Here we go again.
The second College Football Playoff rankings were just released, and there are some juicy details to digest for the Big Ten. Ohio State remains in the top four — albeit somewhat precariously, and Iowa has moved into prime real-estate, just waiting to take advantage of a stumble by one of the top four.
Of course the large majority of the league fell out of CFP graces long ago, but what about the top of the conference that still holds out hope of crashing the ball?
Here’s a look at what the Big Ten teams still in contention need in order to get an invitation to the biggest party in college football:
Ohio State, Week two CFP ranking – 3
Why the ranking should be higher: The Buckeyes are still undefeated, still the national champs, and still have the large majority of their roster intact from an improbable title run last year. The defense is underrated and the offense has looked dynamic with J.T. Barrett running the show. Barring another bone-headed mistake, he should be the starter from here on out.
Why the ranking should be lower: The offense hasn’t exactly looked unstoppable against mediocre competition, and there has been one too many leaks up the middle with the run defense. Most importantly, the tunes might not stop before the game of quarterback musical chairs does the team in.
What needs to happen: Win out and the Bucks are in. A loss this late in the season could be devastating, but there’s no way the defending champs don’t get an invite if they run through the back-loaded gauntlet with Michigan, Michigan State and a likely Iowa team in the title game.
Iowa, Week two CFP ranking – 5
Why the ranking should be higher: The Hawkeyes are undefeated and it’s not like it’s been a stroll through the candy aisle at the grocery store. Wins against Pitt, at Wisconsin and at Northwestern are three solid victories. The defense has been fantastic and there’s just something about the team in Iowa City that blows up the notion of being individual playmakers.
Why the ranking should be lower: The best win is against the No. 19 ranked team, far below what others at the top have done, and the offense lacks the explosive type of athlete to create mismatches against elite talent on defense. Going by just the eye test, the Hawks don’t see 20/20.
What needs to happen: Prior to this week’s release, it looked like a daunting task to climb Mount Everest to get to the summit, but now they’re just one last nudge away. As improbable as it may have been to start the season, if Iowa wins out, including a win over an undefeated Ohio State or a ranked Michigan or a Michigan State team in Indy, and its in. Lose however, and it’s probably sour grapes time.
Michigan State, Week two CFP ranking – 13
Why the ranking should be higher: There’s only one loss, and it was on a flukey and controversial play to Nebraska on the road. The Spartans are led by a seasoned and talented quarterback, have an athletic defensive front and posess the ability and history to rise to the ocassion.
Why the ranking should be lower: There are a littany of injuries that have had a noticeable impact with the on-field performance. The secondary has struggled and the running game has yet to get on track. Far too many games have been closer than advertised and the Spartans are lucky to have just one-loss on the season.
What needs to happen: Beat Ohio State on November 21, run the rest of the schedule including a win in Indy, and hope for some chaos above to ensue at the top of the other power five leagues. Root for Florida to lose to Florida State and then beat Alabama in Atlanta, hope that the Big Twelve and Pac-12 enter steel-cage death matches within each of its respective ranks, and pull for Notre Dame to lose to Stanford.
Michigan, Week two CFP ranking – 14
Why the ranking should be higher: It shouldn’t. The Wolverines are the highest ranked two-loss team thanks to the narrow losses to the formidable Utah and Michigan State squads. Still, there’s not a team out there that wants to go toe-to-toe with that defense and that coach.
Why the ranking should be lower: The defense is fantastic, but the offense is still a work in progress. Jake Rudock is efficient at the quarterback position, but doesn’t have a history of putting teams on his back and pulling defeat out of the fire. This Wolverine team still needs an upgrade in talent to compete for really, really big things.
What needs to happen: Much like the above, the equivalent of college football Armageddon would need to rain down with fire, hail, lightning and multiple plagues descending upon all other competitors. But to get that point, the Wolverines would first need to beat Ohio State a week removed from the Buckeyes taking care of the Spartans to get to Indy, then take care of business against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game. Then, pray for the locusts, or a repeat of 2007 to occur.
Phil Harrison is a frequent contributor to talking10.com. He is also a the founder of Big10news.com and featured contributor to collegefootballews.com and occasionally campusinsiders.com. You can follow him on twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org If that doesn’t work, you can find him in the doghouse at home.