It's A B1G World After All
Oh what a circus, oh what a show.
Ohio State got their revenge against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. 366 days in the making, Cardale Jones' and J.T. Barrett's talents were on full display, and Braxton Miller returned after much anticipation.
Why not start your morning off watching Braxton Miller spin his way to a 53 yard TD at Virginia Tech 😳 pic.twitter.com/LvrBKiceYf— The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) September 14, 2015
The week after Ohio State rolled into VT's Lane Stadium and walked away with a 42-24 victory, it was Michigan State's turn to seek revenge against Oregon. East Lansing, long in the shadow of Ann Arbor and Columbus, was the site of a colossal victory against the Ducks.
For once, everything seems to be going the Big Ten's way. The Buckeyes are the top team in the country, while the Spartans are a playoff contender.
From the look of their two games against Virginia Tech and Hawaii, Ohio State had all the momentum in the world to find a way back into the playoffs. However, after a too-close-for-comfort win against the Northern Illinois Huskies, the offense showed that it might be the weakest link on the reigning national champions.
Jones went 4-for-9, racked up two interceptions, and completed a grand total of 36 yards. Barrett was slightly better, throwing a touchdown in an 11-for-19 afternoon – he also threw an interception. A win is a win, I will give the Buckeyes that. However, the expectations, warranted or unwarranted, have been set extremely high. If Ohio State keeps playing the way they do, they could reach Florida State territory: run the table during the regular season, and drop in the playoff ranking.
Michigan State controlled Air Force in a 35-21 win. Quarterback Connor Cook went off for a four touchdown affair, and threw for 247 yards. Cook's passing totals were more than both Buckeye quarterbacks, combined.
And then came the AP Poll.
Ohio State stayed at the top at number 1. Michigan State? Number 2. With both these teams on a collision course, the stories write themselves.
Will Ohio State make it to their Nov.21 meeting undefeated? What if they both end up undefeated heading into the game? Does the loser get eliminated from the playoffs?
If you're a Big Ten fan, this talk is amazing! For the first time since 2006, the Big Ten has the potential for a No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in November. In the BCS Era, the football gods (a.k.a the computers) would frown upon the loser of the potential No. 1 Ohio State-No. 2 Michigan State matchup, eliminating the loser from the title game. If this game would've happened in early October, it might be a different story.
However, we live in the land of a playoff – with a real life playoff committee. We saw last year that 1) they value growth as the season goes on 2) a conference champion and 3) they want the best four teams to play.
Point number 2 has the ability to change on a case-by-case basis, though. Would a two-loss conference champion supersede a one-loss non-champion? The Pac-12 has Stanford, USC and Oregon sitting on losses. After this week, UCLA or Arizona will have one, too. We aren't even into October yet.
Could a two-loss USC team that won the PAC-12 beat out a one-loss Michigan State team for a playoff birth?
If the committee are looking to answer this question, they just need to revisit recent history:
Alabama got their rematch with LSU in the 2012 National Championship Game, but people had their jimmies rustled because 1) Alabama didn't even win their division, let alone their conference and 2) Oklahoma State got robbed of a shot at a national championship.
It's the rematch that shouldn't have happened, but it has set precedent.
Then go back to 2006, when No. 1 Ohio State held off No. 2 Michigan in The Shoe for a thrilling 42-39 victory in the final week of the regular season. When the new polls came out right after the game, some still had Michigan at No. 2. After the SEC title game, though, Florida jumped Michigan and faced Ohio State in the championship game, where they chomped Brutus and the Buckeyes, 41-14. The Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl, and the program hasn't been the same since.
Staying on the historical theme: two years ago, Michigan State beat Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship. That loss shut the Buckeyes out of a National Championship game at the Rose Bowl, and, ironically, sent the Spartans to the Rose Bowl game against Stanford.
Last year, Ohio State put the nail into the 'Michigan State Playoff Coffin' with a win in East Lansing. Sparty also collected a permanent spot as the No. 2 within the Big Ten East. When all was said and done, the Buckeyes hoisted the national championship in Dallas, while the Spartans celebrated a Cotton Bowl win in the same stadium.
These teams have woven themselves into each other's postseason lives. Now, to complete the circle, a playoff rematch will be exactly what a Big Ten fanatic's dreams are made of – and a nightmare to all the other Power 5 conferences that might get shutout.
Postseason rematches almost never happen. The Alabama-LSU case might be the only time in the modern era where a rematch happened for a national championship, but it has set a precedent. Would the committee allow it to happen again? If the Buckeyes and Spartans both find themselves in the playoffs, you can bet that the field goes from four to eight within a matter of years.
And that might not be a bad thing.