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Win projections: Big Ten's other division title goes through Michigan State

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A win over Michigan this weekend would all but sew up Michigan State's second Big Ten Legends (the division without Ohio State) title in three seasons. Also, the 16-step path to Minnesota playing for a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday, we used the latest F/+ ratings (and the corresponding win expectancy rates) to get an idea for how the SEC East race will play out. Now let's do the same for the Big Ten Legends Division, or the one Ohio State won't win.

The standings

  1. Michigan State, 4-0
  2. Michigan, 2-1
  3. Nebraska, 2-1
  4. Iowa, 2-2
  5. Minnesota, 2-2
  6. Northwestern, 0-4

With three 12- to 14-point wins and a demolition of Illinois in its back pocket, Michigan State has staked an early claim to the division lead. But a week ago, when Football Study Hall's Paul Dalen used his own ratings to project division winners, the leader was rather unclear. How much of a difference did Nebraska's loss to Minnesota make?

It makes quite a bit of difference, as it turns out.

The remaining schedules

Below are the remaining schedules for each of the five teams with a realistic chance of the division title (0-4 Northwestern is done). Again, the win probabilities are based on this week's F/+ rankings, in which Michigan State ranks 25th, Michigan ranks 33rd, Iowa ranks 39th, Nebraska ranks 49th, Northwestern ranks 51st, and Minnesota ranks 55th. (Nebraska has plummeted in recent weeks.)

  • Michigan State: Michigan (68% win probability), at Nebraska (72%), at Northwestern (73%), Minnesota (86%)
  • Michigan: at Michigan State (32%), Nebraska (79%), at Northwestern (66%), at Iowa (45%), Ohio State (27%)
  • Nebraska: Northwestern (64%), at Michigan (21%), Michigan State (28%), at Penn State (56%), Iowa (42%)
  • Iowa: Wisconsin (31%), at Purdue (92%), Michigan (55%), at Nebraska (59%)
  • Minnesota: at Indiana (28%), Penn State (69%), Wisconsin (19%), at Michigan State (14%)

Minnesota is favored to win only one of its final four games, so the Gophers are not a legitimate contender despite being only a couple of games back. But you probably already knew that.

The simulation

Using the odds assigned above, I ran 1,000 simulations of the remaining games. Here are the title odds based on those simulations.

  1. Michigan State 84.7%
  2. Michigan 7.4%
  3. Nebraska 5.5%
  4. Iowa 2.3%
  5. Minnesota 0.1%

There are a lot of games to be played among these five teams. In fact, the only games that have taken place thus far are Michigan State's 26-14 win over Iowa, Michigan's 42-13 win over Minnesota, Minnesota's 34-23 win over Nebraska, and Iowa's 23-7 win over Minnesota. So there's a lot of room for maneuvering ... and still a pretty clear favorite.

Odds of finishing with x conference wins
(based on 1,000 simulations)
Team 8 wins 7 wins 6 wins 5 wins 4 wins 2-3 wins
Michigan State 30% 43% 21% 6% 1%
2% 14% 34% 36% 15%
1% 9% 23% 39% 28%

9% 36% 40% 15%

1% 7% 33% 59%

It appears Michigan is the wildcard here, with nearly equal chances of finishing with two or three conference wins or six conference wins. Meanwhile, Nebraska could rebound, but there's a chance that things could go really, really south here.

So you're saying there's a chance...

In 1,000 simulations, Minnesota won the B1G Legends in exactly one of them. Here's how it happens:

  1. Michigan State beats Michigan
  2. Minnesota beats Indiana
  3. Northwestern beats Nebraska
  4. Wisconsin beats Iowa
  5. Iowa beats Purdue
  6. Nebraska beats Michigan
  7. Minnesota beats Penn State
  8. Michigan beats Northwestern
  9. Nebraska beats Michigan State
  10. Michigan beats Iowa
  11. Michigan State beats Northwestern
  12. Nebraska beats Penn State
  13. Minnesota beats Wisconsin
  14. Iowa beats Nebraska
  15. Minnesota beats Michigan State
  16. Ohio State beats Michigan

In this scenario, Minnesota finishes 6-2 in a tie with 6-2 Michigan State and wins the tie-breaker. It's just that easy!

(There are other scenarios, probably, but this is the only one that popped up in 1,000 simulations.)

This week

This is a week of survival as much as anything else. Losses by Michigan, Iowa, and/or Nebraska would dent already diminished odds. Meanwhile, there will be a lot of Michigan fans in Iowa City and Lincoln.

Wisconsin at Iowa (12:00 p.m. ET)

If the Hawkeyes pull the upset, it will hurt Michigan almost as much as it helps Iowa. The Hawkeyes' odds will certainly rise, from 2.3 percent to 5.0 percent, but they need a lot more help than just that. But Michigan's odds decrease from 7.4 to 5.7 percent. Of course, it's not really the win that would help Iowa so much as the non-loss. A loss to Wisconsin all but eliminates Iowa, dropping the Hawkeyes' odds to 1.3 percent.

Minnesota at Indiana (3:30 p.m. ET)

If Indiana wins, not much changes. But if Minnesota wins, it once again hurts Michigan, dropping the Wolverines' odds down to 5.5. Nebraska's odds rise to 7.3 percent, and the Gophers' odds triple to 0.3 percent!

Northwestern at Nebraska (3:30 p.m. ET)

This game doesn't have much of an impact either way. If Northwestern wins, Nebraska's odds sink to 2.8 percent, and others' crawl up a bit; if the Huskers survive, their odds rise to 7.0 percent at the slight expense of others.

Michigan at Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET)

This is obviously the biggest game of the week.

If Michigan State wins, this race is over. At least, almost. The Spartans' odds jump all the way to 96 percent, Nebraska's fall to 3.6, Iowa's fall to 0.5, and Michigan's pull a Blutarsky: 0.0.

If Michigan wins, however, the race is redefined. Michigan State is still the clear favorite at 62.6 percent, but Michigan's odds jump to 2-in-9 (22.2 percent), Nebraska jumps to 9.3, and Iowa jumps to 6.0.

More from SB Nation college football:

Full Week 10 college football TV schedule guide

FAU coaches gone due to smoking marijuana, apparently

Why Florida State would be favored to beat Oregon

The Alphabetical, Week 9, by Spencer Hall

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