The Curious Case of the Big Ten

Story posted November 25, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Joe Esquivel-Murphy

As the fall days are turning ever so quickly into winter, the same is true about the upcoming College Football Playoff. As the regular season in college football winds down, the debate for which teams should be in the college football playoff becomes more heated.

One team for sure that will be in the playoff is the Alabama Crimson Tide as they are the nation’s only undefeated team in a Power 5 conference. Throughout the season, Alabama has been completely dominant and have all about guaranteed the top spot in the playoff for the second time in three years.

Things get interesting after the top spot as rivals Ohio State and Michigan immediately follow Alabama at two and three. The spots did not change from the week before and the meeting sets up a winner take all game.

While no one is going to say the loser of the game is not good enough to make the playoff, the game does eliminate the loser because the committee will not place a two-loss at large team into the playoff no matter how good they are. The game is a major factor in deciding the Big Ten East as Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State all have shots of winning the division.

Michigan needs the least amount of help to win the Big Ten East as they have to beat Ohio State, something they have only done twice since 2001. Ohio State would need Penn State to lose if they beat Michigan.

The placement of the Big Ten teams in the College Football Playoff raises the question can Ohio State make it with Penn State winning the Big Ten East. At the current point, the committee does not factor the Nittany Lions’ head-to-head victory, which is troublesome for Penn State.

If the Buckeyes were to beat Michigan on Saturday, they would claim three wins over teams in the top 10, something that no other team in consideration would have. The lack of a Big Ten championship would hurt their stock, but the Buckeyes could have the resume wins that push them in over Penn State.

Wisconsin and Penn State sit in sixth and seventh in the playoff rankings respectively, behind the three teams mentioned above, Clemson and Washington. The easiest path for either team is for them to win their games over the weekend and face off against each other in the Big Ten championship.

The Wisconsin Badgers have played well consistently throughout the season, losing close games to Michigan and Ohio State. They don’t have a signature win as their victory over LSU has lost luster as the season progresses.

Penn State, on the other hand, took down the Ohio State Buckeyes as part of their seven game winning streak. The problem for the Nittany Lions is their 39-point loss to the Wolverines, giving the committee some doubt about putting them in the playoff.

Each of these two teams have some flaws on their resume, but winning the Big Ten championship would go a long way in the eyes of the Playoff committee.


Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email