For the 17th time in the past 18 years, college football’s national championship will be won by a school south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Regardless of the outcome between TCU and Georgia in the CFP national championship game on Monday night, that much is guaranteed.

Ohio State’s 2014 national championship remains the lone exception to this era of southern comfort. And with each passing year, it feels farther in the rearview mirror.

But in reality, the Big Ten is inching closer to winning a title rather than drifting away from it. Even though B1G teams went 0-2 in this year’s semifinals, the margin that kept Michigan and Ohio State from playing Monday night was incredibly thin.

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines especially have to be kicking themselves.

Michigan had an opportunity to set the tone against TCU on its very first drive, but did the opposite with a too-cute “Philly Special” play call on 4th-and-goal that instead electrified the Horned Frogs.

Momentum seemed on Michigan’s side when Rod Moore picked off Max Duggan and JJ McCarthy appeared to hit Roman Wilson for a 51-yard touchdown on the very next play. Instead, replay review somehow determined Wilson was down inside the 1. Instead, little-used Kalel Mullings fumbled the ensuing handoff, and TCU dodged a significant bullet.

If either of those early sequences resulted in points for Michigan, it’s pretty reasonable to think the Wolverines would be facing Georgia at SoFi Stadium.

Or even Ohio State. The Buckeyes, like the Wolverines, will first look in the mirror when assessing why their season ended prematurely.

In particular, Ryan Day’s decision to hand the ball off on a first down at the Georgia 31 with 24 seconds to go and 2 timeouts in his pocket backfired badly. Had the Buckeyes gotten 5-10 yards farther downfield, Noah Ruggles would have been in far more comfortable field-goal range for the win.

Instead, Ohio State lost a yard. And after back-to-back incompletions, the Bucks settled for a 50-yard attempt that never had a chance.

That’s how close we potentially were to singing the praises of an all-B1G national title game.

It didn’t happen. And at this point, there’s little use dwelling on the coulda, woulda, shouldas. The question is when a Big Ten will next find itself with such a golden championship opportunity.

Chances are, it’ll be quite often after 2024.

2024: The year that will change college football forever

Playoff expansion is the most obvious change coming to college football in 2024. The CFP field moves from 4 to 12, and the Big Ten will frequently benefit from that alteration.

If a 12-team field had been in place since 2014, 3 B1G teams would have reached the Playoff on 6 different occasions. And in 2016, 4 teams would have made it — Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The math isn’t very complicated. More teams in the Playoff means more cracks at the championship.

Clearly, the SEC also will benefit from an expanded field. There would be 7 years in which 3 SEC teams would have made a 12-team Playoff. Interestingly, though, there wouldn’t be any with 4 SEC teams in the field.

The Playoff isn’t the only thing that’s expanding. With USC and UCLA joining in 2024, the Big Ten balloons to 16 teams. The Trojans will regularly be in Playoff contention as long as Lincoln Riley is there.

There’s another numerical factor at play, and it’s arguably more important than Playoff or conference expansion: money.

2024 is the first year of the Big Ten’s 7-year, $8 billion media rights contract with FOX, CBS and NBC. The annual average value of $1.15 billion dwarfs the $710 million a year the SEC will make from its deal with ESPN. And because the Big Ten deal ends 3 years sooner, there will be another opportunity to turn it into Scrooge McDuck money.

Why does that matter on the field?

Pretty simple — by the end of the decade, Big Ten schools will be able to pay coaches and coordinators more than any other conference. The cream of the profession will coach in the B1G, because they’ll make the biggest bucks.

That could potentially bleed into NIL money, as well. Economically, at least, there will be little excuse for the Big Ten not becoming college football’s most dominant conference.

There’s no question 2022 was a blown opportunity for the Big Ten. It’s embarrassing to produce 50% of the Playoff field and not get either team into the title game.

But it won’t be this way forever. Slowly, but surely, the table is about to tilt in the Big Ten’s favor. And perhaps 10 years from now, the days of no B1G teams playing for a national title will seem quaint.