Championship week chaos leaves opening for two Big Ten team playoff

By Dan Escalona

Can a dominant win over Michigan — and equal amounts of luck — grant Ohio State the chance to defend it’s title?

Can Iowa silence its critics and continue 2015’s most surprising run all the way to the CFP?

Can Michigan State revive its seemingly once crushed playoff hopes?

Can Florida or North Carolina go all Super Saiyan and defeat the nation’s supposed best teams in Alabama and Clemson, sending the selection committee into a furious frenzy?

Find out on the next episode of the College Football Playoff!

The final week can take one of two paths: either the path of least resistance or the path of pure chaos.

For the sake of the selection committee’s sanity, the least chaotic combination of results this weekend would be a victory by Clemson, a victory by Alabama and a victory by either Michigan State or Iowa. We can assume that Oklahoma has already secured its playoff spot after a rout over Oklahoma State.

This combination of teams in the playoff would likely produce a minimal amount of controversy.

Clemson and Alabama are the clear favorites in their respective conference championship games, so the top two spots should likely be in little doubt.

Saturday’s most intriguing — and difficult to predict — matchup will be the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

Not only is it a de facto semifinal; it features two squads that took different routes to the conference title game.

Knowing that many experts considered the Spartans the second best team in the conference during preseason, it shouldn’t be a total surprise they emerged out of the tough Big Ten East.

What is surprising, though, is just how they got to this point.

Prior to the previous two games, Michigan State never played up to its potential. Nonetheless, it had a respectful record throughout the regular season.

The Spartans wouldn’t even be here if Michigan simply executed a routine punt.

Everything changed, though, during a gutsy last-second victory in Columbus over the Buckeyes — without Connor Cook, no less. They certainly benefited from terrible weather and Urban Meyer’s ill-fated misuse of Ezekiel Elliott, along with their signature defensive performance of the season. With a season-saving win in grasp, Michigan State saw its most complete performance in a drubbing over Penn State.

It was a treacherous journey across a rickety bridge, but somehow the Spartans got to Lucas Oil Stadium.

If anyone accurately predicted the Iowa Hawkeyes to be undefeated and one victory away from the playoff, then go ahead and tell me who will win the GOP nomination or when the Golden State Warriors will finally lose.

The Hawkeyes were a certifiable afterthought back in August. At worst, Kirk Ferentz would be fired; at best, Iowa would finish with eight wins.

Instead, to the surprise of most, they — somehow — just keep winning. Someone somewhere implanted an algorithm in Kinnick Stadium’s mainframe that has so far worked without a hitch.

The Hawkeyes’ combination of a strong defense, a lethal running game and an efficient quarterback — anachronistic in an era of empty backfields and spread formations — has carried them to the best season in school history.

Of course, their success has not been without complaints about a weak schedule and a lack of style points.

This, now, brings us to Ohio State.

After a dizzying performance on the ground that left John Harbaugh and the Michigan defense breathless and without answers, the Buckeyes have revived their seemingly dead playoff hopes.

With losses by Notre Dame and Baylor, Ohio State is now sixth in the CFP rankings.

All it needs is a victory by Florida in the SEC championship game, and a debate will rage between a two-loss SEC champion and a one-loss Ohio State — whose only loss came to a potential Big Ten champion.

Even after their most complete performance of the year, all the Buckeyes have left is hope and luck.

Whatever happens this Saturday — if Iowa or Michigan State capture one of the four coveted playoff spots, or if Ohio State somehow sneaks in — none of it can negate 2015 as a banner year for the Big Ten.

Just last week, the conference boasted four teams in the top 10 — more than any other conference, including the “superior” SEC.

If college football’s penchant for chaos breaks the Big Ten’s way — and two teams manage to compete for the national title — then the conference has to be considered the nation’s best.

Dan is a senior in Media.

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