The Big Ten is trying to make life difficult, really difficult, on the College Football Playoff committee.
Ohio State (11-1), the Big Ten’s only one-loss team, will not be in the Big Ten championship game, but the Buckeyes will likely be in the CFP’s final four.
That, in of itself, is not necessarily a problem. The four best teams, regardless of conference affiliation, should play for the national title.
What is a problem is if Penn State, which already has a head-to-head win over Ohio State (hence the Buckeyes’ absence from the conference title game), wins the Big Ten title and then is passed over for the national playoff by … Ohio State.
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That wouldn’t make a lot of sense and there’s bound to be a lot of unhappy people, either way.
Penn State (10-2) has one more loss than Ohio State (42-39 at Pitt on Sept. 10 and 49-10 at Michigan on Sept. 24) but is that enough to justify leaving the Nittany Lions out if they have a head-to-head win and the Big Ten title?
And Ohio State, which was ranked No. 2 this week in the CFP, has wins over the No. 3 (Michigan), No. 6 (Wisconsin), No. 8 (Oklahoma) and No. 16 (Nebraska) teams. Not even undisputed No. 1 Alabama can top that resume.
Wisconsin, of all teams, could save the CFP from this specific dilemma and create another. The Badgers (10-2) face Penn State in the Big Ten title game on Saturday. If they win, the comparison between Ohio State and Wisconsin becomes a little easier. The Buckeyes beat the Badgers, 30-23 in Madison on Oct. 15.
The problem if Wisconsin wins is more political. Barry Alvarez, the athletic director at Wisconsin, is widely considered to be the strongest personality in the CFP room, along with former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne.
Will the committee take a two-loss Wisconsin over a one-loss champion from the Pac-12, potentially Washington? The Huskies are No. 5 in the latest rankings and beat No. 23 Washington State last week and play No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 title game this week.
Maybe Colorado will help the committee or Virginia Tech could, too. Who knows what the committee will do, but the Big Ten is making them work and certainly putting the 3-year-old system to the test.
A weekly review of who’s trending:
↑ N.C. State: The Wolfpack went from almost to at last with its 28-21 upset of North Carolina on Friday. After so many close calls, and tough losses, it was good to see a reward for the players and coaches.
↑ Pitt-Syracuse offenses: The two teams combined for 20 touchdowns (20!) and 1,312 yards in the highest-scoring regulation game in FBS history, a 76-61 Pittsburgh win. The Panthers had more points than offensive plays (59).
↓ Louisville: What in the world happened to Louisville’s defense? The Cardinals gave up 41 points to rival Kentucky, a week after giving up 36 to Houston. Those two nonconference losses are difficult to reconcile given the way the Cardinals started the season and ran roughshod through the ACC.
↓ Pitt-Syracuse defenses: And all that offense means there was absolutely no one playing any defense at any point in this game. For a defensive-minded coach like Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, that’s not easy to take.
“I’ve never been in a game like that,” Narduzzi, the winning coach said. “I don’t ever want to be in a game like that again.”