Handicapping the Rose race

It's never too early to look ahead to New Year's Day, so let's have a little fun and see who's got the best shot at representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.

The race for the Big Ten title is wide open, with at least seven teams harboring legitimate hopes of winning the crown. We'll break down the chances of each team, based on upcoming schedule, key stats and the like. Of course, these projections are for entertainment purposes; please, no wagering.

Michigan State, 6-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big Ten
Upcoming schedule:
at Minnesota, vs. Michigan, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, vs. Penn State
Likely to be favored in … two of their final five
Good stats: 2nd in Big Ten in passing offense, 1st in turnover margin
Bad stats: 11th in passing defense, 9th in rushing offense, 11th in penalties
The skinny: Jeff Smoker and Co. have been on quite a run, but oh does the schedule get tougher. Three killer road tests will likely take their toll on the Spartans.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 7-to-1

Wisconsin, 6-1, 3-0
Upcoming schedule:
vs. Purdue, at Northwestern, at Minnesota, vs. Michigan State, vs. Iowa
Likely to be favored in … three or four of final five games
Good stats: 2nd in rushing offense, 2nd in punt returns
Bad stats: 11th in red zone offense, 10th in sacks allowed
The skinny: A favorable schedule helps the Badgers, who are in the middle of the pack in most Big Ten statistics. Their key game could be against Minnesota -- too bad it's on the road.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 6-to-1

Purdue, 5-1, 2-0
Upcoming schedule:
at Wisconsin, at Michigan, vs. Northwestern, vs. Iowa, at Ohio State, at Indiana
Likely to be favored in … three of final six games
Good stats: 1st in scoring and overall defense, 2nd in turnover margin, 2nd in rushing defense
Bad stats: 10th in sacks, 9th in penalties
The skinny: A Purdue team that wins with defense? A lot of that could be due to their relatively soft schedule to date. That'll change fast, starting this weekend.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 6-to-1

Minnesota, 6-1, 2-1
Upcoming schedule:
vs. Michigan State, at Illinois, vs. Indiana, vs. Wisconsin, at Iowa
Likely to be favored in … four of their final five games
Good stats: 1st in scoring, rushing and total offense, 1st in kickoff returns, 1st in passing efficiency
Bad stats: 8th in passing offense, 10th in opponent 4th down conversions
The skinny: The Gophers would be in the drivers' seat if not for the fourth-quarter collapse last week against Michigan. How they rebound this week will tell the story of their New Year's Day potential.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 3-to-1

Ohio State, 5-1, 1-1
Upcoming schedule:
vs. Iowa, at Indiana, at Penn State, vs. Michigan State, vs. Purdue, at Michigan
Likely to be favored in … five of their final six games
Good stats: 3rd in scoring defense, 2nd in punting, 1st in rushing defense
Bad stats: 9th in passing offense, 10th in rushing offense, 11th in punt returns
The skinny: The winning streak was snapped last week at Wisconsin, but the Buckeyes are still in great shape. They'll need help, and they'll have to win out, which could be tough with a game at the Big House looming.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 4-to-1

Michigan, 5-2, 2-1
Upcoming schedule:
vs. Illinois, vs. Purdue, at Michigan State, at Northwestern, vs. Ohio State
Likely to be favored in … four of their final five games
Good stats: 2nd in scoring offense, 1st in passing offense, 2nd in passing defense
Bad stats: 11th in punting, 9th in turnover margin, 11th in red zone defense
The skinny: The Wolverines saved their season last week in the Metrodome. The national title is no longer a goal, but if they can beat in-state rival MSU, they're looking good with the tiebreaker over Minnesota.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 5-to-2

Iowa, 5-1, 1-1
Upcoming schedule:
at Ohio State, vs. Penn State, vs. Illinois, at Purdue, vs. Minnesota, at Wisconsin
Likely to be favored in … three of their final six games
Good stats: 2nd in scoring defense, 2nd in kickoff returns, 1st in punt returns
Bad stats: 11th in passing offense, 10th in total offense, 9th in third-down conversions
The skinny: The surprising Hawkeyes have used special teams to approach last year's greatness, but the road ahead is peppered with tough games.
Odds to reach Pasadena: 8-to-1

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