Big Ten

Week 11 upsets help Big Ten's College Football Playoff chances

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Week 11 upsets help Big Ten's College Football Playoff chances

You can always count on college football for some late-season chaos, and in Week 11, some of that chaos benefited the Big Ten's College Football Playoff contenders.

Ohio State and Iowa entered the weekend as two of five undefeated Power 5 conference teams. That number shrank to four on Saturday, when Baylor lost to Oklahoma, ending the Bears' bid for a perfect season. And the Pac-12 was effectively eliminated from the Playoff, with contenders Stanford and Utah both suffering their second losses of the season. The Pac-12 champ, whoever it ends up being, will have no fewer than two losses. Highly ranked LSU might've already been on the outside looking in when it came to the Playoff, but it lost, too, on Saturday, leaving just two one-loss SEC teams. Alabama and Florida are the one-loss squads, on track to meet in the SEC title game.

The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, meanwhile, stayed perfect.

What does it mean for the Big Ten's College Football Playoff chances?

[MORE BIG TEN: Hawkeyes up to 10-0 after winning Floyd of Rosedale]

Those chances were already quite good, to be perfectly honest, especially when it comes to Ohio State. If the currently ranked No. 3 Buckeyes win their final two regular-season games against Michigan State and Michigan and take down Iowa in the Big Ten title game, finishing the season undefeated with a conference championship in hand, it likely wouldn't have mattered what anyone else did. Heck, it might have been enough to bump the Bucks up to No. 1. That could still be the outcome.

The really good news here is for Iowa, which won't have to do as much convincing now if it finishes 13-0 as the league's champion. The Hawkeyes' strength of schedule has been called into question as a potential roadblock to reaching the College Football Playoff. But that's less important after Saturday because there are now fewer contenders and fewer contenders with quality resumes.

Baylor's first loss is the biggest deal, as it increases the likelihood of the eventual Big 12 champion, whichever of the four contenders it is, of having a loss. Oklahoma State is the only one with an undefeated record, as Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU each have one loss. The Cowboys still have the Bears and the Sooners on the schedule, but even if they finish undefeated, it's clear the committee has thought less of them so far than the rest of the undefeated Power 5 teams.

The Pac-12 eliminated itself from contention with Stanford losing to Oregon and Utah losing to Arizona. It's possible the conference will have no top-10 teams in this week's rankings. A two-loss Pac-12 champ couldn't possibly challenge an undefeated Iowa team for a spot in the Playoff. Stanford still has some Playoff power in it, though, as it hosts contending Notre Dame on Thanksgiving weekend. But, in more good news for Iowa, a potential Notre Dame win over Stanford now lacks some of the luster it had just a day ago.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Hawkeyes gear right here]

LSU's loss to Arkansas maybe dings Alabama's resume a little, considering that's the Tide's marquee win. But in the SEC, strength of schedule is never really an issue, and opportunities for marquee wins seem to present themselves on a weekly basis. Alabama has three wins against teams ranked in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, with a big date against Florida looming in the league title bout.

Obviously a lot can still happen in the remaining two weeks of the regular season, not only across the college football landscape, but in the Big Ten, as well. Ohio State has big hurdles to clear in Michigan State and Michigan, and all three of those teams can still win the East Division title. Disaster can strike at any moment, as Michigan State found out against Nebraska two weekends ago. And the Big Ten title game will obviously pit two very good teams against each other, with one team's hopes almost guaranteed to get derailed that night.

But this much seems pretty clear at this point: If the Big Ten champ has an undefeated record after the Big Ten title game, consider the ticket to the Playoff punched.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?