My how things can change in a short span with this glorious sport.
Just a week ago, Ohio State was seemingly in the Big Ten East’s driver’s seat thanks to its come-from-behind win over Penn State combined with Michigan State’s three-overtime loss to Northwestern. The Buckeyes stood at a perfect 5-0 in conference play, with a one-game lead on the 4-1 Spartans and what was essentially a two-game lead on the 4-1 Nittany Lions thanks to the head-to-head advantage.
With Week 10 nearly in the books, there’s suddenly a tie atop the division as MSU stunned PSU in a rain-delayed matchup while OSU was embarrassed by unranked Iowa in Kinnick Stadium. That leaves the Buckeyes and Spartans tied atop the East with three weeks left to play.
And, just who do Michigan State and Ohio State play in Week 11? Each other, in Columbus next Saturday at noon, with the winner really wresting total control of the division from the other.
After next weekend’s action, each team will have two games remaining in the regular season — OSU at home against Illinois and on the road at rival Michigan, MSU hosting Maryland and closing it out at Rutgers. The winner of the Week 11 game could afford one loss in those final two games and still win the division, even if there were a three-way tie with Penn State as the Nittany Lions lost to both teams. Of course, the Buckeyes and Spartans could technically lose its last two games after next week and the Nittany Lions could win its last two, handing the division to the latter. Or all three of those teams could lose out the last two weeks and Michigan, which lost to both MSU and PSU, could win out and oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed.
Either way, and outside of those highly-unlikely scenarios closing out the above paragraph, whichever team comes out on top next weekend in Columbus you will be seeing in Indianapolis in early December. And probably against an unbeaten Wisconsin team that currently serves as the Big Ten’s lone playoff hope, provided the “no two-loss team has ever qualified for the CFP” standard remains in place as the Badgers are the only B1G team with less than two losses.
And, looking even further ahead, if the Big Ten misses out on the playoffs for the first time, especially if conference-less Notre Dame qualifies? The cries from the B1G for expanding the CFP will come. Bank on it.