With Michigan State's loss, does the Big Ten still have a chance at the playoff?
Head to Head debates the biggest topics in college football. When Ohio State trounced Michigan State 49-37 on Saturday it practically ousted the Big Ten's front-runner from playoff contention. Our panel debates whether or not Ohio State or any another member of the B1G is alive in playoff contention or if the conference with be left out of the inaugural playoff.
Sometimes it’s not which team you lose to, or even how you lose. Sometimes, it can be a simple matter of when you lose.
If Ohio State can keep playing like it has been, that inexplicable loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2 can be a distant memory for the playoff committee. Sure, we can all say that a loss in September means just as much as one in November, but that’s just not how rankings work. A few weeks ago, Notre Dame lost a close game to Florida State, which one could say was the expected result, based on the rankings. It validates each team’s position in the poll. But Notre Dame dropped several spots in the next AP ranking, and its first College Football Playoff ranking wasn’t even as high as it was in the AP.
That’s why Ohio State is still a contender for the playoff. If the Buckeyes keep winning, they’ll keep moving up as teams ahead of them lose. They are up to No. 8 in this week’s AP poll, and will likely fall in a similar place in Tuesday’s playoff ranking. The remaining games on their regular-season slate aren’t going to wow the committee, but if Urban Meyer’s squad can get through them unscathed, it likely awaits Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game. I could see that win being enough to vault Ohio State past a team that won’t have a chance to play a conference championship game, like the Big 12’s TCU or Baylor, or the second-place SEC West team.
Speaking of the No. 11 (AP) Huskers, they aren't completely out of the picture yet, either. But for the purposes of this argument, I’ll say that Ohio State is the more likely of the two to advance to a playoff. First, Ohio State has a road win against Michigan State, while Nebraska’s best win is a home win against Miami (Fla.). Second -- Ohio State just looks like a team capable of being competitive in a playoff situation right now.
In the past seven games, the Buckeyes are averaging 51.3 points per contest. J.T. Barrett has emerged as a legitimate dual-threat quarterback, pushing the absence of Braxton Miller to the back of people’s minds. Ezekiel Elliott has run for more than 100 yards four times in that seven-game stretch.
The playoff was made for teams like this year’s Ohio State. In previous years, arguments would always be made about teams that had the record, but not necessarily the resume to warrant being a top-two team at the end of the season. But with two more teams having an opportunity this season, that opens the door for a team like the Buckeyes, who had an early loss but can definitely finish strong.
-- Eric Vander Voort, NCAA.com
With just a few weeks left in college football’s inaugural College Football Playoff regular season, only one thing’s clear: We know nothing. Eh, except maybe we know Gus Malzahn's incredible streak of luck at the end of games finally ran out. And Marcus Mariota’s probably the best player in college football. And we’re likely headed to our initial CFP contenders comprised of champions from four different conferences. Okay, so we know a few things.
Another thing we know: The Big Ten will be left at the door, wondering what it did wrong to not deserve our love. (“You never listened to what we wanted and, well, lost too many games.”) Out of the Power 5 conferences, the Big Ten has bottomed out comparatively. A Big Ten conference loss weighs heavier than any other, hurting the Big Ten’s potential CFP candidates.
Here’s how this is going to play out: Between Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss, an SEC West team will represent the SEC’s CFP spot. We thought before a chance existed for two of those four to slide in, but two losses by Auburn and Ole Miss have eliminated that. MSU and Bama play each other Saturday, destroying one of its chances from participating. (Yes, that is acknowledging the Bulldogs only having one loss stacked up to the rest. A November loss can pretty much destroy any CFP hopes for the remaining teams.) (That is, unless Bama beats MSU and then loses to the SEC East contender in the conference championship. Then, the Bulldogs maybe slip back in. Remember how we said we know nothing?)
Meanwhile, TCU or Baylor will serve as the Big 12’s contestant while Oregon and Arizona State contend for the Pac-12’s spot. Florida State has the easiest path for any remaining contender and should represent the ACC. (We realize by saying this, we have all but doomed the Seminoles. We're sorry.)
So what we're saying is this: You can’t sit with us, Big Ten. There's no room left at the College Football Playoff table.
With such ground to make up, what hurts Big Ten hopefuls are their remaining schedules. The two viable candidates, Ohio State and Nebraska, don’t have any ground-shaking games left besides the Big Ten conference championship, where they’ll likely face each other. It won’t be enough. Plus, Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech stings severely -- VT ranks worst in the ACC’s Coastal diversion, a more middling division of football than even the SEC East.
Barring any cataclysmic catastrophe, the Big Ten can’t hang. And considering approximately 3.7 cataclysmic catastrophes have already befallen college football this season, we don’t expect anymore. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers, they’re simply too B1G.
-- Brendan Bures, NCAA.com