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  • After the SEC got two teams into the playoff last year, it's only a matter of time until another power conference follows its lead. Is 2018 the Big Ten's turn? Plus, a closer look at a wild Big 12 tiebreaker and the rest of this week's #DearAndy mailbag.
By Andy Staples
October 10, 2018

Most teams have reached the midway point of the season, which means it’s time to kick the potential playoff scenarios into high gear…

From Jim: If Penn State and Ohio State both win out do they both make the playoff?

This would be Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s dream scenario, because this would be the best way for the Big Ten to get two teams into the playoff. If this happened, it would be similar to what happened with LSU and Alabama in 2011. LSU went on the road and beat Alabama by three in overtime. The Crimson Tide didn’t lose any other games. They wound up No. 1 and No. 2 in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings. In Jim’s scenario, you’d have a 13–0 Big Ten champion Ohio State and an 11–1 Penn State that lost to Ohio State by just one point. To attain that record, Penn State would have to beat Iowa, Michigan (on the road) and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks. That likely would satisfy the committee’s desire for quality wins—but here comes the caveat—as long as there aren’t a bunch of undefeated teams.

An undefeated Notre Dame would mean at least two Power 5 conference champs are getting aced out. That probably wouldn’t leave much room for an 11–1 Penn State. But it’s very difficult to go undefeated. If the Fighting Irish were to drop a game, then this scenario becomes more plausible. Especially if the following criteria were met:

• Any two of the ACC, Big 12 or Pac-12 champs has two losses. (Highly possible.)

• The SEC championship game doesn’t feature two undefeated teams. If it does and it goes down to the wire, then each of those teams might have a legitimate claim to a playoff spot.

There will come a day when a league that isn’t the SEC gets two teams into the playoff. This season, this scenario represents the best possible chance of that happening.

NFL
Dwayne Haskins Has an NFL Decision to Make

From Gregory: What’s the tiebreaker in the Big 12 to determine who plays in the championship game if three teams tie at the top?

Unlike in the days of One True Champion, the Big 12 actually did consider the possibility of tiebreakers when it reinstated its championship game. Unlike the other leagues, which match division champs, the Big 12 matches the teams that finish No. 1 and No. 2 in its true round robin league play format.

What Gregory is concerned about is probably something akin to the three-way tie atop the Big 12 South in 2008 when Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all finished 7–1 in league play and Texas beat Oklahoma but lost to Texas Tech, Texas Tech beat Texas but lost to Oklahoma and Oklahoma beat Texas Tech but lost to Texas.

Such a scenario this season probably would involve Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. Since Texas has already beaten Oklahoma, the way it would work is if West Virginia beat Texas, Oklahoma beat West Virginia and all three finished 8–1 in conference play. So how would the tie be broken?

If it wasn’t the iron triangle I described above, this would be easy. If three teams were tied for the No. 2 spot and had multiple losses, the conference records of those three teams would be compared to one another in a mini-round robin format. If one of the teams had gone 2–0 against the other two, it would get the spot.

But our scenario presumes that two of our three tied teams must get spots in the title game. The second tiebreaker is the tied teams’ record against all the other teams in the league. Since that record is 7–0 for each of the three teams in our scenario, we move on to tiebreaker No. 3. In such a predicament, the scoring differential between the tied teams would decide who plays. At the moment, Texas is plus-three by virtue of its 48–45 win against Oklahoma. Oklahoma is minus-three. West Virginia hasn’t played either of the other two yet. After the regular season, the two of the tied teams with the best point differential would play in the title game.

If by some miracle the three teams had exactly the same point differential, the league would move to tiebreaker No. 4. It’s a doozy. From the Big 12:

Draw (In the event steps 1–3 cannot break a multi-team tie the prevailing team or teams will be determined by draw at the Conference office). In the event tiebreaking procedures are unsuccessful and a draw is necessary in determining any portion of seeding, the following procedures will be used:

a. The draw will be conducted in public or with media attendance.

b. Institutions involved in the drawing have the right to have a local representative in attendance at the drawing.

c. A single slip of paper for each institution (with name or logo) will be placed in a container and will be drawn in order of seeding from highest to lowest.

Now that would be must-see TV. It might even be more interesting than the matchup it produces.

From @adlangx: Will the Gophers ever be relevant again?

What is relevance for Minnesota? Eight wins? Nine? Beating Wisconsin for the first time since 2003? I’m not sure, and I doubt we’re going to find out this week when the Golden Gophers travel to Columbus to face undefeated Ohio State.

But there is one thing I do know. The Gophers are huge. Well, at least one of them is. Daniel Faalele, the 6'9", 399-pound Australian lineman who I wrote about in March 2017 before he’d ever played a snap of American football in a game, will start at right tackle on Saturday. The Gophers had hoped to redshirt Faalele, but after inserting him late in last week’s loss to Iowa, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck decided Minnesota’s best chance to win was with its biggest player on the field.

And what does Faalele get as his reward? A matchup with likely 2020 first-rounder Chase Young. Congrats! But as a bonus basis for comparison to understand just how massive Faalele is, here’s Faalele standing next to Young’s Buckeyes linemate Taron Vincent when the two were teammates at IMG Academy. 

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