— Indiana's best chance may have evaporated with a fumbled lateral in the final 30 seconds last weekend. That mistake dropped the Hoosiers to 3-5 (1-3), forcing them to win three of their last four — home against Illinois, trips to Wisconsin and Ohio State, and the home finale against Purdue — to reach the six-win mark.
There could be a way out, though it's a longshot. Last year, the NCAA opened the possibility of putting 5-7 teams in the postseason but only if there weren't enough qualifiers to fill every bowl slot and then only if a school ranks in the top five of football's Academic Progress Rate rankings.
The Big Ten can't count on that, putting pressure on virtually every team in the league to keep winning — from division leaders trying to protect their leads to the Big Ten title game hopefuls needing help to the bowl-game hopefuls and even for a team such as Purdue, which is playing spoiler as it tries to avoid its first winless conference season in two decades.
"I think that's part of football, part of life, there's always pressure on you to succeed," Illini coach Tim Beckman said. "We came darn close this last week (at Penn State) to having that first success, I want these players to feel those successes. So yeah there's pressure on you each and every football game to be better, but in my opinion that's how the programs that are being built get better is being able to succeed in those pressure moments."