Buy or Sell: Michigan should be in running for playoff spot?
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Here is what I’m buying and selling as we wait for the Big Ten championship game and wonder who will make the playoff from the Big Ten.
Ohio State’s playoff hopes?
Buy. I think the Buckeyes are sitting pretty. They have a glossy resume with wins at No. 14 Oklahoma, at No. 8 Wisconsin, vs. No. 10 Nebraska and vs. 3 Michigan. The lone loss: at Penn State. Few—if any—teams in America can match that list of accomplishments. The Buckeyes were No. 2 in the most recent College Football Playoff poll—and should be this week, too, after beating No. 3 Michigan. The CFP committee has never taken a non-conference champ in the brief two-year history of the event. Expect that to change.
Michigan should be in the running for a playoff spot even as a non-champ with two losses?
Buy. Honestly, the two best teams in the Big Ten are arguably Ohio State and Michigan. No offense to Penn State and Wisconsin, the teams that won their divisions and will square off in the Big Ten title game this Saturday in Indianapolis. Yes, the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State. But the Buckeyes have a more impressive resume than Penn State any way you slice it, even if the Nittany Lions end up winning the league title game. Wisconsin has a nice resume, but it isn’t better than Ohio State—which beat the Badgers in Madison—and it isn’t superior to the Wolverines’—who toppled Wisconsin. Oh, and Michigan clobbered Penn State. The Wolverines’ losses: At Iowa and at Ohio State. Know this: The College Football Playoff committee’s goal is NOT to put the four best conference champions in the playoff. Rather, it is charged with putting the four best teams in the playoff. It has to judge teams based on their entire seasons, not just the conference portion of it.
Two Big Ten teams in the playoff?
Sell. Yes, it could happen, but it’s a long shot. First, know this: Ohio State looks like a lock to be in the playoff. To get a second team, the Big Ten would need teams like Washington or Clemson to lose their league title games, which would clear room. And a Wisconsin win over Penn State in the Big Ten title game would be ideal, since the Badgers have the higher rating and a more impressive resume than PSU with victories over three teams ranked by the AP at the time of the game (No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Michigan State and No. 7 Nebraska), in addition to a Big Ten title game triumph.
Curtis Samuel is Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?
Buy. This looks to be an open race, as no player has really set himself off from the pack. A good case can be made for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who has 1,084 yards rushing. Teammate Trace McSorley (No. 1 in passing efficiency in the Big Ten) has been good, too. And Northwestern’s duo of running back Justin Jackson (Big Ten-high 1,300 yards rushing) and wideout Austin Carr (Big Ten-high 84 catches for 1,196 yards and 12 TDs) has been dynamite. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett? He has been too inconsistent as a passer. Samuel is the most dynamic and impressive player in the Big Ten. He also is the league’s top talent. He is No. 2 in the conference in receptions with 65 to go along with 822 receiving yards and seven TDs. Samuel also has 704 yards rushing with eight TDs. No player in the nation has over 800 yards receiving and 700 yards rushing. And who scored the winning TD last week vs. Michigan? Yep, Samuel.
A high-scoring Big Ten title game?
Sell. I don’t think we’ll see many points, as these teams play good defense—especially Wisconsin. The Badgers are No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring defense (13.7 ppg) and No. 3 in total defense (292.0 ypg). The rush defense paces the league (100.8 ypg). The Nittany Lions’ numbers aren’t as glowing, but the unit has played well down the stretch and gotten better as the year has progressed. Foes have scored 24 or fewer points in six of the last seven games vs. PSU.
Paul Chryst is Big Ten Coach of the Year?
Sell. Hey, I love what Chryst has done in his second year in Madison, working in new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and a new QB while navigating one of the most daunting schedules in the nation. Despite having to deal with all of that, UW won the West and is in the Big Ten title game for a fourth time in school annals. But I have to give league coach of the year honors to Penn State’s James Franklin, who needed a breakout year and got it by leading PSU to the East title after going 14-12 his first two years. Franklin also had to break in a new QB with a new offensive coordinator. And PSU also had a new defensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach. No matter, Franklin took the Nittany Lions to an improbable 10-2 mark and East banner after opening 2-2.
Purdue soon will name a head coach?
Buy. The goal has been to have a coach in place soon after the season ended. Well, the season has ended for the Boilermakers. And they have been without a head coach since firing Darrell Hazell after the Iowa game on Oct. 15. Purdue A.D. Mike Bobinski has had a lot of lead time on this search with the intent of getting ahead of the crowd and avoiding the ensuing hiring frenzy. So, here we are … waiting. Who’s it gonna be? Names like Les Miles, P.J. Fleck, Dan Mullen, Craig Bohl and Troy Calhoun percolate. Know this: Some are calling this the … biggest … hire … in … school … history. Yes, it’s that important for this athletic department to get this right. The losses need to end and seats in Ross-Ade Stadium need to be filled. No pressure, Bobinski.