The last college football playoff rankings before championship weekend were released Tuesday night, and the results were pretty much as expected.
After falling to #2 Ohio State in Columbus, Michigan fell from #3 last week to #5. This opened the door for Washington to move into the fourth and final spot in the college football playoff. Alabama obviously remained at #1 after remaining undefeated with a win in the Iron Bowl. Ohio State, after a victory over yet another top-ten opponent remained firmly positioned in its #2 spot, and Clemson moved up from #4 to #3. Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State round out the top-10.
For the Big Ten, the latest CFP rankings give the conference at least a shot to get two teams from one conference in the playoff for the first time since it being instituted a few years ago. With the top two spots nearly locks to remain the same, championship weekend will be huge for teams fighting for the final two spots in the college football playoff. Let’s take a look a couple different scenario’s in which the Big Ten could claim at least one of those final two spots.
With Ohio State almost a lock for the playoff after remaining at #2 in the rankings with no more games to play, the Big Ten will have at least one team in the playoff at this point. The conference then has three more teams, in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State, (with the latter two playing for a Big Ten championship) just outside the top four at numbers five, six, and seven respectively.
This is good news for those in Big Ten country, who hope it becomes the first conference to have multiple teams in the playoff. The first scenario that is rather easy to picture is to say the winner of the Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Penn State will be the team that will crack the top four first.
Both teams currently sit at 10-2, and would finish as a two-loss conference champion with a win in the Big Ten title game. In a scenario where both Clemson and Washington were to both become conference champions, it would then be an argument between the winner of the Pac-12 in one-loss Washington, against the winner of the Big Ten championship with two losses. In this scenario, it would benefit the Big Ten to have Penn State beat Wisconsin, who would then have wins over two top-ten teams to rival the soft conference schedule of Washington.
Could a two-loss Big Ten champ beat out a one-loss Pac-12 champ for the final playoff spot? For me, it could. The Big Ten has been far an away the best conference in the country all season, with four teams that could match up with most teams in the country. This could aid a two loss Big Ten championship team in trying to beat out a one-loss Pac-12 champion in Washington. Washington will look to throw in some style points while beating the #8 ranked Colorado to avoid any chance at this happening.
The second scenario where the Big Ten could get two teams in the playoff is Washington dropping the Pac-12 title game to Colorado, which is honestly the most likely scenario of them all. If Washington were to fall and Clemson wins the ACC, the final playoff spot would be up for grabs to teams like Michigan, and the winner of the Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Penn State.
In this case, the committee would be deciding between a Michigan team with two losses, (that on the field clearly looks like a top-four team in the country) and a two loss Big Ten champ that lost to the Wolverines head to head. If Washington loses, and Penn State wins the Big Ten, you would have Penn State as a Big Ten champion fighting for the final playoff spot with a Michigan team that it lost to 49-10 earlier this season.
How could you then put that Penn State team in the playoff over Michigan regardless of a Big Ten Championship? In my eyes you couldn’t, but to many, the question would then be what’s the significance of even winning your conference? With a Washington loss and a Wisconsin win over Penn State, the argument would also be interesting with Wisconsin losing on the road by seven to Michigan. Who’s to say on a neutral field the Badgers couldn’t have beaten the Wolverines? It’s an argument that could go a number of different ways. Regardless, with a Washington loss, the Big Ten will get two teams in the playoff.
The last scenario to discuss as far the Big Ten crashing the college football playoff, is one in which both Clemson and Washington slip in their respective championship games, which would open the door for possibly three Big Ten teams to enter the playoff. In this case, you could conceivably have Michigan, and the winner of the Big Ten join Ohio State and Alabama in the third edition of the college football playoff. As crazy as it sounds, losses by both Clemson as Washington could see this happen. Michigan, who would have beaten its competition for one of those spots in Pac-12 champ Colorado would surely get in. The Big Ten champion would then most likely go head to head with Colorado for that fourth and final spot.
In the end, we could go on and on with these scenario’s of who will and won’t get in the playoff. But my bold prediction is that the Big Ten will get two teams in the playoff, becoming the first conference to do so in the playoff era. A Washington loss to Colorado will open the door for #5 Michigan to sneak in the playoff over the Big Ten champ, as the debate will be a head to head win versus a conference champion, and for me you cannot ignore the fact that Michigan beat both Penn State and Wisconsin. Michigan has showed in the field it is a playoff caliber team, this will bode well for the Wolverines as they stake claim to the fourth and final spot in the college football playoff.