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Last year the Big Ten got left out of the playoffs after Ohio State went 12-1 with the lone loss coming in a shocking upset 49-20 to Purdue. Despite crushing Michigan and pulling off a major comeback against Penn State, Ohio State was still left on the outside. This showed how small the margin of error is in the Big Ten. The question is can a Big Ten team make it this year?
There are really just 2 strong candidates this year: Michigan and Ohio State.
Michigan has not looked great to start the year (or even good really). The defense is not what it has been in the past and the offense seems to be taking some time getting used to the new system brought in this year.
Ohio State has been strong, but have yet to face a true test and will have a tough road through the Big Ten. This might be the biggest issue for the Big Ten, it’s a very deep conference. While the Big Ten might not get the hype the SEC does, it is deeper and possibly better. Even Maryland has come out of the gate firing on all cylinders this week. With that said a one-loss Ohio State could get in, but Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma all seem like they would get in as 1 loss teams before Ohio State does. Justin Fields is great but is he good enough to not have those gitters in his first year as a full-time starter.
Other sleeper teams such as Penn State and Michigan State are options, but Penn State lost too much last year and has not looked like the Penn State we have come to know the last 3 years, and even that Penn State struggled to close out big games. Michigan State has a strong argument to be considered the best defense in the conference, but the offense has been stagnant and they have every big game on the road.
The Big Ten will likely beat themselves and end up costing a playoff birth. Hopefully, eventually, the playoffs will move to 8 teams allowing an automatic bid from every Power 5 conference so the SEC bias won’t cost Big Ten teams (although UGA and Alabama are the real deal). As for right now, I don’t see a Big Ten team in the playoff this year.