After Purdue's demolition of Ohio State, the Big Ten West is officially a four-horse race. NBN sports takes a crack at determining who will represent the West in Indianapolis.
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) October 25, 2018
Charlie Sidles: Purdue
Purdue is so good (really). Rondale Moore is electric, David Blough should be a Heisman candidate (again, I’m serious – the man has a 159.1 QB rating), Jeff Brohm is a schematic genius and the team’s defense dominated Ohio State. The ‘Cats are in a great position right now, but I don’t see them beating both Wisconsin and Iowa, especially with No. 3 Notre Dame coming to Evanston in between those games. I believe Northwestern will finish the year with two conference losses, while Purdue will take out Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin en route to a West division title.
Shreyas Iyer: Purdue
The Big Ten West is now a four-horse race, and it appears that Northwestern, as the least flashy, and most unpredictable of the challengers, will be the first to crumble. Fortunately for the ‘Cats, they can afford a loss here if Iowa and Purdue both lose and Purdue then beats Wisconsin in their upcoming matchup. The route to Indianapolis is full of pitfalls for NU, but a Big Ten West crown is still attainable; every other team has to go through a gauntlet.
At the first weekend of December, though, I’ll expect Purdue to represent the West. They’re the hottest team in the conference after their shellacking of Ohio St, and their two toughest games against Iowa and Wisconsin are both at home. Although they’ve only been on the national radar for one weekend, Purdue is peaking at the right time, and that should be enough to win a relatively mediocre West division.
Jacob Munoz: Iowa
The Big Ten West is about to get serious. The next four weeks each feature a matchup between the remaining division contenders, making the race for the West more urgent than ever. If the season were to end right now, Northwestern would be on top thanks to a 4-1 conference record, but the Wildcats sure don’t seem like the team to beat. Jeremy Larkin’s retirement left a hole at running back that has yet to be (completely) filled, and the team just barely walked away with a victory against a very bad Rutgers team. The ’Cats have seemed to either play down to (or up to) to their opponents’ levels for much of the season, making them a tough team to evaluate. If they can manage to beat Wisconsin, they’re in the driver’s seat. But that’s a big if.
The Badgers started the season as Championship hopefuls but a few missteps on offense and defense have doomed their chances. The team does have the pieces, however, for another division title – especially with Jonathan Taylor. Purdue has some of the best momentum in college football after taking down Ohio State, and each of their losses were frustratingly close. The senior leadership of David Blough and D.J. Knox could take the Boilermakers all the way this season, especially if they can beat Michigan State. But Iowa, with just one loss on the season to Wisconsin, can prove they belong at the top if Nate Stanley (16 TDs, 6 INTs) continues to push the team forward with the help of a smothering defense. We’ll be seeing the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten title game for the first time since 2015.
Jono Zarrilli: Iowa
With no clear frontrunner right now in the Big Ten West, it will come down to strength of schedule. Wisconsin and Iowa have very similar remaining schedules, with each facing Penn State, Purdue and Northwestern. Both will manage to get by Northwestern and Purdue; Purdue is one year away from putting all the pieces together, and I have seen too many flaws on both sides of the ball to expect Northwestern to win big-time games. It comes down to the Penn State games: Both face the Nittany Lions at home, but Iowa faces them this week fresh off of 3 consecutive 17+ point wins. Alex Hornibrook will continue to disappoint, while Nate Stanley will shine on the national stage and carry the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis.
Navpreet Dhillon: Iowa
Iowa will win the Big Ten West. at 3-1 in the conference, 6-1 overall and ranked 18th in the nation, the Hawkeyes and #20 Wisconsin are Northwestern's (4-3, 4-1) fiercest challengers. Although Wisconsin beat Iowa 28-17 on Sept. 22, Iowa has killed every other team they played. Wisconsin won the Big Ten West the past two years in a row, but Iowa has come out strong this year and has a fighting chance over the Badgers.
Isaac Sultan: Iowa
Many are framing Northwestern’s upcoming clash against Wisconsin as a Big Ten West championship contest. But what about the Hawkeyes? With an offense led by a two headed TE monster consisting of T. J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, Iowa cannot be overlooked. An under-the-radar Iowa team will come into the spotlight this weekend with a road win against the Nittany Lions. Northwestern will upset the Badgers at Ryan Field but crumble against Iowa on the road two weeks later, unable to break through a Hawkeye defense that has allowed just 14 points per game (fifth in the nation). In his 19th year at the helm, Coach Kirk Ferentz will lead Iowa to their first Big Ten Championship since 2015.
Meredith Ellison: Wisconsin
Wisconsin will rebound from its devastating loss to Michigan last week and win the remainder of its Big Ten West games en route to the division title. Unlike Purdue and Northwestern, Wisconsin already has its toughest opponent behind them. This weekend, the Badger defense will overwhelm Northwestern, moving the team into first. Iowa’s title hopes will slip away after the team loses to Purdue on the road next week. Purdue’s early season loss to Northwestern will prove consequential as the Boilermakers will narrowly miss a spot in the Big Ten title game. Northwestern will not lead the division for long. The ‘Cats will go winless in their next three games and ultimately finish fourth in the division.
Trevor Lystad: Northwestern
Badgers are ugly, Boilmaking jobs got automated in the mid-1930s, and nobody even knows what the f*** a Hawkeye is. Go ‘Cats.