Big Ten changes rules to allow No. 4 Ohio State to play in championship game

Ohio State will play Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19.

The conference said Wednesday afternoon that it was amending its six-game minimum rule to allow Ohio State to get into the title game. The No. 4 Buckeyes are 5-0 and saw Saturday’s game against Michigan canceled because the Wolverines are unable to play due to COVID-19.

The change was first reported by Yahoo Sports earlier Wednesday.

From the Big Ten:

“The Big Ten Conference Administrators Council, which includes the Directors of Athletics and Senior Women Administrators from all 14 member institutions, voted today to eliminate the minimum-game requirement for participation in the 2020 Big Ten Football Championship Game. The decision was made in collaboration with the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors and the conference office.”

“The decision was based on a competitive analysis which determined that Ohio State would have advanced to the Big Ten Football Championship Game based on its undefeated record and head-to-head victory over Indiana regardless of a win or loss against Michigan.”

Ohio State players celebrate following an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich.  (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Ohio State will be heading to the Big Ten title game. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The six-game minimum was installed before the season in case of pandemic-induced postponements, though it’s clear that Big Ten schools didn’t anticipate so many games getting canceled in 2020. The conference instituted an eight games in eight weeks schedule for each of its 14 teams and just four of those 14 teams have played seven games through the first seven weeks of the season so far.

Ohio State was also responsible for just one of its three cancellations. While it didn’t play against Illinois after COVID-19 positives surfaced among the team over the week of Thanksgiving, its game against Maryland was canceled because of COVID-19 at Maryland.

Ohio State is also the only school that has missed just one game due to its own COVID-19 positives. Every other team that has been forced to cancel a game due to the virus has missed at least two games.

No. 12 Indiana would have played No. 14 Northwestern had Ohio State remained ineligible for the title game. After the Big Ten announced its decision, Indiana released a statement. The Hoosiers are unable to play Purdue on Saturday after both teams are dealing with COVID-19 cases.

How it affects Ohio State’s playoff hopes

Making the Big Ten title game may not do much for Ohio State’s playoff chances. The Buckeyes remained at No. 4 on Tuesday night after beating Michigan State and are not going to play on Saturday ahead of the Big Ten title game.

Had Ohio State remained ineligible for the title game it would have played No. 16 Iowa on championship Saturday. Unless the Hawkeyes lost on Dec. 12 to Wisconsin, a win over Iowa on Dec. 19 isn’t going to be viewed all that differently by the committee than a win over a Northwestern team just two spots higher.

Unless No. 3 Clemson beats No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 6 Florida beats No. 1 Alabama, Ohio State should stay in the top four as long as it finishes 6-0.

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