purdue (or vice-versa), they could still win the Leaders Division bid if Wisconsin loses out. Considering Wisconsin’s last two games are vs. Ohio State and at Penn State, that’s possible.
In that unlikely but not impossible scenario, Indiana could lose the Big Ten Championship Game, finish 6-7 and still be bowl eligible under new NCAA bowl-eligibility guidelines introduced this year.
Or, Indiana could just go ahead and win the Big Ten Championship Game and go on to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1967.
Now that would be a story.