Can Ohio State Make Playoffs without Big Ten Title?

jt-barrett-playoffsOn October 23, the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes looked in control of their game against Penn State. But they had a late field goal blocked, which was returned by Grant Haley for a 60-yard, game-winning touchdown.

The Buckeyes have since climbed back to No. 2 behind top-ranked Alabama. But the Penn State loss still haunts them as they face the realistic possibility of not playing for the Big Ten title. As long as the Nittany Lions win out, they—not Ohio State—could be playing in a Big Ten Championship.

If this happens, should the Buckeyes still make the College Football Playoffs?

It’s little surprise that their quarterback, J.T. Barrett, thinks that his team should definitely be in if they win their final two contests against Michigan State and Michigan.

“I see it like this: If we win out all our games, Big Ten Championship or not, you’re not gonna put us in? Like you’re going to leave Ohio State out?” Barrett told Cleveland.com. “That’s how I see it. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Ohio State wasn’t in this position until last weekend, when Michigan lost 14-13 to the Iowa Hawkeyes. This puts Ohio State (9-1), Michigan (9-1), and Penn State (8-2) into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten.

The Nittany Lions hold the division tiebreaker over OSU because of their win in the Oct 23 meeting. They now just need to take care of business against lower-tier opponents in Rutgers and Michigan State, combined with an Ohio State victory against Michigan.

The only path for OSU to Indianapolis is for Penn State to lose one of their final two games, combined with the Buckeyes winning out.

The CFP committee places a lot of emphasis on the four playoff teams winning their conferences. But in Barrett’s mind, it should be about whom the selection committee thinks are the best teams.

“I know Big Ten Championships and conference championships is a major thing,” said Barrett, “but then you’re talking about one of those two-loss teams and things like that. It’s something totally different.”

He added, “I think if we won our games, that’s the only thing we can control, the only thing we can handle. And (the playoff) is left to somebody else, people on the committee and things like that. At the end of the day, it’s one of those things of, ‘We can’t control that.’ We control winning games, and if we do that, I feel like we’ve done our part.”

This raises an important thought about whether the CFP committee would really overlook the Buckeyes in favor of two-loss teams like Penn State or the West division leader Wisconsin.

Ohio State isn’t alone in worrying about what the selection committee will do since other teams are also on the fringe. Undefeated Alabama is currently the only team that doesn’t have to question whether they’re in line for a postseason berth.

Unless things work themselves out over the coming weeks, the CFP selection committee isn’t in an enviable position right now.

“We don’t look forward,” CFP committee member Kirby Hocutt told Land of 10 regarding Ohio State’s chances. “As we saw, anything can happen on any given Saturday. We do not look forward and anticipate what may happen in the future.”

The biggest precedent for this situation thus far was in 2014, when No. 3 TCU fell to No. 6 despite winning 55-3 in their final regular-season game. Without winning a conference championship, TCU didn’t make it into the CFP. But Big Ten champion Ohio State moved up to No. 4 and would go on to win the CFP that year.

This season, it could be Ohio State on the outside looking in if they’re not able to play for a conference championship.

Can Rutgers Football Win a Game in the Big Ten?

rutgers-big-tenSaturday saw the most-embarrassing moment in Rutgers football history, a 78-0 loss to the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines. As if the final score wasn’t humiliating enough, it happened at the Scarlet Knights’ home in Piscataway, New Jersey.

This was the biggest margin of victory ever in a Big Ten game. Things could have been even uglier, with Michigan winning 71-0 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The yardage total was also heavily lopsided, as the Wolverines gained 600 yards compared to Rutgers’ 39 yards.

Things didn’t go well for the team the previous weekend in Columbus either. The Scarlet Knights were demolished 58-0 by the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, making for a 126-0 score margin over the past two weeks.

As bad as Rutgers has looked against two of the nation’s top four teams, it’s worth asking if they have the chance to win a single Big Ten contest this season.

The Scarlet Knights have produced a 2-4 season so far, with victories over Howard and New Mexico. They lost a close 14-7 game against a respectable Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2) team. Rutgers other loss was a 48-13 blowout against Washington, another top 5-ranked school.

Perhaps the Scarlet Knights aren’t such a terrible football squad, but rather a beat-up one that has played three of the nation’s fop football teams in the first half of the season.

The good news for Rutgers is that it doesn’t get any tougher from here.

First up is a 1-4 Illinois team that only has a win over Murray State to their credit. The rest of the teams are better, but not great: @Minnesota (3-2), Indiana (3-2), @Michigan State (2-3), Penn State (4-2), and @Maryland (4-1).

rutgers-footballWe don’t know if Rutgers can truly win any of their last six Big Ten meetings, but the Illinois game remains their best shot. Fighting Illini quarterback Wes Lunt left the Purdue game in the second half with an injury and is questionable to play against the Scarlet Knights.

Following two devastating blowout losses, Rutgers would love to pick up a Big Ten victory and have something go right for the program. This is especially the case with three starters lost for the season to injury.

Some have recently questioned why Rutgers is even in the Big Ten, given how poorly they’ve performed in a major conference.

Last year wasn’t good, as they finished 4-8 with a 1-7 mark in conference play. This season looks like it could be even worse.

But the truth is that the Big Ten could care less about how well Rutgers plays. As DeadSpin writer Nick Martin points out, bringing the Scarlet Knights aboard was all about a lucrative TV deal:

“By signing on Rutgers, the conference’s lucrative television network was able to lock down deals with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision, bringing the Big Ten Network, which is majority owned by Fox, to basic packages in the New York and New Jersey markets. The expansion to the Tri-State area, as well as Washington, D.C., was tagged with a $1 subscription fee for customers—up from the normal 44 cents.

“With Maryland and Rutgers games being broadcast in the two markets, viewership increased from 52 million to 60 million in a year’s time, per the Baltimore Sun. More viewers, more ads—going for $4,000 per 30-second slot—and ultimately, more money. The conference’s payout from its Cablevision deal alone was up nearly $18 million in 2015, totaling $31.7 million, according to AdAge.”

Maybe Rutgers will pick up another win, maybe they’ll continue being dominated by Big Ten competition.

But in the end, it’s not going to really matter because both Rutgers and the conference continue benefiting as long as they’re TV deals are in place.

Les Miles On Heat Seat Already After Wisconsin Loss?

les-miles-lsu-wisconsinAfter losing three of his last five games to end 2015, LSU football coach Les Miles was sitting on the hot seat. Following a 16-14 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers to open the 2016 season, it doesn’t look like Miles’ job is any more secure.

The unranked Badgers used a stout defense to shut down the No. 5 ranked Tigers and grab a close win at Lambeau Field. LSU only mustered 257 yards of total offense, while star running back Leonard Fournette (23 caries, 138 rushing yards) couldn’t carry his team to victory.

The Tigers had a chance to win the game since they were driving in the final minute. But Wisconsin’s D’Cota Dixon made a game-sealing interception, allowing the Badgers to run out the clock and preserve their 16-14 victory.

Miles’ team didn’t come to play in the first half since they were thoroughly dominated and failed to put points on the board. Wisconsin was up 6-0 going into the locker room, but it could’ve been worse had quarterback Bart Houston not been picked off in the red zone.

The Badgers went up 13-0 early in the third quarter, before it finally looked like LSU might turn the tide and win as expected. First, Tre’Davious White intercepted Houston and scored a 21-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13-7. Shortly after, Tigers QB Brandon Harris gave his team the lead by finding Travin Durant for a 10-yard TD.

But Houston led a nice drive down the field that set Badgers kicker Rafael Gaglianone up for what proved to be the game-winning field goal.

For Wisconsin, this is a huge victory in the first college game played at Lambeau Field in 30 years. For LSU, this loss could potentially derail championship expectations for a talented team.

Conference rival Alabama is ranked No. 1 overall in the AP Top 25 poll, but the Tigers aren’t much further behind them (for now) and are expected to make this a two-team race for the SEC title.

LSU still has a chance at the SEC crown and a playoff berth, but one conference loss could diminish these dreams as they’re sure to tumble down the standings.

As for Miles, he made need an SEC title and/or BCS Playoff berth to keep his job. The 62-year-old dealt with weeks of speculation that he could be fired after a third straight loss last season.

Despite all of the rumors following ugly losses to Alabama (30-16), Arkansas (31-14), and Ole Miss (38-17), Miles was still coaching the team by the season finale. The Tigers beat the Texas A&M Aggies 19-7 and won their bowl game over Texas Tech 56-27.

les-miles-hot-seatThis not only earned Miles job security, but also got him a salary raise to $4.3 million per year. But now, just months after the contract extension through 2019, Miles has to fear for his job again.

The team reached its peak under Miles in 2007, when they won both the SEC title and BCS National Championship. They had another excellent season in 2011, winning the SEC before losing 21-0 to Alabama in the National Championship.

Since that time, the Tigers have dealt with mediocrity as far as their expectations go. In fact, the 2014 and ’15 seasons, where LSU went 8-5 and 9-3 respectively, could be considered disasters for a team that consistently has championship expectations.

There’s a lot of time left in the season. But one more loss could mean that Miles’ time in Baton Rouge has run out.

Iowa, Oklahoma eye College Football Playoff Spots

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 20 Iowa at PittRivalry week is upon us in college football and the playoff spots are still being sorted out. Previously unbeaten Ohio State left a big slot open when they lost to the Michigan State Spartans. The latter moved from No. 9 in the College Football Playoff Rankings to No. 5, while the Buckeyes fell from No. 3 to No. 8. This has allowed both Oklahoma (now No. 3) and Iowa (now No. 4) to move into the playoff mix, while several other teams still have a chance too. Here’s a quick look at how things look now heading into rivalry week:

No. 1: Clemson (11-0), same spot
No. 2: Alabama (10-1), same spot
No. 3: Oklahoma (10-1), up 4
No. 4: Iowa (11-0), up 1
No. 5: Michigan State (10-1), up 4
No. 6: Notre Dame (10-1), down 2
No. 7: Baylor (9-1), up 3
No. 8: Ohio State (10-1), down 5
No. 9: Stanford (9-2), up 2
No. 10: Michigan (9-2), up 2

Oklahoma made a big leap into the top 4 by beating TCU, while Iowa also moved into a qualifying position by defeating Purdue. Michigan State is now much closer to the playoffs with their victory over Ohio State. Notre Dame experienced a two-spot drop because they struggled to beat a 3-8 Boston College team.

oklahoma-football-2015Despite one week remaining before conference title games, there’s still plenty to be settled before anything is concrete. The Sooners must go on the road to face Oklahoma State (10-1), which is No. 11 in the playoff rankings. Notre Dame also has a difficult road test against Stanford, which could vault them back into the top 4 with a victory.

Ohio State might be on the outside looking in right now. However, they could again be in contention if they beat rival Michigan in Ann Arbor. Then there’s Baylor, which could get back into the hunt with a win against TCU (9-2). Iowa (at Nebraska) and Michigan State (vs. Penn State) will look to close out their bids for the Big Ten title game, where they’ll likely be competing for a playoff slot.

Once this weekend is over, the College Football Playoffs will still be quite muddled. If Alabama gets past Auburn (6-5) this weekend, they’ll have to beat Florida in the SEC Championship game to make the playoffs. Clemson (11-0) is headed for an ACC Championship battle against North Carolina (10-1), and they’ll need a victory to seal their playoff bid.

All of these season-ending matchups and conference title games could help a team like Notre Dame or Baylor get back into the hunt if they can win out. For the Fighting Irish, not playing a conference championship game could be the best thing since their season ends against Stanford.

The only thing that’s clear right now is that we have plenty of college football games to watch before the playoff picture is finally settled.

Steve Spurrier resigns from South Carolina – Cites Team’s Losing Record

steve-spurrier-resigns-south-carolinaSteve Spurrier said that it would be his dream to leave South Carolina being carried on the shoulder pads of his players with an SEC Championship. As it stands, he’ll instead retire from coaching college football midway through the season with a 2-4 record.

The 70-year-old admits that his prime reason for quitting at this juncture is that he doesn’t want to go through a rebuilding effort. Here’s a look at his official statement to the press:

“The last several years as I’ve traveled around the country, seen guys and so forth I always get asked ‘How much longer are you going to coach?’ And my answer is always the same. As long as we keep winning, keep winning these bowl games, everybody’s happy, we’re ranked, life’s pretty good, I guess I could go several more years.

“(Shawn) Elliott has been the team’s offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator. Spurrier informed the team of his decision on Monday and said he knew Sunday morning that it was time to make a decision about his future. He also said he was responsible for South Carolina’s poor record and that it was time for him to “get out of the way and let somebody else have a go at it.”

steve-spurrier-resigns-south-carolina-1Spurrier believes that him stepping down is in the best interest of the South Carolina football team. Additionally, he feels that by quitting now and letting Elliott take over, it could ultimately help the team perform better.

“Actually when we were 2-2 I called [AD Ray Tanner] up and I told him ‘I’m going to try to get through this season, but I sense this is about it for me. I sense it’s it,'” Spurrier said. “Central Florida, it was a struggle against those guys. As you know, we came in at halftime behind. And it was a struggle. And I said ‘I don’t know if I need to continue having these kinds of struggles.’

“But we talked briefly then and we talked briefly this past Sunday and when something is inevitable I believe you do it right then. I believe you don’t wait a week, you don’t wait two weeks. This has to happen, let’s do it. Let’s do it and get started in a new direction.”

Despite the 2-4 record this season, Spurrier’s career record is outstanding. He’s 228-89-2 in over 24 seasons of coaching, which includes stops at Duke, Florida and South Carolina. His best years were at Florida, where he guided the Gators to six SEC championships and a national title. With the Gamecocks, he won the 2010 SEC East title, but lost to the eventual BCS national champion Auburn in the SEC Championship.

He retires as the winningest coach in the history of both Florida and South Carolina. And only Bear Bryant has more overall SEC victories than Spurrier. Even still, this wasn’t the dream way of leaving for the ‘Ole Ball Coach.’

“I didn’t plan on going out this way,” Spurrier confessed. “I planned on being on the shoulder pads of the team coming out of the Georgia Dome with an SEC Championship. But that didn’t work out. We did win our division down in the Swamp, that was neat back then, but I just think it’s best for everybody, especially our team, our school, that I get out of the way now and let’s start in a new direction.”

Spurrier stopped short of calling this a retirement because he may coach high school football in the future. However, as far as college football is concerned, this is likely his last stint in the game.

USC Coach Steve Sarkisian takes Leave of Absence

steve-sarkisian-usc-absenceUSC football coach Steve Sarkisian will take an indefinite leave of absence on athletic director Pat Haden’s insistence. Haden held a press conference to announce the decision while citing that the head coach is not doing well from a mental standpoint.

“I think it’s the right thing for our team, and I’ve always got to do what’s right for our team and for our school,” said Haden.

In Sarkisian’s absence, offensive coordinator Clay Helton will take over for the Trojans, who are 1-2 in the Pac-10 and 3-2 overall.

Haden didn’t offer any details on what exactly is wrong with Sarkisian, only saying “it was very clear to me” that the coach is “not healthy.”

Things started off on the wrong foot this season when Sarkisian showed up to the Salute to Troy pep rally in a drunken state. At the time, he blew off the debacle as having combined alcohol with medication that day. But now it may be clear that Sarkisian’s pep rally appearance wasn’t just an isolated incident.

Haden held a team meeting to let players know about the coach’s leave of absence.

“(It was) clear the team had a great deal of concern about the health of Coach Sarkisian,” Haden said of the meeting. “So did the staff have that concern for him, and it was also very apparent to me in the room of the support that Clay has from our team and his staff.”

steve-sarkisian-usc-absence-1Dating back to last year, Sarkisian is 12-6 as head coach of the Trojans, who’ve been trying to return to prominence ever since Pete Carroll left to the NFL in 2010. However, a recent 17-12 loss to the unranked Washington Huskies will make this goal difficult since it’s knocked the Trojans out of the AP Top 25.

Helton will now embark on his second stint as interim coach of USC. He assumed the same duty in 2013, leading the Trojans to a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl after they went through three coaches.

“It’s a very unique honor to get it (this way),” said Helton. “Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before, and once again am very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are very talented and want to do something special here.”

As for Sarkisian, he is a former BYU quarterback who also played in the CFL. He then became an assistant to Carroll and helped many of the great teams of the 2000s. After coaching alongside Lane Kiffin, he took the University of Washington head coaching job in 2009, turning a winless team into a bowl team.

When Kiffin was fired in 2013, Sarkisian came back to USC to take the job. Despite having a scholarship restriction in 2014, Sarkisian would guide the Trojans to a respectable 9-4 record. This is a big reason why they entered the 2015 season with the No. 8 ranking and were picked to win the Pac-10.

However, they’ve now stumbled after a 41-point loss to Stanford last week and a second-straight loss to the Huskies. This is where Helton hopes to stop the slide.

“They still have a lot of things out there that we can attain,” the offensive coordinator said. “We have a big game versus Notre Dame this week, the opportunity to still compete for the South championship in the Pac-12, and again, I’m very fortunate to have a group around me as a staff that is as first-class as they get.”