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Which Big Ten teams can still make the College Football Playoff?

Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota. Those are the only Big Ten schools that are still relevant with three weeks left of the regular season.

In the latest College Football Playoff Poll, Michigan is No. 3, Ohio State is No.5, Wisconsin is No. 7, Penn State is No. 10, Nebraska is No. 19, and Minnesota is unranked. How many of these teams have a shot at reaching the Big Ten Championship Game or the College Football Playoff? Let’s take a look.

First, let’s see who can reach the Big Ten Championship Game. Given the current College Football Playoff Poll and the committees heavy weight on conference championships, a team that does not win or at least go to their conference championship have virtually no chance at making the Playoff. Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State are all in the Big Ten East while Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota are in the Big Ten West. Here are what the current standings are in both divisions:

As it stands currently, Michigan and Ohio State control their destiny to the Big Ten Championship. Michigan and Ohio State play each other in the final week of the regular season.

If both teams win their next two games entering that final week, the winner of that game will be the Big Ten East representative in the Big Ten Championship Game. In that scenario is Michigan defeats Ohio State they will have the best record in the East. If Ohio State wins, they will have the same conference record as Michigan and possibly Penn State too. Ohio State would advance because they would have the tiebreaker between Michigan and a better overall record than Penn State.

Given that Ohio State plays Maryland and Michigan State and Michigan plays Iowa and Indiana, it’s extremely likely that their game against each other will determine who wins the Big Ten East. Penn State would have to beat Indiana, Rutgers, Michigan State, and have some help from Michigan or Ohio State losing two games to have a shot so it seems unlikely Penn State will have a chance.

In the Big Ten West, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota all have the same conference record and overall record. Wisconsin and Minnesota control their destiny while Nebraska does not. Minnesota plays Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin and if they win those three games they will move on to the Big Ten Championship Game.

It is the same situation with Wisconsin, who plays Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota. Nebraska’s last three games are against Minnesota, Iowa, and Maryland. They would have to win those three games and have Wisconsin lose a game.

Given the schedules of the three teams, Wisconsin should be the heavy favorite to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game. They should be favorites in all their three games while Minnesota will likely be underdogs in two of them.

Now onto the College Football Playoff. If Michigan or Ohio State wins the Big Ten Championship they will make the Playoff for sure. Michigan is already in a playoff spot and if Ohio State advances to the Big Ten Championship game and wins, they will take Michigan's Playoff spot.

If Penn State were to have a miracle run and win the Big Ten Championship Game, it’s not a certainty they would make the Playoff. While, the committee weights conference champions heavily, Penn State’s resume may not be as good as other teams.

It is very likely the Big Ten will be fighting for one Playoff spot if Alabama, Clemson, and Washington win out, which seems likely. In that case, the committee might put Louisville in over them if Louisville wins out despite not reaching the ACC Championship Game.

If Wisconsin wins out and wins the Big Ten Championship Game, they should be guaranteed a spot due to their strong resume. Nebraska and Minnesota would be in a similar situation that Penn State would be in. Minnesota would have the better resume between the two with wins against Wisconsin, Nebraska, and likely either Ohio State or Michigan. Nebraska’s resume would only include quality wins against Minnesota and either Ohio State or Michigan. Like Penn State it seems very possible if not likely that a team like Louisville would make the Playoff over them instead.

There are so many different possibilities right now in the Big Ten. There are scenarios in which three teams in either division could make it to the Big Ten Championship Game. The teams that control their destiny are Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Given the remaining schedules, it’s very likely the Big Ten Championship Game will be between two of those four teams. The chances of making the College Football Playoff is even more slim for remaining relevant Big Ten teams.

Only Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin control their destiny to the College Football Playoff. For Nebraska, Minnesota, and Penn State, even winning out and a Big Ten Championship are likely not going to get them to the Playoff. All in all, there is much College Football left to be played. 

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