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Chaos theory: Could PSU reach Big Ten title game?

It sounds ridiculous. We’re talking about a 2-5 Penn State team here, right. But let’s play the “what if” game for a minute.

These are the Big Ten East standings:

Ohio State has not played six games. As the rules stand for now, it is not eligible for the Big Ten championship game, because the minimum is six games played. This week’s game against Michigan has been canceled because of COVID in the Wolverines’ program.

If the Big Ten does not change the rules and the Buckeyes aren’t eligible, then Indiana would represent the Big Ten East.

But Indiana is pausing football activities.

We don’t know if the Hoosiers can play this week, but that won’t matter because they’ve already played seven games.

But what if Indiana can’t play next week?

Would the Big Ten still hold a conference championship game? And would it just take the next team in line? The league’s ADs will meet Wednesday morning, so we could get more clarity later today.

If the current rules that stipulate teams have to play six games were to be held up, Penn State very well could be in position to play in the championship game.


Maryland plays its fifth game this week. It would not have six games to be eligible.

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If Penn State beats Michigan State, then the Lions would be 3-5. And crazy enough, they would be the next team in line for a spot in the title game.

It’s absurd. Yes. No question.

But as of right now, and as the rules are written on this Tuesday evening, it is feasible that Penn State could be the best team in the East that actually can play a game and actually has met all requirements from the Big Ten.

RELATED STORY: Giger column: Barring crazy Big Ten title game scenario, I believe this week should be PSU’s final game of the season

It would be embarrassing for the Big Ten, no doubt, to have a 3-5 team in its championship game when it plays in the same division as a 5-0 team that’s ranked No. 3 in the country.

The guess here is that the Big Ten will amend its rules Wednesday, dropping the six-game requirement and thereby making Ohio State eligible.

That would be the common sense thing to do. Plus, it could mean millions and millions of dollars for the Big Ten if Ohio State wins the Big Ten championship game and is selected for the College Football Playoff.

But again, as the rules are written RIGHT NOW and until something changes from the league, all of this comes down to whether Indiana can play next week.

What. A. Circus.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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