The Big Ten Conference just threw a wrench into the works of the College Football Playoffs when it announced that all 14 teams would be returning to the football field.
This includes Michigan and Michigan State, who were initially not thought to be part of the return plan due to state regulations regarding the handling of COVID-19, causing a lot of political fighting. With the announcement, the Big Ten said in an official statement that testing for the virus would be stringent.
Dr. Jim Borchers, Head Team Physician of The Ohio State University, said:
The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.
The Big Ten season won’t start until the weekend of October 24th, though. Where does that leave the College Football Playoff Committee?
Before the college football season began, teams in conferences that planned on postponing their seasons were still included in the rankings . Following opening week action, the Associated Press rankings were rattled. Teams such as Memphis, Louisiana, and Army that you don’t expect to see in the top 25 made the giant leap while Big Ten teams dropped completely. This included Ohio State, which was originally ranked in the second position.
Of course, teams like the Buckeyes are talented enough to be ranked toward the top, but it doesn’t seem fair to teams that have already established themselves for several games. Those outside of the power five conferences will be leapfrogged rather quickly, shaking their hopes of becoming the first mid-major in College Football Playoffs history .
The Pac 12 is still going through with their postponement, so that does give them some hope. The Pac 12 has produced just two tournament teams while the Big Ten has produced four.
Because the Big Ten is starting so late in the season, they’ll have to cram all of their games in at the end, playing only against one another. The plan is to have eight games with no bye weeks for every team, with a formal schedule to come. With this shortened schedule, the top teams of the Big Ten might not have to play against other powerhouses outside of the conference championship game (which is slated to come the night before the committee makes their playoff decision ).
Depending on how the schedule shakes out, many could feel like the Big Ten winner didn’t earn the chance to make the playoffs. If half of a team’s conference schedule includes Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, and Northwestern, there aren’t going to be many chances for marquee wins. Presumably, a team that avoids Ohio State or Penn State can have an easier road to an undefeated season despite not being the most talented team.
The Big Ten decided to add in this wrinkle to get a ninth game for everybody.
2020 has already been a wild ride. The four major sports leagues in the United States all expanded their postseason, with the NHL including 24 teams while the MLB is inviting 16.
We’ve seen that teams can throw schedules together in the last minute, so with the inclusion of the Big Ten late into the fray, it only makes sense to expand the College Football Playoffs for this one season. It’s an idea that’s been floated around for years , but to expand to six teams (giving the top two a bye) while the first two games are played on-campus might be the temporary fix that this season needs.