Ohio State looks like a lock for a spot in the College Football Playoff. But if the Big Ten is going to get a second team into the four-team field, it's still up in the air which one it will be.
The Buckeyes held onto the No. 2 spot when the new rankings came out Tuesday night, with three other Big Ten teams in the top seven. Michigan dropped two spots down to No. 5 after losing to Ohio State in double overtime last weekend. Big Ten Championship Game participants Wisconsin and Penn State came in at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, and the winner could find itself in the Playoff come next Sunday, when the field is revealed.
Ohio State is sitting pretty at 11-1, and the tiebreaker that sent Penn State to the Big Ten title game could end up being a blessing for the Buckeyes, who have no game to lose between now and when the selection committee announces the four teams that will play for a national championship. Ohio State has a sensational resume, with wins over top-10 teams Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma and its only loss coming against top-10 Penn State. If Ohio State makes the Playoff — and all indications are that it will — it will be the first team to do so without winning a conference championship.
Wisconsin is 10-2 and will represent the Big Ten West Division in this weekend's Big Ten title game. The Badgers don't have a mess of top-10 wins like their conferencemates — with just one win over a ranked team, No. 21 LSU — but they've boasted one of the nation's best defenses all season long and would add their best win of the year should they beat Penn State this weekend in Indianapolis. Will that be enough to get Wisconsin into the Playoff? That remains to be seen.
Penn State is also 10-2 and will represent the Big Ten East Division in Indy. The Lions do own a win over an Ohio State team that looks bound for the Playoff and a "quality" loss to Michigan, the other loss coming to 25th-ranked Pittsburgh. A win over Wisconsin this weekend would add another top-10 victory to their resume. Would that be enough to get them into the Playoff? Again, we need to wait and see.
Michigan, despite its late-season loss and lack of an opportunity to play for a conference title, has a terrific resume at 10-2. The Wolverines have top-10 wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado and a top-10 loss against Ohio State. A very strong argument could be made that Michigan deserves a spot in the Playoff over whichever team wins the Big Ten title game, and it was ranked ahead of both Wisconsin and Penn State on Tuesday. Will the selection committee see things that way?
For all three of the top-four Big Ten teams not named Ohio State, Playoff hopes could rest with what happens in this weekend's championship games in the ACC and Pac-12. Should one-loss Clemson and Washington teams win their games, they could edge a second Big Ten team for the final Playoff spots behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State. Third-ranked Clemson seems more of a lock at the moment, but fourth-ranked Washington could reach similar status with a win over a top-10 Colorado team Saturday.
Nebraska dropped out of the top 25 after suffering its third loss of the season, falling to Iowa last weekend. The Hawkeyes did not enter the top 25.
Here are the complete top-25 rankings:
2. Ohio State
7. Penn State
10. Oklahoma State
12. Florida State
16. West Virginia
17. Western Michigan
23. Virginia Tech