If the Big Ten doesn’t want to require a minimum number of games, the College Football Playoff committee should.
Nothing about the 2020 college football season or College Football Playoff discussion has been normal, but the Big Ten deciding to do away with its self-imposed six-game minimum to qualify for its conference championship game smacks of desperation by a conference that has found new ways to embarrass itself this year.
We get it. It’s not a typical year. We’ve already had over 125 FBS football games canceled this season as well as 11 bowl games (with more probably coming) that have bowed out. Notre Dame even joined a conference just so they could have a season at all.
There have been teams who played “home” games in away venues, and teams who took the time and expense to travel for games only to have them canceled at the last minute.
None of this is normal. Not one bit of it.
The College Football Playoff is different, however. The mini-tournament which decides our national champion should have some minimum requirements in terms of the number of games played just to keep a level playing field for all involved.
If the Big Ten — and more specifically, Ohio State — is shut out of the College Football Playoff (which they probably should be) they have no one to blame but their own commissioner, who put the conference and its members in an impossible situation.
The Big Ten football season was first canceled by commissioner Kevin Warren, who then was forced to backtrack amid player, parent, and fan outrage. However, in doing so, Warren painted his conference into a corner.
An eight-game conference-only schedule starting in late October, and requiring six games played minimum to qualify for the conference title game gave the schools little wiggle room should cancelations have to occur.
Which they did.
Big Ten football powerhouse Ohio State has played five games, with their biggest rivalry game against Michigan being canceled. While the lack of games played is no fault of the Buckeyes, the fact remains that they fell below that number.
That is, until December 9, when the Big Ten decided that five games was enough.
So Kevin Warren and the other conference powers didn’t want to see their cash cow locked out of their own conference championship game, despite the fact that 6-1 Indiana, one of the surprise teams of this season, had played enough games to qualify.
Yes, their only loss was a close one to Ohio State, but the fact remains that they met the original requirement until the rules were changed on them.
With the Big Ten showing no guts in being able to keep some integrity within their conference, the onus now falls upon the College Football Playoff committee to do the right thing and set a minimum number of games played to be considered for the final four teams.
The SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all had the foresight to plan in advance and have contingencies and/or scheduling flexibility to ensure their teams played as close to a full season as possible. The Big Ten did not, and they should not be rewarded for their lack of vision and indecisiveness.
Yes, the Buckeyes could lose to Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, and all of this would then be a pointless argument. But the fact remains that the Big Ten is showing its dysfunction once again, and is trying to snowplow a path for Ohio State to the playoff.
It’s certain that if the committee does impose a minimum number of games that locks out the Buckeyes, the “us against the world” mentality of Ohio State will scream collusion and unfairness in how they’re being treated.
Eight games. That should be the minimum requirement to be in the College Football Playoff. Fair or unfair to Ohio State or anyone else, it’s the only way to be certain that none of the teams involved have an unfair advantage over any others.
If Ohio State thinks that’s unfair, perhaps they should ask Auburn or Georgia if the BCS was fair.
Or ask any college football fan if the Bowl Coalition was fair.
Or look back at their own luck as playoff entrants over their own conference champion just a few short years ago.
A possible 6-0 Ohio State doesn’t deserve to be in the playoff. If you want to talk deserving, how about Coastal Carolina, who has managed to not only navigate through an impossible season, but has done it without losing a game and provided some big upsets along the way.
The Big Ten changed the rules and moved the goalposts. The College Football Playoff committee should make sure a cowardly move by one of the Power-5 conferences doesn’t disrupt the integrity of the postseason.