I’m just going to come right out and say it: the B1G is good enough to have three teams in the College Football Playoff.
How’s that for a bold statement?
That’s not some outrageous, unfounded comment. That’s not some sort of Saturday Tradition/B1G bias. It’s a fact.
Watch the Ohio State-Wisconsin game that was determined in overtime. Or maybe the game between the Badgers and Michigan, another game decided by a touchdown. Or you could flashback to when the Buckeyes pummeled Oklahoma in Norman or when the Wolverines dominated a pretty good Colorado team. Or Wisconsin’s win over LSU to open the season.
Examples aplenty for the naysayers out there.
I’m not a stubborn B1G advocate, fingers plunged knuckle-deep in his ears, stomping around the room unwilling to listen to reason. Quite the opposite. Right now, seven weeks completed of the college football season, you can’t convince me that Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin aren’t three of the four best teams in the country. Not from what these eyes have seen.
Michigan’s average margin of victory in five of its six games is 46.2. Ohio State hadn’t won a game by fewer than 21 points. Yet, the B1G’s top scoring offenses were held to season lows when pitted against a brutal Wisconsin defense. Both times, the Badgers were defeated by a single score.
Could there ever be two losses quite as impressive – and equally as heartbreaking – as what Paul Chryst has suffered? Not this season.
There’s no question that the Buckeyes and the Wolverines have a stranglehold on two of the top four spots in the country. Outside of Alabama, you won’t find another team as commanding on both sides of the ball as what there is in Columbus and Ann Arbor. Each roster has more NFL talent than the Cleveland Browns. And Wisconsin is right there with them.
Let’s just go ahead and award Alabama one of the top two spots. The Crimson Tide have obliterated the competition, with the exception of an Ole Miss team that’s had Nick Saban’s number the past two seasons. After that, who’s a qualified adversary in the playoff?
Maybe the high-powered offenses of Washington, Baylor or Louisville? I’ll take Michigan’s defense. Ohio State’s and Wisconsin’s too, for that matter. All three are ranked in the top 10 nationally in points allowed with the Wolverines leading the way.
Also, you can call me when one of those teams notches an impressive win. Until then, I’m not interested.
How about Clemson? The Tigers are 7-0 but have flirted with disaster so frequently that you get the feeling this is the year the term “Clemson-ing” resurfaces. Games against Auburn, Troy, Louisville and N.C. State were all decided by seven points or fewer.
In two weeks, Dabo Swinney will take his team to Tallahassee to battle Florida State. If Clemson gets to 8-0, I’ll take them more seriously.
I’ll concede Texas A&M, whose been fairly impressive, even if they nearly fumbled away a win against Tennessee. But the Aggies still have the brunt of their schedule remaining. Contests against Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss are going to be a proving ground for Kevin Sumlin and company.
What we’re waiting to see from the other contenders the “B1G three” have already proven.
You can scoff at Wisconsin with its two losses. I understand that, at some point, wins and losses become a factor and the eye-test is tossed out the window. With a playoff system that provides a razor-thin margin for error, a pair of a defeats can be a death sentence. Maybe it has been for the Badgers.
It shouldn’t. Not when one score separates you from the likes of two teams already ranked in the top four.
With a four-team playoff in place, it’ll be impossible for a single conference to get three teams into the picture. It’s going to be wildly unpopular the first time a league takes up even two spots. So, the argument for the B1G – or any conference – to yield 75 percent of the championship bids is moot.
Consider the following scenario: Wisconsin wins out and Michigan and Ohio State enter their head-to-head clash undefeated. The winner meets the Badgers in Indianapolis and UW takes the rematch and the B1G title. We have a two-loss B1G champion and a pair of one loss teams that have dominated everyone else on the schedule all season long.
That’s a pretty specific example. Things would have to work out perfectly. And usually, when it comes to college football, they don’t. But these three teams are so evenly matched, so talented on both sides of the ball, that outcome wouldn’t surprise me.
We still have nearly two months of football before that could become a reality. Let’s not focus on that right now.
Here’s what we know: the B1G has been the best conference in the country, without question. If that wasn’t already known, it was proven on Saturday night. Wisconsin’s defense slammed the door on Ohio State’s offense for most of the night. Heisman candidate quarterback J.T. Barrett carried his team when it needed him most. The performance from both sides was first-rate.
And then there’s Michigan, who didn’t even play this weekend but still impressed. With the Badgers keeping the Buckeyes on the ropes and Colorado downing Arizona State 40-16 to improve to 5-2, the respect for Jim Harbaugh and company continues to rise.
You can argue, bark and bellow all you want. There’s no denying that Michigan and Ohio State belong in the playoff picture. Wisconsin should be there, too. At least right now. Even with two losses, I’ll take the Badgers against the field. They’ve proven they belong. Not many other teams have.
Half the seasons till remains and teams still have five-to-six games remaining on the schedule. There’s a lot of football left. Anything can happen between now and Dec. 3, conference championship week. What has already happened, though, what we’ve seen through seven weeks of the season has me buying into the notion that the B1G has three of the four best teams in college football.
If it were up to me, the playoff would be a little B1Gger this year.