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Austin R. Vaughn | NCAA.com | November 29, 2015

Big Ten Championship is basically a quarterfinal

  The No. 4 Hawkeyes and the No. 5 Spartans will play for the Big Ten Championship and a playoff bid.

We've been thinking about this scenario since at least Week 7.

Whoever wins the Big Ten will punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff. But, as college football likes to remind us week in and week out, anything is possible.

Sure, we could've safely assumed that Iowa would wrap up the West and remain undefeated and whichever member of the East's "big three" took the division would be in a good spot to lock up a playoff bid with a win in Indianapolis. Still, we couldn't be sure.

Now, less than a week away from Championship Saturday, noone is surprised, but that certainly doesn't mean we're not excited.

RELATED: Poll Position: Don't overlook the Iowa Hawkeyes

The Big Ten Championship is shaping up to be a classic. The undefeated -- and for most of the season, unrespected -- Iowa Hawkeyes taking on the one-loss, resurgent Michigan State Spartans for the conference crown and a College Football Playoff berth.

The Hawkeyes have a tough, -- dare I say it -- ball-hawking defense and an offense that scores just enough to win. And, the Spartans continue to prove they're a quality all-around football team, capable of notching big wins over tough competition and lighting up the scoreboard.

But, really, none of that will matter next Saturday in Indianapolis.

These teams are hungry.

RELATED: Poll Position: Michigan State pops back into playoff picture

To win this heavyweight bout, the champions must play beyond their abilities. And, that's what is so great about college football. That's where the miracles come in. When the emotion and momentum ignite a player or team's passion to push them to do greater things than they normally could, that's when college football really shines.

And, that's how the Big Ten will be won -- and the playoff reached.

What's even better is, no matter who the victor is, they'll have to pump themselves up again for New Years Eve.

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