From the minute Georgia lost the SEC Championship game to Alabama, there was a constant claim from the SEC conference that the Bulldogs should still be in the college football playoffs. Whether or not you believed that claim actually held any weight, the fact is that there was a consistent lobbying effort for Georgia all the way up until the committee announced the four teams. In fact, there was still effort towards Georgia getting “snubbed” out by the conference once the results were out. Now compare this to the Big 10, and well, crickets. Whether or not you believed Ohio State deserved to actually be in the playoffs is another story, but one would have expected the commissioner of their league to be pushing for them. So I’ll ask, does the Big 10 have a Jim Delany problem? Let’s look at the facts.
Back in 2014 when Ohio State routed Wisconsin in the conference championship game, Delany lobbied for Ohio State to be in the playoffs and called them one of the “best four teams in the nation.” This year, not so much. When asked a few days ago if he was frustrated that Ohio State and the Big 10 was once again not in the playoffs, Delany said, “Obviously would love to be in system every year but have respect for those chosen and offer sincere congratulations to players and coaches at Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Proud of our teams, players and coaches in 2018. We look forward not backwards and appreciate the great conference competition/conference race. We define ourselves, and CFP does its job with a four-team field.”
Again, whether or not you believed Ohio State should have been in is besides the point. However, it would have been nice for Delany to campaign for the Buckeyes, the only team that had a shot for the playoffs come decision day. I understand that maybe he did not want to try to attack the committee and be received negatively, but he easily could have lobbied much better for the Buckeyes. Something along the lines of “Back to back conference champions, wins against ranked opponents, margin of wins over conference opponents. What else does Ohio State have to do moving forward to get in?” Instead, we got nothing for Delany, which just seems like a complete failure.
One idea that people have suggested is that Delany was pulling for Michigan to be the Big 10 representative in the college football playoffs, and that probably does hold some weight. If Michigan was able to beat Ohio State and then beat Northwestern in the playoffs, they more than likely would have been the fourth team selected in the playoffs. Being that they were already number four, a win over a top ten Ohio State team and then another ranked Northwestern team would seemingly have given the committee no reason to drop the Wolverines from the top four. However, that did not happen, and the Buckeyes were the team in play here. So as much as Michigan represented the easiest path to the college football playoffs entering the final week of the regular season, it would have been nice to see Delany shift his rooting interests into making a case for the Buckeyes in the top four.
The other gripe with Delany is the formatting of the Big 10 schedule. Over the past few seasons, the playoff committee has made it pretty clear that the SEC is not getting penalized for scheduling eight conference games, instead of the nine the Big 10 has. Furthermore, scheduling a cupcake of a non conference game the week before the final week of the regular season has not hurt the conference in the slightest. Instead, the SEC is getting essentially a bye week against inferior teams such as The Citadel and UL-Lafayette the week before rivalry week. Delany has to see the nine conference schedule is not yielding any type of success to the conference and needs to scrap it as soon as possible. Playing one less conference game will certainly lower a teams strength of schedule, but again, that has not seemed like it has bothered the committee when selecting teams.
The other issue that goes hand in hand here is when the Big 10 teams play each other in a season. Fast forward to next season where the Buckeyes end their season with a home game against Penn State and a road game against Michigan. Yes, the Penn State team probably looks a lot different without Trace McSorely next year, but you have to expect they will still be a team competing for the Big Ten East division. Ohio State, at the same time, will look very different next season, especially if Dwayne Haskins enters the NFL after this season. But you would still expect for them to compete for the division as well. My issue is, why is Penn State scheduled as the second to last game of the regular season? The loser of that game probably will be eliminated from playoff contention, while Alabama plays Western Carolina the same week. The next week is then Ohio State versus Michigan, likely another elimination game for the conference.
Over the past few seasons, the Buckeyes have also had to play against Michigan State the week before Michigan as well. Of course Delany cannot show favoritism towards a certain team, but you have to also play to the strength of the top tier teams in you conference (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan). Maybe he is not the sole decider of when conference teams play each other, but he certainly has some kind of say in it. But, the late season scheduling of playoff caliber teams does not seem to be something helping the conference chances for the playoffs, especially if both already have a loss.
The bottom line is this, the Big Ten conference does not have the committee’s respect. The conference champion has not been represented in the playoffs since Michigan State in 2015. The committee has shown that the Big 10 needs to be perfect to get into the playoffs, and with that, Delany needs to do some serious thinking and overhauling to give his conference a better chance.
So I will ask again, does the Big 10 have a Jim Delany problem?
(Image via Off Tackle Empire)