Top Big Ten teams unworthy of playoff spot
October 13, 2015
Normally, boasting an undefeated record through six games in a Power Five conference is enough to deserve consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The manner Ohio State and Michigan State have performed of late, though, puts them in the position of being left in the selection committee’s dust come early December.
If the playoff began after six games, these titans of the Big Ten would likely find themselves on the outside looking in.
College football purists can gripe all they want about teams being punished for winning ugly and without style, but winning ugly is typically cause for major concern.
Compared to other more dynamic squads across the country, the Buckeyes and the Spartans shouldn’t be frontrunners for a position in the final four.
Neither team has a statement win atop their resume.
The Buckeyes’ most impressive victory — if one can even call it that — was over a very pedestrian Virginia Tech team on the road in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Throw in close wins over Northern Illinois and Indiana, and you have an Ohio State squad that, while undefeated, has yet to fully live up to its gargantuan potential.
Michigan State has similarly unimpressed through six games thus far. The team’s most nominally “impressive” win was over then-No. 7 Oregon — who have gone on to be demolished by Utah and pummeled into giving up 500 passing yards to Washington State.
Recently, the Spartans struggled for close wins against two of the Big Ten’s bottom feeders in Purdue and Rutgers. They barely held on for a three-point victory against the Boilermakers and on Saturday benefited from the Scarlet Knights’ mindnumbingly dumb decision to spike the ball on fourth down on their final drive of the game.
It goes without saying but Michigan State has clearly not played well enough to catch anyone’s eye. No wonder they fell down three spots in the latest AP poll.
Comparing these two teams to other squads around the country, and the reasons why both are currently undeserving of a playoff spot become much more clear.
Teams like TCU, Baylor, Utah, Clemson and Florida are at this juncture staking stronger claims on a playoff spot.
Baylor has scored over 60 points in the last three games, while Big 12 partner TCU blew out Texas — who just beat Oklahoma — and mounted a furious 18-point rally to stun Kansas State on the road.
Utah, arguably one of the bigger surprises of the season, shockingly creamed Oregon by 42 points and, though it seems like it happened long ago, beat Michigan, now the hottest team in the country.
Clemson held on for a statement victory over Notre Dame two weeks ago, highlighting its strong case to take the fourth and final spot in the CFP.
The Gators, the biggest surprise out of the SEC, riding the strength of their defense and rushing attack defeated then-No.3 Ole Miss. This week, they take on another playoff contender in LSU and Heisman candidate Leonard Fournette.
Out of Michigan State and Ohio State, the Spartans are in a more unenviable position than the Buckeyes. Not only do they take on the suddenly dominant Wolverines on the road, they will likely enter that game as underdogs. A Michigan State loss on Saturday will likely mean the end of the team’s playoff hopes.
Unlike Michigan State, Ohio State has a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which gives the Buckeyes enough time to write the ship and play like their usual selves. Up until Nov. 28 against Michigan, they’ll likely stay undefeated.
The fact of the matter is that neither team has done enough to truly warrant a playoff spot at this point in the season. A handful of other squads have been have been monumentally more impressive than these two teams.
At this point in time, even Iowa and Michigan are playing better than the Big Ten’s preseason favorites.
Other than the strange reverence given to previous success and the No.1 ranking, there is no reason either team should be ranked where they are.
It is time for the selection committee to stop giving the Spartans and the Buckeyes the benefit of the doubt when it comes to playoff positioning.
Dan is a senior in Media.