The Awkward Success of Big Ten Football
2016 has been Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s dream. Big Ten is the best conference in college football by a long shot. They have four teams in the top 10 and finally overtaken the vaunted SEC as the cream of the crop. This is exactly what Delany wanted in past years when putting together divisions, schedules, etc. Now as Penn State and Wisconsin play for Big Ten Championship, the commissioner will be fielding questions about how his two other crown jewels are not playing on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
Delany showed time and again to be a spineless leader, and it will be no different for him this week. He dodged questions already about what happens to Penn State or Wisconsin should they win. If the winner of this game does not make the playoff, Big Ten should rid themselves of the conference championship because it officially doesn’t matter. Even though it’s out of Delany’s hands, he should be riding for these teams, instead of being a politician about the College Football Playoff. The conference championship should matter, and it’s no one’s fault but Michigan and Ohio State for losing to teams they shouldn’t have during the season. Both Wolverines and Buckeyes were 20-plus point favorites against Iowa and Penn State and they lost. Tough shit, that’s how sports sometimes, you don’t always get what you want
Now, people love to say Wisconsin has no business even with a win because they lost to both Ohio State and Michigan. That’s a little shortsighted. Both games were lost by a touchdown and single digits. A couple plays in either game could have resulted in a Badger victories. The committee shouldn’t reward moral victories, but couldn’t we all agree the Badgers two losses are better than any other two loss team currently. Michigan’s Iowa loss should matter more than Wisconsin losing to Wolverines. Iowa isn’t a good team. They came on strong at the end, but that loss was a bad one for Jim Harbaugh’s bunch. If the committee finds a way to put Ohio State and Michigan in over the Big Ten Championship winner, the whole system is broken.
This week was supposed to be a victory lap for Delany with the newfound success of Big Ten. Instead, they are going deal with people wondering all week which Big Ten team will play for the right to be in College Football Playoff. The best case scenario for all involved parties would be for either Clemson or Washington to lose their conference championship game. That would pave the way for a two-loss Big Ten Conference Champion and Ohio State to both play for the College Football Playoff.
Given how this hasn’t worked out the way Big Ten wanted all year, my guess is it won’t happen this way on Saturday night.