Welcome to one of the most unique things you’ll find on the Penn State football beat — our point-counterpoint columns. This weekly component, which is not done by any other outlet, started a few years ago at the Altoona Mirror with Cory Giger and Neil Rudel, who has covered the Nittany Lions for more than 40 years. We’re happy to say that the point-counterpoint will continue, thanks to an agreement between Nittany Sports Now and the Altoona Mirror to share the content.
This week’s question: Was the Big Ten right in letting Ohio State in its title game?
Giger: Ye$, the deci$sion wa$ the be$t and $marte$t one
Nothing is normal about this year. Nothing makes sense. When you’re living in a world where world where nothing is normal, you cannot try to rationalize things the same way you would during usual circumstances.
Usually, rules are rules. They apply to everyone. It’s how we keep order in the world.
This year, we have to be able to bend the rules.
The Big Ten made a rule a few months ago that seemed like a good idea at the time. It turned out to be a bad rule, one that could have caused one major problem.
It could have cost the Big Ten millions of dollars.
So the rule had to be changed. Period.
Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten, and it deserves to be in the conference championship game. The Buckeyes have only played five games, so they couldn’t qualify for the title game because the Big Ten originally stated teams had to play six games to be eligible.
The Big Ten wisely changed that rule Wednesday. It changed the rule because it had no choice.
Last year, the four teams that reached the College Football Playoff earned $6 million apiece, with that money going to their respective conferences to be split up between all the schools.
If the Big Ten had gambled and not changed its rule to let Ohio State play in the championship game, there would have been a chance that the Buckeyes could have been left out of the CFP.
I don’t believe that would have happened, by the way. Ohio State is No. 4 in the rankings and probably would have stayed that way, ahead of one-loss teams Texas A&M and Florida.
But we don’t know that for sure.
Giving Ohio State a chance to win the Big Ten championship certainly solidifies its chances of reaching the playoff, even if the league title game is against Northwestern. The Buckeyes are projected to be favored in that game by about 17 points.
A win, and Ohio State will be in the CFP.
And the Big Ten will get $6 million.
It’s as simple as that.
The Big Ten also didn’t want to have some humiliating type of situation where a team like Penn State could have found its way into the championship game. Oh yeah, that could have happened.
If the six-game rule was in effect, Ohio State would be ineligible, so Indiana would be next in line. But the Hoosiers are dealing with COVID and have canceled their game this week.
If by some chance Indiana couldn’t play week, then Penn State feasibly could have snuck into the Big Ten title game by beating Michigan State this week and finishing with w 3-5 record.
That would have been disastrous for the Big Ten.
The league saved itself all that potential headache and made sure it would help its chances to rake in $6 million by changing the rule.
There was no other option.
Cory Giger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rudel: League misses big chance to pursue game with A&M
Yes, but I think the league missed a great opportunity to show out-of-the-box thinking that would have injected some needed excitement into the Big Ten.
And that would have been to allow the Buckeyes — with the Big Ten’s help — to schedule the best opponent they could find for a date this weekend.
The opponent could have been Texas A&M, which had its game with Mississippi canceled.
The Aggies are currently ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings behind the No. 4 Buckeyes, No. 3 Clemson, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 1 Alabama.
Talk about a game that would move the ratings needle.
If Ohio State would lose, it wouldn’t necessarily be out of the CFP playoff conversation. It would still have the tiebreaker advantage over Big Ten East runner-up Indiana by virtue of a head-to-head win over the Hoosiers.
So presuming a victory over Big Ten West champion Northwestern next weekend in Indianapolis, a game with the Aggies would either bolster the Buckeyes’ cause or at least keep them alive.
Depending on what happens with the Fighting Irish vs. Clemson in the ACC final, it’s conceivable that the Final Four will have at least one team, maybe two or three, with one loss.
Rather than just giving the Buckeyes a pass because Michigan can’t play, why not use the situation to showcase the best program in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country?
Because Michigan and Penn State — the other top brands in the Big Ten — are experiencing bad years (not to mention that the two have combined to beat the Buckeyes once in the last 17 tries), a matchup with A&M would have been OSU’s best measuring stick this season.
Ohio State will be favored to beat Northwestern by at least two touchdowns. A win over the Wildcats will only be slightly more impressive than the rest of the Buckeyes’ resume — Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana, Michigan State and, oh yeah, Penn State.
Since the Michigan game was canceled, many voices across the college football world have screamed for a Buckeye-Aggie matchup, even at a neutral site since fans won’t be present regardless.
It could be a tasty appetizer of what an expanded CFP field could look like going forward.
I realize there are TV and logistical issues, COVID-19 concerns and protocols, but when there’s a will, there’s a way.
Coastal Carolina and Brigham Young did it on a couple days notice. The Big Ten could have, too, and my guess is Ohio State’s attitude would be: Bring it on.
Because the Big Ten was so eager to cancel its season, and then was shamed back into playing by the SEC, ACC and Big 12, the league has been flat-footed most of the year.
This was a chance to show otherwise.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.
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