How Nebraska and Arkansas Changed the 2015 College Football Season

Two upsets with crazy finishes altered the road to the College Football Playoff.

As it stood, Ole Miss and Michigan State both controlled their own destiny. All they had to do was win out and their regular season would end with trips in their respective conference championship games. Nothing anyone else did mattered. Additionally, if Ole Miss would have gone on to win the SEC championship, it likely would have meant that the SEC would be shut out of the College Football Playoff. A Michigan State win in the Big Ten Championship Game would have punched the Spartans' ticket to the Playoff.

 

Following a no-look, over-the-shoulder lateral, an untimely facemask penalty and the controversial decision that a wide receiver was forced out of bounds, the 2015 college football season now has more questions following Week 10 than it did before the weekend began.

 

Related: 20 Must-See Moments from College Football's Week 10 Games

 

Arkansas' and Nebraska's upset wins set off a butterfly effect of sorts, opening the door for new — and in some cases exciting — scenarios we weren't really thinking about moving forward.

 

Instead of Ole Miss controlling its own destiny in the SEC West, that luxury now belongs to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama's win over LSU was always going to keep them in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings. An Ole Miss loss, however, cleared the path for the Tide to get to the SEC Championship Game against Florida with only one loss. Should Alabama or a one-loss Florida win that game, the idea of an SEC-free Playoff would almost certainly die.

 

Related: Your Guide to Rooting for an SEC-Free College Football Playoff

Thanks to Nebraska's upset of Michigan State, the possibility of a Big Ten-free Playoff became more of a possibility. Before Saturday, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa all controlled their own destiny via their perfect records. Now, however, Michigan State can only control whether or not they get to the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans will need to win out, and that would include a victory on the road over Ohio State. Should Michigan State do so, it would almost certainly play Iowa. Had both teams been undefeated, the winner would have all but punched a ticket to the College Football Playoff.

Now, Ohio State is the last unbeaten in the B1G East. The problem is, the Buckeyes still have games with Michigan State and Michigan on the schedules — neither of which is a gimme. A win over Michigan State and a loss to Michigan would send the Wolverines to Indianapolis — which could mean a battle of two quarterbacks who were both on Iowa's roster a year ago. Should Michigan win that game over Iowa, there's no way the Big Ten gets a team into the Playoff. The Big Ten's best hope would be an unbeaten Iowa winning the Big Ten title.

 

Before we pencil an unbeaten Iowa into the Big Ten Championship Game, remember, the Hawkeyes travel to Lincoln, Neb., on Black Friday. Before this last weekend, that looked like it would be a game between an unbeaten title contender and a team looking to get to five wins — trying to salvage its season by winning a manufactured rivalry trophy. Now, however, there is a very real possibility that Nebraska could be playing for a two-for-one deal: spoil Iowa's season while simultaneously becoming bowl eligible.

 

So while much of the conversation this week will center around the specific finishes of the two upsets, it's the meaning of those two outcomes that will likely be the bigger story as the 2015 season marches on.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

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