The Big Ten already has losses to the Pac-12 (twice), SEC, ACC and Notre Dame — not to mention two losses to the MAC.
Many, including myself, are writing the Big Ten off as a playoff contender. It’s not that there won’t be some good teams in the league but more that so many things would have to fall into place for a Big Ten team to get into the four-team tournament.
Here is what would have to happen for the Big Ten to reach the postseason:
1. Either Nebraska goes unbeaten or a one-loss Michigan State or Ohio State wins the Big Ten. First and foremost, this has to happen above all else. It’s possible an unbeaten Penn State or Maryland could face an unbeaten Iowa but those schedules and rosters aren’t good enough to earn a playoff spot. No, the Big Ten champ would have to be a 13-0 Cornhuskers team with wins over Michigan State, Miami, Wisconsin and Iowa or a 12-1 East Division squad with two wins over an otherwise unbeaten Nebraska as well as Ohio State/Michigan State, Penn State and Maryland.
2. Notre Dame and BYU need to lose somewhere along the way. The margin for error in the Big Ten is minuscule and a perfect Irish (definitely) or Cougars (maybe) squad might get the nod over a one-loss Big Ten champ.
3. Jameis Winston gets suspended by Florida State due to a Title IX investigation. The Noles — two years too late — have finally opened a Title IX investigation into the Winston sexual assault investigation. Should any complications arise, Winston could easily find himself suspended and standing on the sidelines. That would give Clemson, Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida or the ACC Coastal Division champion a shot at knocking FSU from the ranks of the unbeatens. Winston would have to miss significant time because Florida State would have to lose twice.
4. A multiple-loss team from the state of Mississippi has to win the SEC. Should Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Mizzou or South Carolina win the SEC with two losses, that champion is still going to get the nod into the playoffs over a one-loss Big Ten champ. But a two- or three-loss champion that isn’t a traditional power — Ole Miss, Mississippi State — might not have the same clout as a one-loss Big Ten champ. A two-loss Rebels team would likely still earn a bid over the Big Ten but since the Bulldogs don’t play anyone in the non-conference and crossover play is with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the B1G needs Hail State to win the SEC.
5. Stanford beats Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. UCLA beats USC and Oregon. Arizona State beats UCLA and Stanford. Arizona beats Arizona State. Most importantly out West, however, Oregon has to lose three times. So in addition to losing to UCLA and Stanford, Oregon would also have to lose again — likely at Oregon State. The schedules in the Pac-12 are nasty but a two-loss champ is a must for the Big Ten to get into the playoff. Unless that champ is Oregon, in which case, it likely has to lose three times.
6. Bryce Petty never returns to the field and Trevor Knight misses significant time with an injury. Petty didn’t play in Week 2 and Knight was constantly banged up a year ago. Baylor and Oklahoma are the clear-cut title contenders in the Big 12 and the only way one of those two doesn’t win the crown with one or fewer losses will be the loss of a star QB for an extended period of time.
By this point, the words running through your head right now should be “yeah, right.” That is the point of this exercise. The Big Ten is a solid league with some great coaches and solid teams but a lot of unlikely things have to happen for its champion to earn a spot in the playoff.
All hope is not lost, however. The Big Ten has a better shot at the playoff than the best team from the American Athletic Conference. So there's that.