After what easily was the most drama-filled decision-making process of any major conference in college football, the Big Ten will kick off its long-awaited season at 8 p.m. ET on Friday night when No. 14 Wisconsin hosts Illinois.
On Aug. 5, the league announced its revamped schedule (the first time) with great fanfare. Six days later, it postponed its season indefinitely. But wait! Here it comes again, thanks to a unanimous vote on Sept. 15 by the 14 university presidents to play an eight-game, conference-only season in eight weeks, punctuated by a Big Ten title game on Dec 19.
All of it juuust in time to be considered for the final College Football Playoff ranking on Dec. 20.
“The whole battle was to try and give them a chance to play the game they love, coach the game they love,” said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith of his No. 5 Buckeyes. “They’ve worked so hard to have a chance to play, but yes, of course, their chance to defend the Big Ten championship and ultimately maybe represent our conference in the CFP. There’s no question we have talent, and they have that capacity. I was fightin’ hard.”
So was Nebraska, which is why coach Scott Frost said he doesn’t think it is a coincidence those two teams are kicking off their seasons against each other at noon ET Saturday in Columbus.
“You know, it’s strange where you find allies in certain things, and I think we had an ally at Ohio State to try to get the season played,” Frost said on Monday. “I don’t think it would have gotten done without Dr. [Jim] Borchers there, without Ryan Day continuing to push it, Eugene Smith continuing to push it.
“We certainly fought for it, too, because we thought it was the right thing to do to have football,” he said. “Our kids wanted to play. We thought we could do it in a safe manner. We weren’t satisfied with the decision to not play and kept trying to find opportunities to find a way to get it done and we’re grateful to Ohio State for having done the same thing.”
Now it’s time to see what they can do with the opportunity.
Can Ohio State crash the Alabama-Clemson party?
The Buckeyes are playing from behind, no question.
No. 1 Clemson is 5-0 with a top-25 win against No. 11 Miami. No. 2 Alabama is 4-0 with two top-25 wins against No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 4 Georgia. According to the Allstate Playoff Predictor, Clemson (87%) and Alabama (82%) are prohibitive favorites to reach the CFP.
The number cruncher gives Ohio State the third-best shot at 68%. As long as Ohio State wins the Big Ten with one or fewer losses, the Buckeyes should finish in the top four as Big Ten champions, but they don’t want to raise any doubts along the way in case they finish as a one-loss division runner-up. With the