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4 teams, 4 weeks, 1 title on the line in Big Ten

By Dan Published: November 3, 2010

By Rusty Miller
Associated Press

When he met with his team on Sunday night, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema didn't hide from what's ahead and what's at stake over the next month.

He said with Michigan State picking up its first loss a day earlier at Iowa, the Big Ten race was basically a free-for-all.

"I mentioned where we were at," Bielema said.

Then he handed each of the Badgers a daily calendar with practice times, objectives and games.

"So they could kind of focus in on the day and what they need to work on," he said. "And not worry about the big picture until the end."

The big picture for the Big Ten involves four teams, all ranked, deciding the title over the next four weeks. Some have easier roads than others. At the end there's a large trophy — and Bowl Championship Series bid — waiting.

"A lot of things can still happen, certainly," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I'm not sure where it's all going."

Here's a capsule look at what's ahead for each of top contenders, in order of Associated Press rank:

— No. 7 Wisconsin (7-1, 3-1), BCS No. 9

Remaining schedule: at Purdue (4-4, 2-2), Indiana, (4-4, 0-4), at Michigan (5-3, 1-3), Northwestern (6-2, 2-2).

Focal point: Coming off a bye week into the second-easiest schedule of any of the top teams.

Words of wisdom: "In coaching there's always the cliche that you win championships in November," Bielema said. "Obviously, somebody's going to win one. Or multiple teams will win one. It's all about how they handle their weekly business. Our guys are in the position they're in because they realize nothing is more important than today."

— No. 8 Ohio State (8-1, 4-1), BCS No. 11

Remaining schedule: Penn State (5-3, 2-2), at Iowa (6-2, 3-1), Michigan (5-3, 1-3).

Focal point: The big showdown on Nov. 20 at Iowa. Win and Buckeyes will likely get at least a share of a record-tying sixth Big Ten title; lose and they could drop to fourth or even lower.

Words of wisdom: "I hope we get emotionally and physically rested (during the off week) because when Penn State comes in, it's a whole different world," coach Jim Tressel said. "(It comes down to) where you're investing your time, during that open week. What are you thinking about? What are you working on? Are you doing the things that you need to do to get better? If we do that, then hopefully it will be a plus for us."

— No. 15 Iowa (6-2, 3-1), BCS No. 16

Remaining schedule: at Indiana (4-4, 0-4), at Northwestern (6-2, 2-2), Ohio State (8-1, 4-1), at Minnesota (1-8, 0-5).

Focal point: Hawkeyes must be road warriors and win the season-making game at home against Buckeyes.

Words of wisdom: "We're only at the halfway point in the conference race," Ferentz said. "We're just trying to focus on what's ahead of us this week and I think a lot of things are probably going to happen over the next month."

— No. 16 Michigan State (8-1, 4-1), BCS No. 14

Remaining schedule: Minnesota (1-8, 0-5), bye, Purdue (4-4, 2-2), at Penn State (5-3, 2-2).

Focal point: Spartans have the easiest road, but can't get caught looking back to Saturday's painful 37-6 beating at Iowa on Saturday that ruined their perfect season.

Words of wisdom: "If we can go 1-0 (against Minnesota) then we'll sit during our bye week and watch others play and come into Week 11 and we'll have a better idea at least of where we're at," said coach Mark Dantonio. "It's so critical for us to focus on the present."

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