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Chapman's B1G Five Of The Big Ten: Can Michigan Win The Conference?

By Brian Chapman

1. Ohio State and Michigan State are struggling while Michigan is rising. What are the chances that Michigan knocks off both of them and goes to the B1G Championship Game?

Not great, but it's not the impossibility that I thought it was at the start of the season.

Back in August, I figured both the Deep South Buckeyes and the Spartans would clown the Wolverines. Through five weeks, the three teams have combined to go 14-1 with the one loss being Michigan's loss to Utah, but that loss keeps looking better and better. Utah is now the No. 5 team in the AP poll and they have the third most first-place votes (7). Michigan is also coming off of back to back shutouts.

Meanwhile, Ohio State is winning convincingly against soft competition, but not looking like a defending national champion on the offensive side of the ball. Michigan State is struggling even more against similar foes. Last weekend's 24-21 home win against Purdue -- a moral loss -- should have been the last straw for MSU fans thinking that they were witnessing a great team this year.

As of right now I'd give the Wolverines a 15 percent chance of beating both Ohio State and Michigan State en route to the B1G Championship Game. I expect them to squeak out a home win against Michigan State next week and I expect Urban Meyer to have his team in championship form by the time The Game rolls around.

That said, if Michigan goes into that game 10-1, they'll be a Top 10 team with home field advantage. Top 10 teams with home field advantage typically win their games so I might have to change my mind next month.


2. Wisconsin lost at home to Iowa. Are the out of the B1G West race?

No, but they are no longer the favorite.

Everyone knew the B1G West race would be wide open as we headed into conference play with Wisconsin a slim favorite. Now that they've lost at home to an undefeated Hawkeye team their chances have plummeted. The defense is still legit, but scoring six points at home against anyone -- much less Iowa -- is just not traditional Wisconsin football.

This is not a great football team. What saves them from complete elimination is the schedule. Their crossover games are against Rutgers and Maryland (How did they get so fortunate?). Meanwhile, Northwestern plays Michigan and Penn State. Iowa gets Maryland and Indiana, but has to travel to Northwestern. Also, that road game at Minnesota for the Badgers to close out the season looks like a race to 12 points and I wouldn't trust the Golden Gophers to score 12 on the Badgers if they were given 11 points.

The de facto B1G Championship Game could be in the second to last week when Wisconsin hosts the Wildcats. Right now that looks like anyone's game.


3. Multiple reports say that Maryland will not bring back head coach Randy Edsall next year and he might be coaching his final game this Saturday. Should Maryland fire him? Should they just do it now?

No, they shouldn't fire Edsall, but if they are going to fire him they should do it now.

According to an ESPN story, Edsall will not be back next year, the school is discussing how to go about conducting a midseason coaching change and Edsall just signed a 3-year extension this past summer. The extension only has $750,000 in guaranteed money, so Maryland isn't just flushing millions of dollars down the drain, but just a few months ago they thought he was their long-term answer.

It's just very strange to me. He hasn't broken any laws or been accused of breaking school policies or been accused of any NCAA violations. One report says that players have started to tune him out, but other than that the decision seems to be solely based on the win-loss record. Maryland is 2-3 -- that's a bad record, but it's not alarming considering Edsall's overall record is 22-33 with the Terps. That meant his record was 20-30 at the time he signed his extension.

Plus, this isn't a school that's used to a lot of winning. This is Maryland -- a school that real B1G fans never wanted to join the conference in the first place because they have not tradition and were only joining to steal… err, I mean, rake in cash for its athletic programs from the Big Ten Network.

Since when is losing unacceptable for the Maryland football team? Did they get arrogant after going 7-6 season in 2014? A season where they lost four of their games by at least 22 points and another game at home to Rutgers? It's unacceptable for this Maryland team to have a losing record? There has to be something else to this.

Whether there is or there isn't, they may as well can him now. I don't see the point in allowing him one more game or letting him to finish the season if the relationship has turned this sour in just five games. If players are tuning him out, why allow them to be tuned out for another seven games?

They may as well get rid of Edsall now, start their coaching search and throw the biggest bag money -- from their BTN share -- at whatever coach they can get. Considering it's just the Maryland job, the coach they land will probably underwhelm them, but at least it won't be Randy Edsall…I guess.


4. Aside from Randy Edsall, which coach's seats could really heat up with a loss this weekend?

James Franklin's seat at Penn State and Mike Riley's seat at Nebraska.

When I looked at Penn State's schedule before the start of the season, I saw what everyone else saw -- smooth sailing to a 6-0 start whether the Nittany Lions were set to contend for a B1G Championship or dealing with a down year. Then they lost 27-10 in the opener to Temple. Penn State never loses to Temple. Penn State is never the second best college football team in Pennsylvania.

Instantly the fan base started whispering out loud about Franklin's job security. Since then Penn State has fattened up its win total in last the four games against sugary cupcake competition. Unfortunately, they struggled in three of the games and the passing attack is far from average and even farther from potent.

This weekend Penn State hosts another cupcake in Indiana. The Nittany Lions should win, but by now the fan base has come to expect it to be an ugly win. If they somehow lose this game (which unfortunately wouldn't be the biggest shock in the world), the fan base won't care about miscellaneous factors like whether or not running back Saquon Barkley played. They will be out for blood and they'll want Franklin's head on a platter.

Nebraska was supposed to have a bad year after hiring Mike Riley. What do they expect after hiring a coach who went 5-7 last year? A winning season? The problem is that at Nebraska, 9-4 is considered a down year and, while they might be willing to cut a little bit more slack for a first year coach that goes 8-5, they're 2-3 and they're only one game into conference play. Sure, their three losses are by a combined nine points, but none of those teams are even ranked right now and their last loss was to Illinois!

This weekend, the Cornhuskers face a 3-2 Badgers team that also badly needs a win after losing at home to Iowa. This is a winnable game for Nebraska. The problem is that this is also the best team they've faced all year. With Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa still on the schedule, Nebraska is already on the outside looking in at bowl season. Losing a fourth game before facing those four teams would make missing a bowl season a lock and could turn Mike Riley's seat uncomfortably toasty.


5. Who will win this week's B1G games?

Ohio State over Maryland
Penn State over Indiana
Iowa over Illinois
Northwestern over Michigan
Wisconsin over Nebraska
Minnesota over Purdue.
Michigan State over Rutgers

Make sure you follow me on Twitter @bchapsports and Tweet at me too.

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