Michigan and Purdue set for title-type game

Updated: October 24, 2003, 7:51 PM ET

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Because the Big Ten does not have a championship game, No. 10 Purdue and No. 13 Michigan are treating their game Saturday as if the conference title is on the line.

"I told my players, this is why you came to Purdue, to play in games like this," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "You are fortunate to play in a game like this. Instead of saying, 'Oh my God, we have to go to the Big House,' we are saying, 'We GET to go to the Big House.' I love these kinds of games."

The Boilermakers (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) and Michigan State are the only teams without a Big Ten loss. The Wolverines (6-2, 3-1) are one of three teams with one conference loss.

"The success of our season depends on this game," Michigan's Dave Pearson said. "If we stumble, it will cripple our season because this is like a Big Ten championship game."

Purdue is allowing just 14.4 points a game, eighth in the country. The Wolverines are the 10th-highest scoring team in the nation with a 39-point average.

Michigan players believe they control their own destiny after the results of two games last week.

Purdue beat Wisconsin, which doesn't play Michigan. Ohio State handed Iowa, which beat the Wolverines, its second Big Ten loss.

"Part of me was rooting for Ohio State, which was a little weird, but it was good for us to have Iowa lose," Pearson said. "It's nice to know that if we get our job done, we can get where we want to be -- without anybody helping us out."

If Michigan does not lose any of its final four games, it will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1998 game, when the Wolverines beat Washington State to win the national title.

If Purdue finishes the Big Ten season undefeated, the Boilermakers would need Michigan State to lose because the two teams do not play one another and would finish with the same overall record. In the event of a tie, the Spartans would head to Pasadena because Purdue went most recently, after the 2000 season.

If the Boilermakers beat Michigan, they'll be 7-1 for first time since 1978, 4-0 in the Big Ten for first time in 23 years, and will have a win in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1966.

"This game right now is definitely a turning point for us," Purdue's Stuart Schweigert said. "If we win, everyone's going to realize we do have a good defense and a good offense.

"This will definitely be a test. If we pass, there'll be no doubt we're a great team. There's still a little doubt out there as to what kind of team we have."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index