Is the Big Ten finally headed toward a College Football Playoff shutout?

Gregory Eng

After another crazy week of college football, the rankings were shaken up once again. There aren’t many big name teams from the Big Ten in the top 10, and at this point nobody is expected to earn one of the four berths in the College Football Playoffs (largely because most would favor Ohio State in a potential conference title game against Wisconsin). This leads to larger existential questions about the conference. With the Big Ten regarded as possibly the best league in the nation, is it a problem that no teams reach the CFP? After taking a look at their situation, here’s why that assumption is wrong. It’s not a matter of if the system is flawed, but the matter of it simply being a bad time to be a fan of the Big Ten.

For starters, the assumption that the Big Ten is expected to be left out of the College Football Playoff is simple paranoia. Let's start with the obvious: Wisconsin is a Big Ten team that is undefeated sitting at the number five spot. Ohio State is lower at number eight but has time to make up that ground. Speaking on Wisconsin’s behalf, do you really think the football committee will keep out an undefeated team from the Big Ten? Or even a two-loss Ohio State team that blows out the rest of its opponents?

Even if the committee pegged decision off team rankings, that could change significantly in the next three weeks as well. Since Week 9, eight teams that were ranked in the Top 10 have lost. There's no reason to believe that will stop now. Additionally, Also many of these teams in the Top 10 will face off against each other in conference championship games. Miami and Clemson will play each other, Alabama will face rising Auburn and then likely Georgia, Oklahoma might have a tough rematch against Oklahoma State and Wisconsin could be vulnerable to Ohio State or another cross-conference contender. One team has to lose in each of those match ups, which could create opportunities for each squad sitting just below.

Then there is the Football Power Index, or FPI, which is designed to predict a team's strength for the remainder of the season. Where does Ohio State currently sit on that list? At number two, just behind Alabama. By comparison, undefeated Wisconsin comes in at number 10 and fellow unbeaten and surging squad Miami is only ranked No. 12 in FPI. 

So, you're worried about the Big Ten not being in the playoffs? Take a deep breath. Remember: teams in the top 10 in rankings don’t usually stay there long and a bunch of these teams will face off at one point in the next three weeks. Now that conference slates in the SEC and ACC will catch up to the Big Ten in their degree of difficulty, the rankings should be headed toward another massive shakeup, and that should position the Big Ten just fine. 

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