The Monday After: The Big Ten needs to put Ohio State in its conference title game for its own good

Ohio State is a playoff team. It has been the entire season, even if an entire season in the Big Ten hasn’t felt like an entire season. While many people needed to see Ohio State smother Michigan State without several key starters and coaches to be convinced, I’ve felt this way for a while.

I don’t need to see Ohio State play a minimum of five games before I can decide if it’s better than other College Football Playoff contenders.

I’ve also been convinced that while plenty have debated about how many games the Buckeyes need to play this season to be selected for the playoff, that it’s never been a legitimate problem. As long as Ohio State didn’t have its season shut down by COVID-19, I’ve felt it will be one of the four teams chosen so long as it doesn’t lose one of the games it does play.

But that’s just my hunch. There’s a chance anything could happen because there are no set guidelines to qualify for the College Football Playoff. That’s what makes all these “College Football Playoff Predictor” simulators you see elsewhere that say certain teams have a 12% chance of making it so ridiculous.

Anyway, I digress. I think Ohio State is safely in without a loss, but nothing is guaranteed. While I don’t see Texas A&M as being a cause for concern for the Buckeyes, there is a scenario in which Clemson beats Notre Dame in the ACC Championship, and Florida beats Alabama. That would leave all four of those teams with one loss, and it’s not out of the question the committee would forgive those losses and take all four of them over an Ohio State team that played as many as four fewer games.

That’s why the Big Ten must do what it can to increase Ohio State’s chances of being selected. As of right now, the conference has not decided to scrap its six-game minimum for inclusion in the Big Ten Championship Game, and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. If things were close in the standings, I would understand it. The conference wouldn’t want to be seen as favoring one school or another over anybody else. That’s the ACC’s schtick. But the standings aren’t close. Ohio State has essentially wrapped up the Big Ten East the same way Northwestern has the Big Ten West.

The Buckeyes are 5-0, and Indiana is 6-1. Behind them both is a two-loss Maryland team that lost to Indiana and won’t be playing Ohio State. So, if Ohio State loses to Michigan — and there’s no guarantee that game happens — and Indiana beats Purdue, the Buckeyes would be 5-1 while Indiana was 7-1. If we existed in a world where those teams hadn’t played a game against one another, the right thing to do would be to name Indiana division champion and send it to Indianapolis. But they did play each other, and Ohio State won the game.

The same thing should happen if Ohio State doesn’t get to play Michigan or anybody else on Saturday.

I’d like to think the Big Ten is smart enough to understand this. Granted, given how the conference has done things in the last few months, I’m not as confident in this as I used to be. Plus, if we’re all being honest with each other here, the College Football Playoff was a driving factor in the Big Ten reversing course on its decision for the 2020 season. With athletic departments across the country losing money, the CFP and the cash that comes with it can help plug a hole or two in some leaky budgets. For the Big Ten to change course and start its season later than everybody else, without bye weeks, during a pandemic, only to possibly eliminate itself from the CFP by holding firm to a decision nobody is forcing it to hold firm to would be one of the most monumentally dumb decisions in the conference’s history.

And this is the same conference that had divisions called Leaders and Legends we’re talking about.

T-Shirt of the Week

Coastal Carolina’s 22-17 win over BYU on Saturday was a lot of fun. Two good teams playing an entertaining game on short notice, with a thrilling finish that sees one team coming up just a yard short of victory? You can’t ask for much more than that from a football game.

Of course, as much as I enjoyed it, some of the Game of the Year talk I’ve seen since it ended seems a bit reactive. It was a good game. It was a fun game. It was an exciting game. It helped prove that maybe we don’t need 15 years of leeway when scheduling games. But it wasn’t the best game of the season.

Right now, I’d take Notre Dame’s 47-40 win over Clemson, Texas A&M’s 41-38 win over Florida, and Oklahoma’s four-overtime 53-45 win over Texas ahead of it.

Juke of the Week

There were a lot of missed tackles and bad angles taken by defenders during Texas’ 69-31 win over Kansas State on Saturday, but Deuce Vaughn juking two Longhorns into one another before immediately juking a third was definitely my favorite example of both during this game.

I love Deuce Vaughn. I hope he stays at Kansas State forever, just juking dudes into his eighties.

Bo Nix Moment of the Week

See, this is the thing about Bo Nix. He does so many things during a game that leave you scratching your head wondering why in the world he’d do it. Then he does something like that, and you can’t figure out how he did it.

Still, I have to figure Nix operates at a 3:1 Why-to-How ratio. If he can tighten that up in the future, he might win a dang Heisman Trophy.

Catch of the Week

Honestly, I’ve been asked plenty of times about whether or not I think Trevor Lawrence is better than Justin Fields, or if more people should be discussing whether or not Fields should go ahead of Lawrence in the NFL Draft.

I tell them there’s an argument for both, as they’re both incredibly talented. What I don’t tell them, because I’m not sure anybody is ready to have this conversation, is that I’m not entirely convinced DeVonta Smith shouldn’t be taken ahead of both of them. He’s that good.

Landscaping Malfunction of the Week

When walking my dog on a 95-degree day in the summer, there’s nothing I love more than a house with its sprinklers running. It’s a respite for both myself and the dog. I would not appreciate those same sprinklers on a December evening when temperatures are in the 30s. Apparently, Virginia Tech’s Dax Hollifield feels differently about this than I do, but I’d also bet a few minutes later he was thinking, “oh man, I should not have done that.”

Stat of the Week

I’m sure many fans weren’t even aware that there were two college games played on Sunday, and one of them involved USC. The Trojans beat Washington State 38-13, but as you might be able to figure out by reading the tweet above, it was over quickly. The Trojans had a 28-0 lead after the first quarter thanks to Amon-Ra St. Brown and their defense.

It’s so perfectly 2020 that both USC and Miami might have their best seasons in a long time, and hardly anyone will notice.

AP Poll Question of the Week

This isn’t a complaint as much as a curiosity for me. North Carolina is 7-3 on the season and finds itself at No. 20 in the AP Top 25 poll. The Tar Heels appeared on 58 ballots this week and were ranked as high as No. 15, with four voters leaving them off entirely. NC State is 8-3 and not ranked. It is just outside the poll at what would be No. 26. The Wolfpack appeared on only 37 ballots and were left off 25 entirely.

That’s a large discrepancy between the two teams, and I would like to know why they’re viewed differently. I’m not here to argue that NC State should be ranked ahead of UNC or anything. I mean, North Carolina beating the Wolfpack 48-21 settled that debate. But the Tar Heels are 7-3 with losses to a 2-6 Florida State, a 5-4 Virginia and 10-0 Notre Dame. They don’t have a single win over a ranked team, and NC State is likely their best win.

NC State is 8-3 with its losses coming to 4-6 Virginia Tech, 8-1 Miami, and of course, 7-3 North Carolina. It has a win over 9-1 Liberty, which is currently ranked No. 22.

So what is it about North Carolina that makes it an obvious call to so many voters to have it somewhere on its ballot, while NC State seems to be an “oh yeah” team (they appear between Nos. 23 and 25 on 29 of the 37 ballots that included them)?

College Football Playoff Projection of the Week

This is all getting to be a little too easy.

  1. Alabama
  2. Notre Dame
  3. Clemson
  4. Ohio State

Until the next Monday After!