College Football: Buckeyes, Spartans on course to meet in Big Ten title game
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Big Ten championship game is all but finalized. Unless Ohio State or Michigan State loses twice, the two teams will meet for the title on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes (10-0, 6-0) lead Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1) by a game in the Leaders Division but hold the tiebreaker because of a head-to-head victory. Ohio State whipped Illinois 60-35 on Saturday in Champaign, Ill., to tie a school record for consecutive victories with 22.
The Spartans (9-1, 6-0) clinched a share of the Legends Division title with their 41-28 win over Nebraska (7-3, 4-2) on Saturday. Michigan State is two games ahead of Nebraska and Minnesota (8-2, 4-2) in the standings.
For the Buckeyes, the Big Ten championship is a means to an end.
They’re aiming for a berth in the BCS national championship game, but unless Alabama or Florida State stumbles up ahead during the final weeks of the season, Ohio State could be left out.
Unbeaten Baylor also is a threat to climb past the Buckeyes into the No. 3 spot in the BCS rankings.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who remained unbeaten at 22-0 since taking over at the start of the 2012 season, thinks his team is best served to stop worrying about the polls and bowls.
“We have to make sure that our focus is on getting better each week instead of all of the national stuff,” Meyer said after Saturday’s win. “I think I’m learning a lesson to just shut my mouth and quit worrying about this and that. Let’s get a little better.”
His players apparently plan to do the same.
“There will be a lot more focus on Indiana this week instead of worrying about the big picture or what’s in the future,” Buckeyes safety C.J. Barnett said. “We need to worry about the right here and now.”
Wisconsin almost certainly will not be playing for a championship, but the Badgers are playing as well as anyone in the conference. After destroying Indiana 51-3 on Saturday, Wisconsin has won six in a row and could land a BCS bowl berth if they can keep it up.
A battle for the Paul Bunyan Axe Trophy awaits Wisconsin this week when it travels to Minneapolis to take on surprising Minnesota, which still has a shot at the Legends title. The Gophers had a bye this week to prepare for their border rival.
Michigan (7-3, 3-3) has fallen out of title contention, but reaching double digits in wins remains possible after pulling out a 27-19, three-overtime overtime victory at Northwestern on Saturday with help from a last-second, tying field goal in regulation.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, either Illinois or Purdue will get its first Big Ten victory of the season next week when the two meet in West Lafayette, Ind. The Fighting Illini will be trying to end a 19-game conference losing streak that dates to October 2011.