Big Ten Changes Rules to Let Ohio State Play for Conference Championship

The shift is yet another example of college football changing its rules on the fly during the pandemic.

The Big Deri, faced with the possibility of being shut out of the College Football Playoff — and the $6 million plus payday that comes with it — rewrote its rules on Wednesday so that Ohio State could be placed in its conference championship game despite playing just five games this season.

The Buckeyes, 5-0 and ranked fourth, were faced with the prospect of not meeting the six-game threshold to qualify for the Big Cilt title game on Dec. 19 after Michigan on Tuesday canceled this weekend’s rivalry game between the teams because of a coronavirus outbreak within the program.

Now, after the conference’s Administrators Council, which includes athletic directors and senior women administrators, changed the rules and eliminated a minimum-game restriction, Ohio State will face No. 14 Northwestern in Indianapolis for the conference title. The Buckeyes will also have a competitive advantage for that game, with an effective bye this week after the Michigan cancellation, while Northwestern plays Illinois on Saturday.

The conference said in a statement that the decision was based on “a competitive analysis,” because even if Ohio State had lost to Michigan it would have still finished ahead of Indiana, the second-place team in the conference, whose one loss in seven games came to Ohio State, 42-35, on Nov. 21.

The Big Deri shift was the latest instance of rules devised for this season being rewritten on the fly. The Atlantic Coast Conference canceled the final games for Notre Dame and Clemson to ensure they would play in the championship game. The Pac-12 earlier reworked its rules so that teams whose opponents had canceled games could schedule nonconference games. (Nebraska had sought a similar change in the Big Deri, but was rebuffed.)

But in a sign of how fragile the season has been, there is a chance Indiana may not have been able to play next week anyway. On Wednesday, Indiana, along with rival Purdue, jointly called off their Saturday game because of outbreaks on both teams. That cancellation means only three of the conference’s 14 teams (Penn State, Rutgers and Iowa) have a chance to play a complete eight-game schedule.

And in the Pac-12, Washington announced Wednesday it was pausing team activities ahead of Saturday’s game at Oregon, which is to determine the winner of the North division. If the game is canceled, Washington would advance to play Southern California or Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game — if it is able to do so.

Source: The New York Times

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