There’s still hope for the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff

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There’s still hope for the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff

By Christopher Kennedy

Editor’s note: This column is written as part of a point-counterpoint. The other column, arguing that the Big Ten will not be represented in the College Football Playoff, can be read here.

This weekend was supposed to be the Big Ten’s chance to prove everyone wrong.

Instead, everything went wrong. Michigan State had a chance to earn the conference some respect in one of the biggest nonconference games of the year against Oregon. Instead, the Ducks flew right over the stout Spartan defense. Ohio State lost its first home opener since 1978. Michigan was shut out for the first time since 1984. Two MAC teams beat Big Ten teams, and Nebraska needed a miracle to beat McNeese State.

In short, Saturday looked like doomsday for the Big Ten and any of its playoff hopes. But all is not lost. There’s still a glimmer of hope because this was only Week Two. The start of the season has not been kind to the Big Ten, but there’s a long way to go and a lot can happen from now until the College Football Playoff teams are set in December.

Right now, Michigan State and Wisconsin still look like viable contenders. After an ugly home loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State seems like an afterthought without Braxton Miller.

Both Sparty and Bucky Badger looked fantastic for a half against premiere opponents. Michigan State put up 20 unanswered points on Oregon and took a nine-point lead in the third quarter. Connor Cook looked great and the “old-school” Spartan offense was having better success than Oregon’s “Blur” offense. Two weeks ago, Wisconsin got out to a 17-point lead against a tough LSU team. The Badgers led the entire game until the fourth quarter.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how good these teams looked for part of the game, in the end, both lost and brought on more mockery to the Big Ten. But it would be wrong to define these teams by two early losses.

Wisconsin returned the second fewest starters in the nation (9) and quarterback Tanner McEvoy’s first start against the Tigers went terribly. Once the Badgers get a few games under their belt, they’ll still probably rip through the Big Ten West on the back of running back Melvin Gordon. The Spartans hung with the Ducks until the fourth quarter; they just couldn’t finish the job. Down by 12, they were driving when Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu made an incredible interception to seal things up for the Ducks. MSU will get even better as the season goes on.

Let’s all remember that the Spartans, Rose Bowl champs and one of the nation’s best teams last year, lost to a pretty mediocre Notre Dame team and still finished ranked No. 3 a year ago. An early season loss doesn’t have to derail all Big Ten hopes for the playoff, especially a loss to a team like Oregon or LSU.

Nothing is ever set in college football. Last year, it looked like there would be no SEC team in the national championship game after the “Kick-6,” but even in the last week of the season, an upset shook things up when MSU knocked off Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Weird things happen over the course of the year. Countless highly ranked teams end up falling to the Iowa State’s and Arizona’s of the world (see Oklahoma State 2011, Oregon 2013).

There will be playoff spots up for grabs. A Big Ten champion Michigan State team with a single loss to Oregon would be hard to overlook. All isn’t lost for the Big Ten yet. Things are just getting started.

Chris is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]