What Are the Paths & Odds to Win the Big Ten West?

As the calendar turned to November, resolution in the Big Ten’s divisions seemed relatively straightforward. Michigan and Ohio State would battle at the end of the regular season to determine the winner of the East, and Illinois looked to be in great shape to win the West. The East is still as expected, but the Illini dropped a home game to Michigan State and then lost last week to Purdue, and the West division race has been thrown into chaos. Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin all still have a shot, and there are more than 250 scenarios with just two weeks remaining!

Team Current Record Remaining Schedule B1G Odds @FD
Purdue Boilermakers 6-4 (4-3) Northwestern, at Indiana +2000
Iowa Hawkeyes 6-4 (4-3) at Minnesota, Nebraska +5000
Illinois Fighting Illini 7-3 (4-3) at Michigan, at Northwestern +10000
Minnesota Golden Gophers  7-3 (4-3) Iowa, at Wisconsin +20000
Wisconsin Badgers 5-5 (3-4) at Nebraska, Minnesota +20000

The Big Ten West Contenders

We’ll begin with the team with the cleanest path to the Big Ten West title, the Iowa Hawkeyes. If the Hawkeyes, anemic offense and all, win at Minnesota and against Nebraska, they will be crowned Big Ten West champions with an Illinois loss (play at Michigan this week). They are now listed at +5000 to win the Big Ten Championship and have the second shortest odds of the Big Ten West teams. Mathematical odds place Iowa’s chance of winning the West at around 26.7%. The Hawkeyes are slight underdogs (+2.5) this Saturday at Minnesota.

The Purdue Boilermakers have the most straightforward path schedule-wise and are listed with the shortest odds to win the conference at +2000. With games against woeful Northwestern and at Indiana, Purdue is heavily favored to move to 8-4 on the season with a 6-3 Big Ten record. They lost to Iowa, so they’ll need to win both games, plus have the Hawkeyes lose one of its last two games. Those squads have by far the cleanest paths to the title game.

The once-favorite Illinois Fighting Illini has to beat Michigan and Northwestern to finish at 6-3. They also need the Purdue Boilermakers to lose one of its last two games. They are heavy underdogs to Michigan (+17.5), and it seems unlikely Purdue will drop a game, so the Illini have very likely blown their chance. 

The early-season darling Minnesota Golden Gophers must beat Iowa and win at Wisconsin to give themselves a chance. They will also need a lot of help, Illinois needs to lose a game (keep in mind, they play Michigan), and Purdue needs to drop one to Northwestern or Indiana. 

Finally, the Wisconsin Badgers are not mathematically eliminated despite losing a conference record. The Badgers must beat Nebraska and Minnesota to move to 5-4. They then need Iowa to lose to Nebraska in the season finale, Illinois to lose to Michigan and Northwestern, and Purdue to lose to Northwestern and Indiana. That incredibly implausible scenario would send the Badgers back to Indianapolis to play the winner of Ohio State and Michigan.

Purdue and Iowa are the most likely teams to represent the Big Ten West in the Big Ten Championship Game. Still, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin each enter the penultimate weekend of the regular season with a mathematical shot at winning the division.