Point: The Big Ten does not deserve two teams in the CFP
Editors update: Washington defeated Colorado 41-10 on Friday night to lock up the Pac-12 and seemingly, a spot in the College Football Playoff.
With the final week of the regular season looming, the discussion around which teams deserve selection into the college football playoff has been prevalent for a few months now. In only the third season for the playoff, this is the first time so many teams are in contention for the last couple of spots entering the final week. With that being said, I am here to argue the point that the Big 10 conference should not have two teams selected into the playoff.
So far, we have two teams that are assuredly locked into the playoff with No. 1 Alabama (12-0), the SEC West Champion and reigning national champion; and No. 2 Ohio State (11-1) which is coming off of a decent overtime win against then-No. 3 Michigan.
Now in this past week’s CFP rankings, the committee rounded out the top four with ACC Atlantic division champion Clemson (11-1) at No. 3, and Pac 12 North champion Washington (11-1) sitting in the final spot.
If both teams win their conference championships, they are almost certainly locked into the playoff, but if No. 8 Colorado finds a way to upset UW on Friday night, or if Virginia Tech finds some of that fighting Frank Beamer spirit against the Tigers, then this is where it gets tricky.
Sitting at spots 5-7 in the latest rankings are three Big Ten teams, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State, and that’s what I have a problem with. Each team enters this week 10-2 with Michigan holding victories against PSU and Wisconsin. However, Wisconsin and PSU face off in the Big Ten Championship after the Nittany Lions upset Ohio State on Oct. 22.
After losses to Iowa and Ohio State, Michigan is virtually out of contention for the playoff unless everyone around them loses. Penn State has only one “quality” win on the season against Ohio State but has also suffered an unimpressive loss to a Pittsburgh team that is 8-4, along with a 49-10 drubbing against Michigan in “The Big House.”
On the other hand, Wisconsin enters this game with no quality wins, outside of a non-conference matchup against an LSU team that has underperformed this season. Granted the Badgers have narrow losses to both Michigan and Ohio State, but those were their only major tests and they didn’t pass.
I will concede that the Big Ten teams did challenge themselves a bit out of conference with the Buckeyes winning an easy game against Oklahoma in Norman and Michigan picking up a victory against Colorado. Overall, they have beaten up on one another more than anything, and in watching these teams play in the past few weeks, it has been quite unimpressive.
Just remember Michigan State and Iowa last year playing in two New Year’s Six games. Michigan State, which won the conference title, was embarrassed in the playoff against Bama; and Iowa should have stayed home instead of taking on Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
In the end, if push comes to shove, I just think if Washington or Clemson lose, the committee should take a solid look at the other teams in the top 10 such as Oklahoma State and maybe even Oklahoma. I understand some of this has to do with money and which fan base will travel better, but at the end of the day, you want good competition in your marquee games, and I don’t see that happening with two Big Ten teams in the playoff.
Counterpoint: Big Ten deserves two teams in the CFP
As the 2016 college football regular season winds down to an end, there are a handful of teams in the discussion for the final two spots of the College Football Playoff. No. 1 Alabama (12-0) and No. 2 Ohio State (11-1) are presumably locked in to the top two spots, but the question of which teams will receive the final two spots is still unanswered. The ACC Atlantic champion Clemson (11-1) occupies the No. 3 spot while Washington (11-1) holds down the No. 4 spot.
Both teams will play in their conference championships respectively. No. 3 Clemson has a matchup against No. 23 Virginia Tech (9-3) and Washington takes on No. 8 Colorado (10-2). If both win, it’s possible that the top four will not change. But with many different possible outcomes for this weekend, I will make a case for why the Big Ten deserves to have two teams in the Final Four.
#5 Michigan (10-2):
Michigan finds itself in a sticky situation. After an upset loss on the road to Iowa and an OT loss in Columbus to the Buckeyes, the Wolverines find themselves counting on “the eye test”. The Ohio State, Michigan game was one of the best games I have seen all year, and competitive games such as that are exactly what the CFP Committee is looking for. Does a two-loss Michigan, which does not play another game, get in over the eventual Big Ten Champion, Wisconsin or Penn State? I don’t know, but I sure hope so, and the rest of America should too. The Wolverines are a top four team in the country and they exemplified this in their near win against Ohio State. If Clemson or Washington goes down, the committee should seriously consider Michigan. If the committee can look past Michigan’s loss to unranked Iowa, it is a better team than Wisconsin or Penn State. A potential Ohio State, Michigan rematch should have the committee drooling.
#6 Wisconsin (10-2), Big Ten West Champs/#7 Penn State (10-2), Big Ten East Champs:
The winner of the Big Ten Championship game has a compelling argument for claiming the fourth and final spot in the CFP. In what will likely be a defensive battle, in which I feel Wisconsin has the edge, these two teams have one last chance to prove to the CFP committee they are truly better than Michigan. It is also possible the committee will value the prestige of the Big Ten Championship enough for that alone to be a reason to jump the Wolverines.
The Big Ten has had its fair share of parity; the Big Ten has been the most competitive conference from top to bottom all season long. I believe Michigan is the second best team in the Big Ten, conference champs or not. Ultimately, fair arguments can be made for four teams for the final two spots: Clemson, Washington, Michigan and the winner of the Big Ten Championship between Wisconsin and Penn State.
It certainly will be exciting to see how it all unravels this weekend and I can’t wait to sit back and enjoy an excellent weekend of college football.