College's first football playoff will be this season, but don't expect one of the nation's most historic conferences to be a part of it.
The Big Ten has taken its hits in the past decade. From a major ethics scandal at Penn State, a founding school, to sanctions that kept an undefeated Ohio State out of a BCS Championship Game in 2012, it seems like the oldest Division I athletic conference in the country has had its fair share of misfortune.
Now only two weeks into a fresh season, it looks like the Big Ten will likely be held out of college football's inaugural playoffs after two of its top teams suffered dismal losses.
8th-ranked Ohio State upset
The Buckeyes were supposed to be the poster-child of the Big 10 this year.
They had gone 24-2 in the last two seasons and would have probably be in the title game if it weren't for a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
More important than their past achievements was the fact that senior quarterback Braxton Miller was returning for his senior season. Miller held nine Ohio State records and could possibly have broken eight others, according to USA Today.
But Miller re-injured his throwing shoulder after we reported earlier that his health would be a crucial factor in the team's success. That left backup redshirt freshman JT Barrett waiting in the wins.
With a favorable schedule, Ohio State potentially had the talent to run the table and be one of four teams to enter college football's playoffs.
But unfortunately, Barrett is no Miller.
The replacement signal-caller only completed 9-of-29 passes against unranked Virginia Tech, tossing three interceptions in a 35-21 loss Saturday.
He did pass for 219 yards and a touchdown, but only mustered 70 yards on 24 carries, a dismal 2.9 average per carry.
If Ohio State can rebound and win out for its remaining games, they could possibly make the playoff — but that's a big if, considering this was supposed to be a gimme game and they couldn't even be competitive.
No. 7 Michigan State run off the field
The Spartans had a much more difficult match-up Saturday, but the loss probably hurts even more knowing that they had a chance to pull ahead after leading early.
Michigan State led 27-18 in the third quarter, but proceeded to let No. 3 Oregon trounce up and down the field to score 28 points for the remainder of the game, losing 46-27 to the Ducks.
The schedule is actually pretty manageable going forward, with No. 19 Nebraska and Ohio State as the biggest roadblocks. But games against Michigan, Penn State and a surprisingly-competitive Rutgers won't be pushovers either.
The Spartans could have made a big statement with a win over the Ducks, but now it looks like they too will have to win out and hope that a team in a more-competitive conference — such as the Pac-12, SEC and ACC — has more than one loss going into the playoff selection week.
Michigan lost in embarrassing fashion to a resurgent 16th-ranked Notre Dame, losing 31-0 in their most-lopsided loss of the historic series. The Wolverines face an uphill battle to even be ranked by season's end, much less compete for a championship.
Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers remain undefeated after two games. But Penn State is ineligible for postseason play still and Maryland would have to be significantly improved from its 7-6 record last year to merit further consideration.
Perhaps the only team that could represent the Big Ten going forward is No. 19 Nebraska — yes, that same Cornhuskers squad that barely escaped FCS stepchild McNeese State with a 58-yard touchdown to win 31-24 with only 20 seconds left in the game.
Nebraska could go undefeated with the only ranked teams left on its schedule being No. 18 Wisconsin and No. 7 Michigan State (which is about to see a big drop in the rankings), plus whoever their Big Ten Championship opponent would be.
While Nebraska looked ugly Saturday, it does have a strong running back and has competed in the past.
Unfortunately, even an undefeated record might not be enough, considering the Cornhuskers' low level of competition going forward.
That means the nation's oldest conference could be sitting on the sidelines when college football's first playoffs begin.
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