The Big Ten could pull off the ultimate redemption.
After two straight years of sitting on the College Football Playoff sidelines, it's now possible that the conference could put two teams into the semifinals.
That's a concept normally associated with the SEC. And indeed, the SEC does have a 40% chance to put multiple teams in the playoff, according to the Allstate Playoff Predictor, better than any other conference. But with a 28% shot to put two teams into the semifinals itself, the Big Ten has the feat within its sights.
The possibility is real because the conference boasts three legitimate playoff contenders in Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. That the Pac-12 is already on its last legs, Notre Dame has a loss on its resume and Georgia fell to Will Muschamp and South Carolina last weekend all help, too.
While there is no single scenario that is a lock to put two teams from the Big Ten in, its chances are decent because there are several in which the idea becomes possible.
Below are some scenarios where the committee could put multiple teams in, along with the chance that this scenario actually plays out, (according to FPI) and the likelihood of each team involved finishing in the top four of the rankings (per the Allstate Playoff Predictor). With all due to respect to other teams like Michigan and Minnesota that are technically still alive, we limited this exercise to the three teams with at least a 1% chance to get into the playoff.
Ohio State (12-1) beats Wisconsin in the regular season, but Wisconsin (12-1) strikes back in the Big Ten championship game. Both teams win all of their other games.
Chance to happen: 8%
Heather Dinich touched on this situation this week. Wisconsin is a virtual lock to get in this way, and our model is pretty bullish on Ohio State to join the Badgers -- with a 73% chance. The Buckeyes would be 12-1 with a win over a playoff team, and it would be easy to argue they are one of the four "best" teams (they rank second in FPI right now).
It's not a total lock -- four one-loss champions might make it tough, as could an 11-1 LSU -- but there's a lot of football to be played and potential upsets to be had elsewhere. And here's one more I can't help but wonder about: Who gets in, a 12-1 conference champion Clemson or a 12-1 non-champion Ohio State?
The inverse: Wisconsin (12-1) wins in Columbus, loses in the conference championship to Ohio State (12-1)
Chance to happen: 6%
With the roles reversed, Ohio State becomes the easy in, but Wisconsin has just about the same chance to reach the playoff, despite the fact that FPI (simulating the committee's eye test here) thinks the Badgers are about six points worse on a neutral field than the Buckeyes. Wisconsin would, in this scenario, have an awfully impressive road win at Columbus.
Penn State wins out (13-0), Ohio State (11-1) wins every other game
Chance to happen: 3%
Will the Buckeyes grant Ohio State the path to entry it gave Alabama two seasons ago?
We give it a 46% chance to happen, but what that really means is the Buckeyes would need help. Losses from contenders like Oklahoma, Oregon, LSU and Clemson would all go a long way toward helping Ohio State's cause.
Ohio State wins out (13-0), Penn State (11-1) wins every other game
Chance to happen: 13%
This version is more likely to occur, but it's much harder for the Big Ten to actually get two in: We give Penn State a 31% shot to end up reaching the playoff in this scenario. The Nittany Lions would lack a signature win (does Michigan count?) in addition to needing help from elsewhere.
Ohio State (12-1) wins out in regular season, Penn State (11-1) wins every other game, a one-loss Wisconsin (12-1) beats Ohio State for Big Ten championship
Chance to happen: 3%
A modified version of a previous scenario we've already covered, and the result actually doesn't move much. The Allstate Playoff Predictor doesn't think Penn State is a real contender given this situation, but Ohio State is (and Wisconsin is in almost for sure).
Penn State (12-1) wins out in the regular season but loses to a one-loss Wisconsin (12-1) in the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State finishes 11-1.
Chance to happen: 2%
One-loss chaos! This is actually the scenario where the champion, Wisconsin, is not a total lock to get in. We make the Badgers the most likely Big Ten team to earn a berth here, but only at 78%. Penn State is at 61% and Ohio State at 31%. The committee could go a couple different ways here, depending on how many spots are realistically available.
Wisconsin finishes 11-1 but does not win the Big Ten West, with a win at Ohio State but a loss at Minnesota (12-1 or 13-0)
Chance to happen: <1%
This is actually too unlikely for the Allstate Playoff Predictor to put a firm number on the Badgers' chances here (presuming the conference champion gets in). However, we can broadly say that Wisconsin would be a long shot to earn the committee's favor in this scenario.