Big ten tiebreaker rules

A question was asked during the chat as to whether it is division standings or overall conference standings that determine who plays in the Big Ten championship game this year.

I think it is overall conference standings, but I can’t find a definitive statement of that.

Mike Nolan

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Losing to Michigan State (or Indiana) does matter less than losing to Illinois or Northwestern, but it is below the overall conference record and head-to-head results when breaking ties.

In order of importance, it’s:

  1. Winning percentage in all conference games
  2. Winning percentage in head-to-head games among tied teams
  3. Winning percentage within their division
  4. Winning percentage against the next highest placed teams in their division in order of finish (i.e. who did best against the next best team or teams within the division)
  5. Winning percentage against all common conference opponents
  6. Best cumulative conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents (i.e. strongest cross-divisional schedule, so for this tie-breaker it is better for Michigan to win the East)
  7. Winning percentage against the highest placed non-divisional teams in their division order of finish (i.e. who did best against the next best team or teams at the top of the other division – and 2-0 is considered to be better than 1-0 is better than 0-0 is better than 0-1, so in this tiebreak it is in Nebraska’s favor for Michigan to fall below Ohio State and Penn State)
  8. Best overall winning percentage
  9. Random draw

If Nebraska wins out, they would guarantee a tie for first, but they would need Minnesota to lose at least once more to win the tie-break. If Nebraska finishes 6-3 in a tie with Iowa, they win the head-to-head tiebreak. If it is a tie with both Iowa and Minnesota, Minnesota wins the head-to-head tiebreak because they beat both Nebraska and Iowa.

This is the comprehensive list of tiebreakers adopted prior to the 2021 season to take into account the possibility of cancelled games because of COVID, etc. It will have to be modified against next summer with divisions going away.

Big Ten Tiebreakers (as of 2021)

Thanks, Steve, you have far more patience to work through this stuff than I do.