A once certain B1G East is now filled with drama for final two weeks
For a few weeks, we thought we had this whole thing figured out.
The storyline for the B1G had been scripted. The cast had been set, the venue was booked and tickets were sold. All we had to do was wait a few weeks before we saw how this show played out.
Michigan and Ohio State. The two were setting up an end-of-the-year clash with everything on the line. With the B1G East – and likely a conference title – hanging in the balance, “The Game” had a restored sense of relevance. It was setting up perfectly just like it did in 2006.
A pair of night games derailed that collision course.
First, it was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown that helped Penn State posted a 24-21 win over Ohio State in late October. Saturday, it was a last-second field goal that lifted Iowa to an improbable 14-13 upset win over Michigan.
No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Columbus isn’t happening. A third contender has worked its way back into what was suppose to be a two-horse race. Everything we thought we knew about how the B1G East would play out has completely changed.
Only one team – Michigan – controls its own destiny. Penn State – yes the same Penn State that started the year 2-2 – now has better odds at reaching the B1G Championship Game than Ohio State. And now a villain has emerged, too. Michigan State – a team that doesn’t have much left to play for – can play a vital role in determining the East champion with Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions still on the schedule.
This wasn’t suppose to happen. Not in the B1G East.
Very little drama was expected until the final week of the season. Once we learned Michigan State wasn’t playing at the same level it was a year ago, we were anxiously anticipating Thanksgiving weekend. We were going to accept the winner of Michigan-Ohio State as our conference champion and College Football Playoff representative. If things played out just right, maybe even both teams would earn a bid.
“The Game” is still significant in determining a division champion for sure, but several other factors now seem more relevant.
Here’s the easy part: if Michigan wins out, it’s in the B1G title game. The loss to Iowa loss virtually becomes irrelevant with the exception of potential positioning in the College Football Playoff rankings. Rest-assured, though, if the Wolverines end the year 12-1 with a B1G title, they’ll be one of the four teams competing for a national title.
After that, things get a little tricky.
Ohio State would need to beat Michigan and hope for a Penn State loss to get to Indianapolis. If each team had one loss at the end of the year, Penn State would be the B1G East champion thanks to the head-to-head victory over the Buckeyes in Happy Valley.
So, to break it down even further: Michigan needs to win out; Penn State needs Michigan to lose one game; Ohio State needs Penn State and Michigan to lose at least one game.
Here’s where Mark Dantonio and the Spartans come back into play.
Already with seven losses and out of bowl contention, there hasn’t been much Michigan State can rally around. But Michigan’s loss kept its next two opponents – Ohio State and Penn State – in contention. Don’t think for one second that Dantonio won’t have his team embracing the role of spoiler as they head into the final weeks of the year.
It’s simple, really. Beat Ohio State and the Buckeyes are done. Beat Penn State and the Lions are done.
That could be a pretty motivational tool as the Spartans search for something – anything – to have a positive moment and salvage something from an otherwise embarrassing season in East Lansing.
Don’t forget about Indiana, either. The Hoosiers are fighting for another postseason appearance when they battle Michigan in one week. Kevin Wilson’s bunch has played well against Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State this season. A win for the Wolverines is anything but a foregone conclusion.
A few weeks ago we weren’t giving any of this a second thought. My how things have changed as we’ve descended into the final month of the season.
The B1G West was suppose to be the division up for grabs. That’s where most of the chaos was expected to erupt. All of that uncertainty has trickled to the East.
Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are all in the running. And even though their not competing for a back-to-back crown, Michigan State still has a pretty big voice in determining the champion, as well.
Reality TV lovers should tune in for the next two weeks. The amount of drama awaiting the B1G East in the next two weeks will be enough to put the Bachelor to shame.