The disparity between the Big Ten East and West divisions is on full display.
Despite having three conference losses headed into the final weekend, Purdue could arrive in Bloomington on Saturday with a chance to do something neither state school has accomplished.
With a win against IU and a little help, Purdue could play in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis next weekend.
While a pair of undefeated teams battle it out for the East crown, two 5-3 teams and even a 4-4 team have a shot to represent the West in Indianapolis.
Purdue’s eligibility for the Big Ten title game could be decided on Friday, however. If Iowa defeats Nebraska today, the Boilermakers are eliminated from contention.
The formula for Purdue playing in Lucas Oil Stadium is simple. Iowa must lose to Nebraska, and Purdue must beat IU. Iowa has the clearest route. If they beat Nebraska, they are the West champion. Despite a 4-4 conference record, Illinois also still has a path to the title game if both Iowa and Purdue lose.
In the East, Ohio State and Michigan are both still undefeated and competing for a spot in both the league title game and the College Football Playoff. They play at Noon Eastern on Saturday. At 6-2 in the conference, Penn State also has a better record than anyone in the West.
The West has never won the Big Ten Championship game since the current format began in 2014.
The Big Ten is expected to eliminate its division approach in 2024 and go to a more balanced scheduling system when UCLA and USC join the conference.
Indiana and Purdue play at in Bloomington for the first time since 2018 this weekend. They kick at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday at Memorial Stadium (BTN). While Purdue possesses the Old Oaken Bucket, the Hoosiers have won five of the last eight in the series.
FIVE WIN BOWL ELIGIBILITY?
Irrespective of how you may feel about it, five win teams will likely earn bowl bids after this weekend.
Could Indiana be one of them?
While six wins is the standard for bowl eligibility, college football needs 82 teams to fill all of the open spots. If there aren’t enough six win teams, there is a simple rule for determining which five win teams fill the open spots. The highest-ranked teams, based on their Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores from 2020-21 (the latest data available), will earn the bids.
There are currently 74-bowl eligible teams. With an 2020-21 APR score of 976, IU ranks tenth among the teams with either four or five wins going into the final weekend. So barring something unforeseen like multiple teams declining postseason invites, IU will not earn a bowl bid even with a fifth win on Saturday.
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