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Ohio State and Michigan State Could Both Make College Football Playoff in 2015


There is a lot of moving and shaking happening in the Big Ten these days.

On the field, this league has taken a lot of flack over the years (particularly from the South) about how slow the game is played in the Midwest.

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Off the field, Jim Delany has been a brilliant puppeteer of conference expansion and television revenue, making his league the most profitable and stable of any of the Power 5 leagues with quick and decisive action. Penn State and Michigan have made huge, splashy coaching hires that should allow the former college football giants to regain their past stature.

However, the play of the Big Ten on the field is beginning to match its performance off of it.

Ohio State and Urban Meyer got the maligned Big Ten back to the top of the college football mountain by first knocking off hated SEC king Alabama and then crushing Heisman Trophy-led, Pac-12 champion Oregon. 

The Buckeyes enter the season ranked No. 1 in the nation with arguably the best roster and path back to the College Football Playoff. 

Related: Complete 2015 Big Ten Football Preview and Predictions

But the rest of this league is what will make 2015 so interesting. In fact, the Big Ten could be in as good a position as any league to get a second team into the Playoff.

Michigan State is that team.

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Mark Dantonio has some holes to plug at Michigan State, particularly with right-hand man Pat Narduzzi taking the head coaching job at Pitt. But this team comes in at No. 7 in the preseason rankings for a reason and could easily slip into the Playoff despite a potential road loss to Ohio State.

Connor Cook is an All-American candidate at quarterback who will be playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas set the edge for what is always one of the most imposing defensive fronts in the nation. Dantonio's squad is loaded again and will be the top challenger to Ohio State in the East Division.

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The schedule, though, is what really allows Michigan State to sneak into the Playoff conversation — even with a loss and no division title.

Beating Oregon at home in Week 2 changes the entire complexion of finishing second in the Big Ten East. The Ducks are picked by most to win the Pac-12 North and play in the Pac-12 championship game. Winning the second-best league in America puts Oregon squarely in the Playoff conversation.

Would a one-loss Ducks team get the nod over a one-loss Michigan State team that beat them head-to-head? That's really hard to fathom. Certainly, a two-loss Oregon team wouldn't, right?

The rest of the Spartans' schedule features enough quality games to bolster their Playoff resume as well. Road trips to Nebraska and Michigan will be tough challenges and two quality wins away from East Lansing – something the Committee will have to respect. Home wins over Penn State and Maryland will look solid as well.

With one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten and a marquee non-conference showdown against a fellow Playoff contender, Michigan State could easily find itself in the postseason conversation even with a loss to Ohio State.

If Michigan State beats the Buckeyes in Columbus on Nov. 21, this entire concept is thrown out the window and the Spartans become not only a lock to make the Playoff but a serious threat to win the national championship.

Of course, Michigan State may have to beat Ohio State again during the four-team tournament to clinch their first national title in over 50 years.