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article imageOp-Ed: OSU in CFB Playoff still doesn't qualify B1G as elite conference

By Nate Smith     Dec 8, 2014 in Sports
Columbus - Believe me when I tell you that I'm as joyful as any other member of Buckeye nation as we all start to come down from the collective euphoria of having been picked for the College Football Playoff.
And in the name of full disclosure, I must own the fact that I'd been decidedly pessimistic about Ohio State's playoff changes in the immediate aftermath of a Sept. 6 home upset to Virginia Tech.
Even as late as coming into play Saturday, I didn't think there was any way the Buckeyes would qualify for this playoff in the absence of a loss from any of the four teams ahead of them.
Then, 59-0 happened. Ohio State pummeled Wisconsin so decisively the selection committee felt it had no choice but to put the Buckeyes in the playoff, and in so doing presented Ohio State football with an opportunity to exorcise some serious primetime demons with a win over perennial powerhouse Alabama in a matchup few could have predicted early in the season.
Saturday, Sept. 6, was a bad day, not just for Buckeyes, but for fans of any Big Ten Conference team.
In a trio of nationally televised games, the conference's supposedly best teams each sustained double-digit losses to quality opponents.
What's more, the Nebraska Cornhuskers needed a late touchdown just to get past McNeese State.
The humbling losses left national commentators burying the conference, and even former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit weighed in on the dismal performance of the B1G that day.
Of course, that seems like forever ago now, as the Buckeyes have in front of them a chance to play in their first national championship since 2007.
That fact has, in the minds of some, somehow vindicated the conference as a whole. My social media feed, chock full of midwesterners and Big Ten loyalists, is abuzz with talk about how the conference is redeemed because the Buckeyes earned a spot in the four-team playoff field.
The fact is, the conference still has a long way to go to catch up with the SEC in the race for "Best College Football Conference."
It gives me no great joy to concede that point, but no other intellectually honest argument can be made.
As far as I'm concerned the determining factor for "best conference" begins and ends with depth. Pretty much every major college football conference has at least one team that can reasonably compete with any other major FBS program.
What sets the SEC apart from the rest is its depth. Top fives in both the Associated Press and playoff committee polls were a revolving door of SEC teams including Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and, of course, Alabama.
At no real point during this season did any more than two Big Ten teams have a realistic hope at the playoff. Even if it had won Saturday night, Wisconsin would not have qualified.
(Neither would have Missouri, in the event it had upended Alabama.) But that has more to do with the geographical breakdown of the conference than anything else.
After its victory over Michigan State, Ohio State has been the only B1G conference team with a legitimate playoff resume since November.
Now, as is the case about every year, it seems, Big Ten teams have some compelling matchups with big-time opponents from each major conference.
In addition to the OSU-'Bama showdown, Michigan State plays Baylor, and Wisconsin plays Auburn, for example. Those are the games that get evaluated through the microscope of "best conference," and strong performances from Big Ten teams would go a long way to restoring the conference's tattered image.
Nevermind the opinions of people like Mark May, Ohio State football demonstrated enough progress, culminating in that 59-point beatdown of Bucky Badger to warrant a spot in the playoff.
But that fact alone doesn't account for a sub-.500 record all time in bowl games.
Of course, vindication for the Big Ten would just be icing on the cake. The only thing I really care about is beating Alabama.
The only thing Tide's good for is sanitizing my Ohio State Buckeyes fan gear.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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