The prospect of seeing two teams from the same conference compete in college football playoffs has become similar to what the Triple Crown was for horse racing – an endless source of hype and speculation that rarely pays off.
It’s really hard to get out of it. This rarely happens. And when it does, the result was epic – Alabama’s moving overtime victory over Georgia in the 2018 national title game is still talking about her.
Expect more of the same over the next few weeks. Alabama and Georgia will once again be popular CFP picks among the SEC, and ESPN analyst Heather Dinich has boldly suggested that both Iowa State and Oklahoma could emerge from the Big 12. But no one Don’t talk about the Big Ten as a two-candidate league, and they should be.
Ohio State and Wisconsin head to Piscataway this fall – the Buckeyes will face Rutgers at SHI Stadium on October 2, the Badgers will come a month later on November 6. The teams are also the big favorites in the preseason to reach the Big Ten Championship Game. And if you dig deep into their schedules, another similarity becomes apparent – both may have a chance to enter CFP even without a conference title.
Here’s why it can happen:
Branded non-conference games. Ohio State-Oregon and Wisconsin-Notre Dame are perfect matches for the CFP era. The winning team gets a huge boost while the losing team is behind the eight ball, but still has the ability to catch up and stay in the race. The Big Ten need the Buckeyes to win for perception reasons, but a Badgers win over the Fighting Irish would likely have a bigger impact on the conference from a PSC perspective. Wisconsin will also play Army this fall – another victory that will look good on a resume.
No regular season game. The Badgers and Buckeyes miss each other during the Big Ten’s cross-rotation this fall. This means that there is a much better chance that the two will make it to Indianapolis undefeated, or at least undefeated in the league. The state of Ohio should go through its list of conferences. Wisconsin has a more complicated schedule, but their toughest championship game (Iowa) is at home.
The final game. The Big Ten dream? Ohio State and Wisconsin are a 24-0 combined going into the conference title game and are playing a classic. It would be difficult to keep the loser out of the CFP in this situation, although it certainly could happen. But if that doesn’t happen, the conference needs the state of Ohio to be undefeated.
The CFP would probably be much more inclined to overlook a one- or two-game losing Wisconsin who finishes second in the conference, even if their loss (s) are very good. But what if Wisconsin topples the unbeaten Buckeyes in the title game? Chances are, the state of Ohio will have a little more leeway in the deliberations.
The other conferences would also have their say. But if the Big 12 champion has one (or even two) loss and the Pac-12 champion is not undefeated, the Big Ten could easily land a second place as long as the SEC doesn’t have a serious second contender. .
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James Kratch can be contacted at [email protected].