Nathan McCarter

Big Ten In Great Position To Send School To Playoff

Created on Jan. 13, 2014 7:05 PM EST

The Big Ten ended the year on a good note. That sounds odd considering they were 2-5 in bowl games, but what matters is how they competed. The Big Ten has a fantastic chance to put at least one school in the new College Football Playoff.

Of the seven bowl games, only Michigan was blown out of the water. Minnesota battled to the bitter end, Iowa put up a fight against a strong LSU squad, Wisconsin just couldn't do enough against South Carolina, and the Buckeyes gave the game away.

The two wins were very important. Nebraska got a win against an SEC school, and Michigan State took the Rose Bowl to finish the season in the top three. This sets up a spectacular chance for the Big Ten in 2014.

It is important to note that the new playoff system will not send the top four teams into action against one another. Instead, a committee will determine who will go. The process will be different, but likely will retain the same amount of controversy.

The Big Ten is a top-heavy conference, but the top is rightfully heavy. The Buckeyes and Spartans lead the way, and, come 2014, they will be in the same division within the new Big Ten.

Wisconsin and Nebraska barely will be behind in the opposite division, setting up a huge Big Ten championship game.

The way the realignment sets up the divisions, the Big Ten should be sending a team into the playoff. However, the danger of the realignment is that the Big Ten could cannibalize itself before getting to the conference championship game. Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State and Rutgers are quality teams and could spoil the party or step up and throw their hat in the ring as well.

What about the competition?

The ACC is a one-school conference at the moment. Of any team, the reigning national champions have the best inside route to the playoff.

The Big 12 is another top-heavy conference. Between Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas, it can hope only that one team separates itself from the pack while avoiding a typical Big 12 letdown.

The Pac-12 is getting stronger. Oregon, Stanford, USC, and UCLA are set up for an exciting 2014 season. The advantage for the Big Ten is that the conference basically has its own mini-playoff.

Then, of course, you have the SEC. They will get many early looks, but it is important to note that much of their talent is leaving this year. Just look at the quarterbacks: Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Georgia's Aaron Murray, South Carolina's Connor Shaw, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Missouri's James Franklin have used their eligibility or are moving on to the NFL.

The other conferences have opened the door for the Big Ten to re-emerge. In the past the conference has tried to repair its BCS-era image, and now they have a chance to shine with some quality schools leading the charge.

This is the Big Ten's chance to re-establish itself as a premier conference and as potential national champions.

The games still have to be played, but the cream of the Big Ten crop is returning in full force. That bodes well for at least one of the schools to represent the conference in the first College Football Playoff.

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