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?
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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.
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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.