With its 48-3 win over Michigan State on Saturday, Ohio State is in a commanding position to win the Big Ten East and earn a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.
For the Buckeyes, the path to a division title and a trip to Indianapolis is clear: Win and you’re in. With a one-game outright lead in the Big Ten East, Ohio State simply needs to win its final two regular-season games to win the division and play for a conference title.
Ohio State will likely end up playing in the Big Ten Championship Game, where the Big Ten East winner will play Wisconsin, even if it loses one of its final two regular-season games. Ohio State could clinch the championship game berth next weekend if it beats Illinois and Wisconsin beats Michigan. But there are still scenarios, although each of them need a lot of help, that could still lead to Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State – who each have 5-2 records in conference games, while Ohio State is 6-1 – playing for the conference title.
Ohio State makes the Big Ten title game if…
- Ohio State beats Michigan
This is the simplest scenario: If Ohio State wins The Game for a sixth year in a row, the Buckeyes will earn the Big Ten East’s berth in the conference championship game, as they will have to head-to-head wins over each of the other three divisional contenders and no more than two in-conference losses.
- Ohio State beats Illinois AND Wisconsin beats Michigan
While Ohio State would clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title by beating Illinois, its chance to clinch a berth in the conference championship game next weekend is contingent on what happens in Madison. If Michigan upsets Wisconsin at Camp Randall, there would still be a scenario in which the Wolverines could earn a spot in the Big Ten title if it wins The Game. If Michigan takes a third Big Ten loss, however, Ohio State’s head-to-head wins over Michigan State and Penn State would be enough for the Buckeyes to clinch just by beating the Illini.
Michigan vs. Wisconsin is scheduled for a noon kickoff, while Ohio State plays Illinois at 3:30 p.m., so the Buckeyes should know whether they have a chance to clinch before they take the field on Saturday.
- Ohio State beats Illinois AND either Michigan State or Penn State wins out
Oddly enough, it actually helps Ohio State’s chances of making the Big Ten title game for Michigan State and Penn State to win their final two regular-season games, because it would create a three- or four-way tie in the event that Ohio State beat Illinois but Michigan beat Ohio State.
In the event of a four-way tie between Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, the first tiebreaker at play would be records against the other three teams, which would eliminate Michigan (losses to Michigan State and Penn State) and Penn State (losses to Ohio State and Michigan State). Ohio State would then get the championship game berth because of its head-to-head win over Michigan State.
In the event of a three-way tie between Ohio State, Michigan and either Michigan State or Penn State, the first tiebreaker at play would be records within the division, since all three teams would have 1-1 records against each other. That would once again eliminate Michigan and Penn State – since Ohio State’s loss to Iowa and Michigan State’s loss to Northwestern came against teams from the West division – and once again, Ohio State would advance to the championship game over Michigan State because of its head-to-head win.
Michigan makes the Big Ten title game if…
- Michigan beats Ohio State AND Michigan State loses another game AND Penn State loses another game
Although a win over Ohio State would give Michigan the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buckeyes, that would only help the Wolverines in the event of a two-way tie with the Buckeyes, because of the Wolverines’ previous losses to Michigan State and Penn State.
That means Michigan needs Michigan State to lose one of its final two regular-season games to either Maryland or Rutgers, and Penn State to lose one of its final two regular-season games to either Nebraska or Maryland – results that really shouldn’t happen, given that neither Maryland, Nebraska nor Rutgers has won a conference game against a Big Ten team with a winning record this year.
Michigan State makes the Big Ten title game if…
- Michigan State wins its final two games AND Ohio State loses its final two games
While Michigan State has the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Michigan and Penn State, and would therefore also have the three-way tiebreaker over those two teams, Saturday’s loss to Ohio State means the Spartans would need the Buckeyes to lose not only to Michigan, but also to Illinois – another result that really shouldn’t happen, given that Illinois is winless in conference play this year.
Penn State makes the Big Ten title game if…
- Penn State wins its final two games AND Ohio State loses its final two games AND Michigan State loses another game
While Michigan needs three game results to break its way and Michigan State would need four game results to break its way to make the Big Ten title game, Penn State would need five, because of its losses to both Ohio State and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions should be able to win their final two games against Nebraska and Maryland, and it’s plausible the Buckeyes could lose to Michigan, but also needing Ohio State to lose to Illinois and Michigan State to lose to either Maryland or Rutgers makes this the longest of long shots.