Michigan would be in the College Football Playoff if the season ended today. Ohio State apparently still has some work to do.
No, there weren't two Big Ten teams in the top four of this week's College Football Playoff rankings. There was plenty of speculation that might've been the case after a mighty impressive 62-3 win for the Buckeyes over the 10th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers last weekend, not to mention No. 4 Texas A&M's loss to Mississippi State. But Ohio State did not jump undefeated Washington when the new rankings were released Tuesday night, with Alabama, Clemson and Michigan hanging on to the first, second and third spots, Washington coming in at No. 4 and Ohio State right outside the top four at No. 5.
All in all, there were four Big Ten teams in the top 10: third-ranked Michigan, fifth-ranked Ohio State, seventh-ranked Wisconsin and 10th-ranked Penn State. Aforementioned Nebraska plummeted from the 10th spot last week down to No. 19 this week.
The Wolverines are rolling, still unbeaten at 9-0 and riding high after a 59-3 beatdown of Maryland in Ann Arbor. Michigan has the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, allowing an average of 10.7 points per game, and the No. 3 scoring offense in the country, averaging 48 points per game. The Wolverines will be heavily favored in their next two games at Iowa and at home against Indiana, potentially setting up a monumental showdown at Ohio State on the final day of the regular season.
In order for that to happen, though, the Buckeyes will need to hold up their end of the bargain and continue winning over the next couple weeks. Any worries from an admittedly imperfect stretch that featured a loss to Penn State and narrow wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern have to be wiped away after Ohio State blew out Nebraska by nearly 60 points last weekend in Columbus. The Buckeyes fired on all imaginable cylinders in that game, the offense humming behind J.T. Barrett and the defense dominating by keeping a top-10 team out of the end zone and coming away with two interception-return touchdowns. Ohio State's next two games come against Maryland and Michigan State, both on the road, but will feature the Buckeyes as big favorites. And then The Game.
Sitting behind the conference's two top dogs are two teams that still technically have shots at winning the Big Ten title and reaching the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin, 7-2, is in the driver's seat in the Big Ten West Division despite a three-way tie at the top of the standings. The Badgers already have a head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska in the bank, and of course they will face off with rival Minnesota in the Axe Game on the final day of the regular season. Wisconsin plays lower-level Big Ten West teams Illinois and Purdue before that matchup with Minnesota.
Meanwhile, Penn State can still win the crowded Big Ten East Division should Ohio State or Michigan slip up en route to their regular-season finale. The Nittany Lions have a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Buckeyes. They would need the Wolverines to lose twice in the next three weeks to get past them and punch a ticket to Indianapolis. But certainly Penn State looks as good as anyone right now coming off a 41-14 destruction of Iowa last weekend. Penn State plays at Indiana and at Rutgers before wrapping the regular season with a home game against freefalling Michigan State.
Nebraska still has a spot in these rankings but fell nine spots following that massive defeat at Ohio State. The Huskers take on Minnesota this weekend before games against Maryland and Iowa before the regular season ends.
Here are the complete College Football Playoff selection committee top-25 rankings:
5. Ohio State
8. Texas A&M
10. Penn State
13. Oklahoma State
14. Virginia Tech
16. West Virginia
17. North Carolina
18. Florida State
21. Western Michigan
22. Boise State
23. Washington State