The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

November 6, 2013

Big Ten struggling to fill 8 slots

(Continued)

“We’re all trying to do that (win six), and we’re all trying to do better than that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think we really just try to get our guys focused on the week at hand. I think most coaches do that. That’s what it’s all about, so if you want to be somewhere good at the end of the season, then you have to handle each step along the way. If you do that, the more apt you are to be in a good place at the end.”

Most analysts expect the unbeaten Buckeyes and surging Spartans, the league’s two division leaders, to meet in Indianapolis on Dec. 7. The winner would become the first team other than No. 21 Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title game, ending the Badgers’ streak of three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances.

The Badgers, perennial powers Michigan and Nebraska and surprising Minnesota all have at least six wins, enough to fill out the New Year’s Day allotment with one team left over for a non-New Year’s Day game — the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the Texas Bowl or the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. Iowa’s best chance to join the club comes this weekend when it travels to reeling Purdue (1-7, 0-4).

But things could get tricky if the Boilermakers end a six-game losing streak. Iowa (5-4, 2-3) would then have to beat either Michigan at home or Nebraska on the road just to qualify.

Then there are other three:

— Northwestern (4-5, 0-5), once ranked in the top 20, is trying to get healthy during this week’s bye. It needs to win two of its last three with home games against Michigan and Michigan State and a trip to Illinois.

— The Illini (3-5, 0-4) have lost 18 straight conference games, yet somehow still have a shot. How? If Illinois wins three of its last four — at Indiana, home against Ohio State, at Purdue and at Northwestern — it’s in.

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