Zwiller: BIG news from the Big Ten
Thomas Zwiller | Monday, September 21, 2020
The Big Ten Football Conference announced that it would cancel its fall 2020 season on Aug. 11th, but after protests, a petition and even lawsuits, the Big Ten is back. The season will officially start on the weekend of Oct. 24th.
The biggest reason for the Big Ten’s change of course is that they have begun to utilize rapid response testing such as antigen and PCR testing. The co-chair of the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee, Dr. Jim Borchers, was quoted as saying:
“We know that if we can test daily with rapid testing in these small populations of teams, we’re very likely to reduce infectiousness inside practices and game competitions to near 100%.”
The Big Ten, as a result of starting later than the ACC, Big 12, and SEC, plans to play an abbreviated conference only schedule consisting of eight games. That allows them to crown a champion before the CFP Committee meets and releases the final four teams on Dec.20th, and there’s no reason to assume that an 8-game schedule wouldn’t be enough to qualify the conference.
But what does this mean for the rest of college football? Once the Big Ten moved its schedule I assumed the College Football Playoff would consist of the conference champions from the three remaining Power 5 conference, plus a one-loss team (one that had most likely lost in one of the conference championships games).
I had assumed the CFP would look something like: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Georgia/LSU. After all, the preseason AP poll had Clemson at No. 1, Alabama at No. 3, Oklahoma at No. 5 and Georgia at No. 4 (Ohio State was ranked at No. 2, but obviously wasn’t going to play at the time).
After the first week of college football, the Big Ten was removed and, lo and behold, the rankings were Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Georgia. The potential spoilers, like Auburn, Florida and Notre Dame weren’t far behind at No. 5, 6, and 7, respectively. There would be potential for a Group of 5 Conference Championship team to make it into the title, but that seemed pretty unlikely to me. The highest ranked Group of 5 Conference teams were Cincinnati and UCF at No. 13 and 14, respectively.
For UCF and Cincinnati to make it, they would have to win out (and they play each other on Nov. 21), win their conference and leapfrog over the aforementioned dark horses, like ND, Auburn, Florida and LSU. But, as I said, unlikely (but there is a small chance).
However, at the end of the day, the three conference championship teams and one lucky other Power 5 team were pretty sure to make the CFP and play for a title. With the Big Ten teams back in play, however, that all changes. Now, if I had to guess, I would say the CFP would consist of Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma, not too different a bracket from last years, albeit with a little bit of shuffling around:
The Big Losers
This was my dark horse pick to make the CFP with the departure of the Big Ten. While yes, they do play Alabama, I still expect them to win the SEC East and play for the SEC title (where they would most likely face Alabama again). They still would have to make it through ranked Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida; quite a tall order.
If they beat Alabama twice, they would easily make it as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, If they split their series with Alabama, they would potentially make it as the No. 4 seed. If they lost both, well, they have a good chance at a No. 4 seed, depending on ND and LSU.
With the Big Ten back, I don’t expect a playoff berth beyond winning the SEC Title.
Record: 9-2; Finish: SEC Runner-Up
Notre Dame will be a dominant force in the ACC this year. While yes, they have tough opponents this year, namely No. 1 Clemson and No. 12 North Carolina, I thought that they had a similar case as Georgia. If they had beat Clemson two times, automatic entry to the CFP. If they had split with Clemson, they would most likely enter as the No. 4 seed. If they lost both, there would’ve never been a better year for a two-loss team to make it.
I don’t particularly like their odds against Clemson. That being said, Notre Dame joining a conference makes their case a lot stronger, and if you ask me, they should stay in the ACC rather than go back to being Independent. A chance at a Conference Championship every year in a weaker conference could see them making more CFPs in the future. But with the Big Ten back, this year it seems unlikely.
Record: 10-2; Finish: ACC Runner-Up
While Texas may be back, I don’t think they’ll be back in the Playoff picture anytime soon. They have a pretty similar circumstance to the ones above. They would have to beat out Oklahoma and a ranked Oklahoma State to even have a chance, but they simply aren’t as good as teams like ND or Georgia
Win out vs Oklahoma? Very unlikely, but would probably get them the No. 3 seed. Split vs Oklahoma? Unlikely still, but a possible No. 4 seed with that scenario. Lose both, then ND or Georgia would take your spot.
Their chances were already unlikely, but with the Big Ten back, all the more unlikely.
Record: 8-2; Finish: Big 12 Runner-Up
The Group of 5
This easily could’ve been the best case for the Group of 5 to get UCF or Cincinnati into the CFP. Like I said before, this would be pretty unlikely. They would have to jump some good teams, but still, an undefeated Group of 5 team, with a large margin of victory, a conference championship and no Big Ten or Pac-12 gave them hope. Now? Same as any given year.
Finish: Nowhere near the CFP
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.