For the third year in a row, the Big Ten champion was left out of the College Football Playoff. As a result, James Franklin believes the conference needs to take a hard look in the mirror and at least discuss its alignment.
“I was hoping that the Big Ten would be represented in the playoff,” Franklin said Sunday night on a Citrus Bowl call. “As a conference, we have to look at what we’re doing. We have to look at our model and see if it makes sense, especially our side of the conference.”
The Big Ten should be familiar with missing out by now. The conference was shut out in 2017, and, of course, Penn State won the Big Ten title in 2016 and was left out in favor of Ohio State.
And this year, Ohio State, which beat Northwestern by three touchdowns to claim the conference crown on Saturday, finished with a 12-1 record and No. 6 ranking. Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame were playoff locks. Oklahoma, the Big 12 champion, nabbed the No. 4 spot, while 11-2 Georgia came in at No. 5.
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Now, the 2018 Buckeyes didn’t do themselves any favors in the heart of their Big Ten slate. Ohio State lost to Purdue by 29 and needed overtime to beat Maryland.
But the Buckeyes still navigated the Big Ten East, arguably the toughest division in college football. Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State consistently battle for a College Football Playoff spot, and every year the division winner has gone on to take the conference title. Because of the difficulty, some have suggested the Big Ten should abolish divisions altogether.
So it’s jarring to see a 12-1 Big Ten conference champion left out of the playoff. That had Franklin asking questions about the power imbalance in the Big Ten East and West divisions and more.
“We’re beating each other up week in and week out. We play nine conference games. Other conferences play eight, and there’s conversation of putting two of their teams in, and we have been left out three years in a row,” Franklin said. “Are we doing what’s best for our conference schools to make the playoff? ... It’s at least worth a discussion.”
New Year’s Six miss
The Nittany Lions had to have a thing or two go their way over the weekend to reach the Peach or Fiesta Bowl. A Georgia win over Alabama would have likely put Penn State in a New Year’s Six bowl for the third straight year; Ohio State reaching the final four with an Oklahoma win would have done it, too.
But Franklin wasn’t too consumed with the New Year’s Six scenarios.
“To be honest with you, I don’t spend a whole lot of time studying these things,” Franklin said. “I had people on my staff telling me the 37 factors that had to work out for us. It’s outside of our control.”
‘That time of year’
Franklin had quite a Sunday. Penn State’s coaching staff held a meeting at 7 a.m. at the Lasch Building, followed by a team meeting at 9 a.m. and a developmental practice. Then, Franklin said good-bye to a visiting recruit, flew to New Jersey to visit a different prospect, got a call from athletic director Sandy Barbour about the Citrus Bowl news and went to the airport to board another plane for another recruit visit.
As Franklin put it, “It’s that time of year.”
“It’s a juggling act,” the coach said. “It’s why you look around the country and staff sizes are what they are. Michigan has 13 more football-specific staff members than we do. It is challenging. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. ... It’s all hands on deck.”