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Hoosiers enter important week with Big Ten lead within their grasp.

Indiana and Wisconsin are the only teams with unbeaten Big Ten records.

Andy Lyons

The Big Ten season is very young, and we've always known that IU's schedule was backl-oaded, but thanks to Michigan's loss at Ohio State yesterday and IU's home win against Minnesota on Saturday, the Hoosiers can take sole possession of first place if they beat Wisconsin tomorrow night. How long has it been since IU took sole possession of first place in the Big Ten? Well, not as long ago as you might think. IU took sole possession of first place in the Big Ten on January 26, 2008. IU lost a non-conference game to Connecticut that day, but Wisconsin lost to Purdue on the same day, giving 6-0 IU a half-game lead. The Hoosiers lost their first Big Ten game a few days later, to Wisconsin, naturally, which eventually won the title outright with a 16-2 record.

As I mentioned, IU's Big Ten schedule is decidedly back-loaded. As of today, Ken Pomeroy projects IU to finish 15-3 in the conference, and favors IU in every individual game except two: the road trips to Minnesota and Michigan. Here's a quick look at IU's remaining schedule, with the date, the opponent, and the current Pomeroy likelihood of victory:

1/23 Penn St. 99
2/13 Nebraska 98
2/16 Purdue 96
1/20 @ Nwstrn 91
3/2 Iowa 91
1/30 @ Purdue 88
1/27 Mich. St. 86
1/15 Wisconsin 83
2/7 @ Illinois 80
3/5 Ohio St. 78
2/2 Michigan 73
2/19 @ Mich. St. 66
2/10 @ Ohio St. 53
2/26 @ Minnesota 47
3/10 @ Michigan 46

As you can see, of the 15 remaining games, IU's seven toughest games all occur in February or March. Of IU's eight easiest games, five are in what is left of January. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that if IU wants to win an outright Big Ten title for the first time in 20 years, the Hoosiers probably can't afford to lose before the trip to Ohio State on February 10.

It all starts with Wisconsin, of course. As unthinkable as it is, IU has now lost 10 in a row to the Badgers. IU came up painfully short in Madison last year and then got whipped in the Big Ten Tournament. IU's longest-ever losing streaks against Big Ten opponents were 11-game losing streaks against Wisconsin from 1912-1919 and against Purdue from 1909-1914. This simply has to end, for the sake of restoring some sanity to the universe and for IU's Big Ten title hopes.

  • For the 37th consecutive season, there will not be an undefeated NCAA champion. Congrats to the 1976 Hoosiers, even though they aren't the sort of guys (unlike the 1972 Dolphins) to pop champagne at the misfortune of others. The four remaining undefeateds went down this week, and Michigan, the team had the last shot at the 1976 Hoosiers, was the last to fall. I had no illusions that IU would go undefeated this season, but based upon the schedule I believed before the season that IU had an excellent chance at being the last remaining undefeated team. Had IU taken care of things against Butler, that's exactly how things would be today.
  • You may notice that JustAJ is no longer listed on the site masthead. Much to my regret, he has elected to take his talents to South Beach, or at least to another site. Hopefully he will continue to participate in the comments here, and I thank him for his contributions to the Crimson Quarry over the past two years. Along those lines, while I have no doubt that Austan, Devin, and I will continue to churn out a good quantity of quality content, if you have any interest in writing for the site, please drop me a line. I generally prefer some sort of blogging or writing background or a history of participation at this site, but if you have any interest, e-mail me at crimsonquarry at sbcglobal dot net.