Big 10 Remains Wide Open

There are only three games left in NCAA Football, which means everything is on the line here for a lot of teams across the conferences. The same is to be said for the Big 10, which has received a lot of attention this season for its domineering rosters and very athletic programs. Some people argue that the Big 10 may be the most competitive power conference in college football, but SEC fans like to politely point out that Georgia and Alabama are forces to be reckoned with. That’s not to say that the Big 10 isn’t competitive, having six teams being ranked in the Top 25 (the most out of any conference). The competition however seems a bit one sided getting ready for the conference championship.

Wisconsin should be an easy shoe-in making it to the conference title game. The only team that is undefeated among the Big 10, along with one of five teams who remain undefeated in the entire country.  What makes it easier for them is Wisconsin is in the Big 10 West, where the second best team is Northwestern (6-3), a team who Wisconsin already has defeated. Iowa (6-3) is in third, but makes this coming up Saturday very interesting as they have taken down the mighty Ohio State, and now prepare themselves for the undefeated Wisconsin. A good argument could be made that Iowa is really the second best team in the Big 10 West, and we’ll find out after this coming week how good Wisconsin really is. Defeating Iowa should only gain more respect in the polls for Wisconsin, who are ranked #6 in the country right now, despite being below three 8-1 teams having an untarnished record. The reason behind this? Wisconsin has had a pretty easy schedule this year. Up until this point, Wisconsin’s hardest opponent on paper would have been a heavily criticized Michigan team. That is, until Iowa decided to make a name for themselves now. Getting wins against Iowa and Michigan may change a few votes for Wisconsin, but either way the committee has to be looking more in the direction of the Big 10 East right now.

It should be no secret that the playoff committee loves Ohio State. Urban Meyer is the second most respected coach right after Nick Saban, and it seems as though every year half of the Ohio State roster gets drafted by the NFL. It was shown last year when Penn State won the Big 10 Championship and Ohio State still made the playoffs. Between Ohio State and Penn State alone it looked as though the the Big 10 East was going to be a brutal battle getting to the top. Plus add Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines in to the mix and it’s a recipe for upsets and great football. While these three teams have been in the spotlight (all with tied records at 7-2), Michigan State has quietly climbed past them all and currently holds the top spot in the East. This Saturday Michigan State faces off against Ohio State, in a game that could determine the outcome of which makes the Big 10 Conference Championship. Meanwhile, Penn State and Michigan are trying to win out the rest of their season in order to have a chance towards the conference game. Michigan has the toughest schedule ahead of them. Maryland is next, followed by Wisconsin, and then Ohio State. Especially after losing to Michigan State earlier this year, Michigan looks doomed at the moment, but will still make a bowl game. Penn State has a cake walk the rest of the year with their future opponents being Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland. Penn State has to have their fingers crossed with a lucky rabbit’s foot in hopes that Michigan State can upset Ohio State and then lose a following match up in the next two games to follow that. It’s a long shot, but they still have a chance of making it to the championship.

As it currently stands the playoff picture looks to be Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Within the next three weeks the teams officially in will be subject to change, depending on how everything plays out. Even teams that look like they don’t stand a chance still have a shot at the playoffs. Ohio State was ranked #14 in the playoff polls when they upset Alabama in the BCS Championship game. The odds are against any teams in the PAC 12 on making the playoffs this year. Clemson should have an easy invite, but that could all be changed depending on how the ACC Conference Championship goes against the Miami Hurricanes. Alabama and Georgia look pretty locked in their spots as well, unless somehow one of those teams gets majorly upset by an unranked team in next few weeks. That leaves Notre Dame and a good handful of teams in the Big 10 all fighting for one playoff spot. Notre Dame has been impressive this year — their one loss came from Georgia in an absolute heartbreak. They are also the only team that have come remotely close of taking down the mighty Georgia program.

Hypothetically, is Notre Dame more impressive than a 12-0 Wisconsin team who also wins the Big 10 Conference? Would they be more impressive than a sleek and subtle Michigan State team who takes down Urban Meyer’s Ohio State and also wins the Big 10? Or how about the Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield and his impressive Oklahoma team over in the Big 12? These are questions that will all need to be addressed in the next few weeks, and it makes the playoff hunt that more exciting to watch for college football this year.

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