CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - All Michigan needs is for the 4-7 Iowa Hawkeyes to beat Nebraska on Friday, then turn around and pop 11-0 Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday.
Impossible? Hardly. Difficult to imagine? Pretty much.
Nebraska and Michigan are tied the Legends Division at 6-1. With Nebraska's 23-9 home win over a depleted Michigan on Oct. 27, the Cornhuskers hold the divisional tiebreaker. A win over Iowa vaults Nebraska into the Big Ten title game, where Legends Division representative Wisconsin awaits.
"The challenge is going to be to come back in a short week and be ready to go on the road and put ourselves in position to finish off the second half of the year the way we want to," Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said Saturday.
Nebraska and Iowa play on Friday, which means Michigan could have no greater incentive than to beat its biggest rival on Saturday. Ohio State is ineligible for the postseason after an improper benefits scandal in 2010. Ohio State-Michigan is the league's most storied rivalry and this is the Buckeyes' de facto bowl game. Michigan would earn a championship-game spot with a win and an Iowa upset. But that's less on the Wolverines' minds than facing the Buckeyes.
"It's the last game of the year, playing Ohio," Michigan wide receiver Roy Roundtree said. "Ever since those guys got here, we bring it up and say 'Beat Ohio.' I'm pretty sure they know this week is totally focused. It's Thanksgiving break, so there's more time for film."
Ohio State won the Leaders Division title outright with a 21-14 overtime win at Wisconsin. The Badgers (4-3) travel to Penn State this week for a second-place showdown. Penn State is ineligible for a postseason spot for the next four season. Wisconsin heads to the Big Ten championship game for the second straight year regardless of the outcome.
"Obviously we don't want to sit here all week and dwell on the past, but it's definitely something we're going to get over and move on to Penn State," Wisconsin defensive lineman Brendan Kelly said.
Purdue (2-5, 5-6 overall) plays for a bowl berth this week after beating Illinois 20-17. The Boilermakers have won two straight in league play after dropping their first five Big Ten games. Michigan State (2-5, 5-6) also could earn a bowl bid with a win at Minnesota. The Gophers (6-5 overall) have locked up a a bowl berth, as has Northwestern (8-3 overall.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball tied Miami (Ohio) running back Travis Prentice for the most career touchdowns with 78. Ball also became the NCAA's all-time scoring leader at 470 points. ... Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner threw three touchdowns and rushed for three against Iowa. ... Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin threw for 395 yards and four scores. ... Ohio State defensive end John Simon had four sacks.
Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell rushed for 133 yards on 32 carries. ... Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz caught eight passes for 99 yards. ... Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell hauled in nine passes for 136 yards. ... Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman threw for 454 yards and two touchdowns on 59 attempts. ... Northwestern's Dan Vitale caught nine passes for 110 yards. ... Minnesota linebacker Aaron Hill had 11 tackles, including two for loss. ... Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase rushed for 73 yards and passed for 160. ... Purdue punter Cody Webster punted eight times for a 42.6-yard average and downed five inside the 20-yard line.
1. Ohio State (1) 11-0, 7-0
A shame Buckeyes didn't take their bowl-ban medicine last year
2. Nebraska (2) 9-2, 6-1
Huskers on course for third meeting with Wisconsin in 2 years before taking next 2 off
3. Michigan (3) 8-3, 6-1
Wolverines surging as season concludes
4. Wisconsin (4) 7-4, 4-3
Unable to close out wins against top opponents this season
5. Penn State (5) 7-4, 4-3
Could end season with exclamation point win against Wisconsin
6. Northwestern (6) 8-3, 4-3
Finally closed out a game with win against Michigan State
7. Michigan State (7) 5-6, 2-5
Big Ten's biggest surprise this year, especially if Spartans don't go bowling
8. Minnesota (8) 6-5, 2-5
Not a good team, but Gophers are bowl-eligible
9. Indiana (9) 4-7, 2-5
Could stick a fork in Danny Hope's Purdue career or prolong it
10. Purdue (10) 5-6, 2-5
A win from another bowl game
11. Iowa (11) 4-7, 2-5
Good thing Hawkeyes aren't playing Gophers in season finale this year
12. Illinois (12) 2-9, 0-7
Illini have lost 13 straight league games ... not good
Nebraska 6-1 9-2
Michigan 6-1 8-3
Northwestern 4-3 8-3
Minnesota 2-5 6-5
Michigan State 2-5 5-6
Iowa 2-5 4-7
Ohio State 7-0 11-0
Wisconsin 4-3 7-4
Penn State 4-3 7-4
Purdue 2-5 5-6
Indiana 2-5 4-7
Illinois 0-7 2-9
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS
Michigan 42, Iowa 17
Ohio State 21, Wisconsin 14 (OT)
Northwestern 23, Michigan State 20
Purdue 20, Illinois 17
Nebraska 38, Minnesota 14
Penn State 45, Indiana 22
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
Nebraska at Iowa, 11 a.m. (ABC, Friday)
Michigan at Ohio State, 11 a.m. (ABC)
Illinois at Northwestern, 11 a.m. (BTN)
Indiana at Purdue, 11 a.m. (BTN)
Wisconsin at Penn State, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Michigan State at Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. (BTN)