Wednesday, November 30, 2016

COLUMN- The Big Ten Championship game likely a consolation prize for Wisconsin or Penn State

If anyone told me at the beginning of the season that the Big Ten Championship game would essentially be irrelevant in terms of the College Football Playoff, I would have scoffed at the idea.

Fast forward to Championship Week and the two best teams in the Big Ten are not playing in the conference title game.

Yes, the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes showed last Saturday in a game Woody and Bo would be proud of that they are still the elite of the Big Ten.

No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State are worthy of the opportunity as divisional champs to play for the title, but the way things played out have now worked against the teams in the bigger picture.

Wisconsin/Penn State should be a fun game to watch on Saturday night, but the message the College Football Playoff committee sent with Michigan at No. 5 in the latest rankings on Nov. 29 is simple, the winner of the conference will likely settle for the Rose Bowl Game.

Why? The formula is simple as Penn State and Wisconsin failed to beat Michigan in the regular season, which in case anyone forgot is still weighed with a bit of importance when evaluating each team's resume' come Selection Sunday.

Those losses will be looked at and while the champ will come from Madison or State College, the Big Ten could be in for a bigger problem depending on how everything else plays out.

One, yup I did not stutter, ONE team could be represented in the Big Ten in the CFP.

Back in 2014, the Big 12 conference shot itself in the foot by leaving it up to the committee assuming one of the two co-champions (TCU and Baylor) would make it to the semifinals.

The CFP chose to pass the buck and avoid controversy by leaving both out of the playoff.

Guess what, the Big 12, not the CFP came out on the wrong end of the stick in terms of image.

Colorado could be the ultimate fly in the ointment:

If No. 8 Colorado wins the Pac-12 championship over No. 4 Washington on Dec. 2, the committee could jump them ahead of Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State in the final rankings.

Colorado has two things going:

(1) A strong showing in a 45-28 loss at Michigan in Sept. 17:

Unlike Penn State and Wisconsin, it showed offensive domination for a half, before Liufau's injury early in the third quarter opened the floodgates for Michgan to come from behind and defeat Colorado.

(2) What if Colorado knocks off Washington:

Let's say Colorado beats Washington on Friday, then no other team in contention can claim a better three-game stretch to end the season. Wins against ranked foes Washington State, Utah and Washington would be a strong sell to the committee.

Let's face it, the one way the CFP can avoid the most controversy is by leaving Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State out of the playoff.

There is no right or wrong about it because those teams will find slots in the New Year's Six and the Orange, Rose and Cotton Bowls are not bad consolation prizes.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.