It’s hard to imagine a scenario where ANY conference reaches two teams into the College Football Playoff. But since all preseason jibber-jabber is speculation anyway, why not take a look at how the Big Ten can earn two bids into the newest championship regime.
Follow the miniature scenario to see how the Big Ten locks up a pair of bids in this year’s hunt for the national title.
Early in the year, Michigan State beats Oregon…
A win for the Spartans early in the season against a highly-ranked Oregon team will only validate Michigan State’s top-10 ranking in the AP polls to open up the year.
This would put a quality, non-conference win on Michigan State’s resume early in the season and would set the stage for a November showdown with the Buckeyes for even higher stakes. A win over a perennial power in the Pac-12 would help improve the brand of the Big Ten and keep multiple teams in the thick of the conference and playoff race.
It wouldn’t hurt if the Ducks put together a nice season after the loss, either.
…then, early in conference play Penn State stuns the Buckeyes…
As far-fetched as it may seem, this is a game that Ohio State could lose, given how close these two teams battled last year in Happy Valley.
Even though it would ultimately be more impressive if the Buckeyes went unscathed, history shows us that’s an unlikely path to the title. Let’s say James Franklin outwits Urban Meyer on this given Saturday and the Nittany Lions shock the world in Columbus.
The game comes in mid-October, giving the Buckeyes plenty of time to recuperate for a Big Ten East showdown with the Spartans in late November.
Ohio State couldn’t get blown out by Penn State in this game, which likely would never happen. A loss to a surprisingly good Lion team would set the Buckeyes back a bit and there’d be a tumble in the rankings but they’ll be prepared for a game they desperately need.
…A few weeks later the Buckeyes take down Sparty again….
It would be the first loss for Michigan State and Ohio State would again have the upper hand in the race for the East crown with only a game against rival Michigan remaining.
Michigan State would fall late in the season but a road loss to the defending champions doesn’t look too bad on a polished season. As long as the Spartans take care of Penn State and the Buckeyes continue their win streak over Michigan, both teams would be in good shape.
…At the end of the season Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State all finish 11-1…
Despite an opening-week loss to Alabama, Wisconsin dominated its schedule from start to finish. Granted, the Badgers don’t have the toughest of schedules in 2015, but wins over Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa will look good.
It’ll give the Badgers the Big Ten West title for a second straight year and the Badgers will find themselves in a rematch with Ohio State for the conference championship.
Wisconsin’s 11 wins earns it a top-10 ranking as Big Ten fans prepare for a top-10 rematch in Indianapolis.
Michigan State will wait idly in the final week before bowl season, watching, waiting and hoping that Ohio State throttles the Badgers as it did a season ago and makes that loss a few weeks prior look even more impressive.
…With Ohio State winning the Big Ten Championship and 12-1 record, the Buckeyes punch a ticket to College Football Playoff…
There’s not much to contest. The defending champs, despite a loss, win their conference and get the opportunity to defend their crown.
…And somewhat surprisingly Michigan State is chosen as the fourth and final seed…
It may seem unlikely, but wins over Oregon, Nebraska and Penn State will really standout to the selection committee. With the only loss being at The Horseshoe to the Big Ten champs and no fourth team really establishing itself this fall, the Spartans get their shot at redemption and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
It may not seem legitimate that two, one-loss teams from the same conference reach the playoff but the growing quality and depth of the conference shines through this year and gives both the Buckeyes and the Spartans a chance to win it all.
Regardless of the outcome, the Big Ten is back on the college football.