Dec 15, 2013; Chester, PA, USA; A general view of the field as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Maryland Terrapins during the first half of the division I championship soccer game at PPL Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
After a slow start to the season, Maryland men’s soccer has figured themselves out and moved into a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings. With two weeks left in the season the race for first in the Big Ten is heating up. The Big Ten soccer tournament starts November 8 when the two last place teams play, and then continues on November 9 when the remaining eight teams play. The tournament is played on the campus of the higher seeded team, which makes the one seed much more valuable.
With ten points and two games left on their Big Ten schedule, Maryland still has an outside shot at claiming their first Big Ten soccer title and securing the number one seed for the tournament. Currently Maryland has one road win on the season, which came last weekend at #5 Indiana. This was an important win for the Terrapins, and with only one road game left on the season, I’m not sure if this will mean a complete change in fortune for the team.
Currently Penn State sits a top the Big Ten standings with twelve points. A 2-0 loss last weekend to Michigan State was a missed opportunity by the Nittany Lions to grab a two game advantage in the standings. Michigan State grabbed the three points against Penn State and moved into a tie with Maryland for second place. One point below the Terps and Spartans are the Buckeyes with nine points. Michigan State and Ohio State hold a distinct advantage over Penn State and Maryland because they have three games left on their Big Ten schedule.
Penn State will be able to and will most likely push their lead to five points this weekend. After starting the season 10-0-1, the Nittany Lions dropped three games in a row to Maryland, Michigan State, and West Virginia. They appear to be trending down, but with 3-9-2 Wisconsin coming to Happy Valley, it gives Penn State a chance to right the ship and extend their lead. Wisconsin has zero points in the Big Ten this season and is almost locked into last place. Penn State will finish the season with a trip to Northwestern, who is currently tied for fifth with eight points. The Wildcats will have a lot more to play for as they have a chance to move into the top four and grab at least one home game if they can secure points in their final games and Ohio State slips up.
Michigan State has one of the toughest remaining schedules both in the league and outside the league. While they have two out of three remaining league games at home, they have to play host to Northwestern and Michigan, both of whom are tied for fifth with eight points. Their two remaining road games are against last years national champion, Notre Dame, and the season finale at top ten Indiana. Regardless of the tough schedule, Michigan State holds the key to the title by having the game advantage over Penn State and Maryland. At most Penn State and Maryland can finish with eighteen and sixteen points respectively, while the Spartans can finish with nineteen. As long as Michigan State grabs points in their final games, they should be in position to win the league.
Maryland won’t play their next Big Ten game until next Saturday when they host Ohio State at 7pm at Ludwig Field. The Terps will finish their first Big Ten season at Rutgers on November 5th. Winning both games is most important for Maryland, as they will need the full six points and help to come out on top of the Big Ten. Ohio State will pose a challenge to Maryland as they are sitting in fourth place currently with three games left. With a win over Rutgers on Saturday, Ohio State would enter Ludwig Field with a two point lead over Maryland, which would make the game even more important for the Terps. Finishing up the season at Rutgers will give Maryland another chance to show that they are over their road demons, especially since Maryland will likely have to go on the road to win the Big Ten Tournament.
Ohio State is the last team that I believe has a shot at the Big Ten regular season title. This Saturday they host Rutgers, who is currently in eighth place, and is a game that the Buckeyes should win. Beating Rutgers would push them ahead of Maryland and potentially ahead of Michigan State depending on what the Spartans do against Northwestern on Sunday. Ohio State will finish the Big Ten game schedule with two road games, at Maryland and at Michigan. The Buckeyes currently have nine points, beating Rutgers would put them in a good position to grab at least one home game in the tournament. Splitting their final two road games would keep Ohio State in a favorable position to finish in the top four with fifteen points.
While Michigan State has a tough schedule to end the season, they are my pick to win the Big Ten regular season. Maryland is playing great soccer right now, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them grab all six remaining points on their schedule, but unfortunately it might not be enough as Michigan State has nine points left to get. Penn State has what appears to be three points guaranteed this weekend against Wisconsin, but the trip to Northwestern will be tough as the Wildcats will still have an outside shot of getting into the top four. Ohio State is the team that no one should sleep on. Maryland is their toughest game left and Michigan will certainly present a challenge, but the Buckeyes can grab an important three points this weekend at home and look to split their final two games to stay in the top four.
Current Big Ten Standings
Penn State – 12pts
Michigan State – 10pts
Maryland – 10pts
Ohio State – 9pts
Northwestern – 8pts
Michigan – 8pts
Indiana – 7pts
Rutgers – 4pts