The Big Ten athletic directors will meet Wednesday but have not yet discussed whether to consider changing qualifications for the Big Ten Championship Game, sources told CBS Sports. The Ohio State-Michigan game was canceled Tuesday, and it will not be played this season the first time since World War I. That reality will likely keep No. 4 Ohio State (5-0) under the six-game threshold the Big Ten decided was needed to qualify for its Dec. 19 championship game.
The Big Ten ADs meeting was regularly scheduled and not a response to the game cancellation.
Conference ADs, presidents and coaches unanimously agreed upon that minimum in September, according to a source. Any vote to change that number would have to be ratified by conference presidents. However, sources stressed the issue has not come up at all among Big Ten ADs. Obviously, that could change in a hurry with the league's best team not meeting the expected threshold.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren did not answer directly questions on rescinding the six-game requirement while appearing Tuesday at the Learfield IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.
"This just happened," he said. "What we'll do as a conference is continually remain transparent, continually communicate internally with our ADs, key stakeholders, chancellors and presidents. This is brand new information. It just happened. It was just announced. We'll work through these issues. ... We're operating in unprecedented times. No one has ever played collegiate sports during the middle of a pandemic. We have to make sure we remain fluid, that we do remain nimble during these times. This has never happened before. We are fortunate to be where we are today."
The cancellation calls into question, at least for the moment, whether Ohio State deserves a College Football Playoff spot if it cannot play in its conference championship game. Coach Ryan Day and AD Gene Smith led the push for the conference to change its stance after the league canceled its season in August. Now, ironically, Ohio State could be constricted by the league that stands to benefit from it playing in the CFP.
If it is able to play, Ohio State could still take the field Saturday for a sixth game if the Big Ten rearranges its schedule. Indiana vs. Purdue may be on the verge of cancellation, but would the Big Ten create a regular-season rematch of teams that just played a couple weeks ago? It is unlikely the league would shift around its entire schedule. Ohio State could take a nonconference opponent if allowed by the league; that would not make them eligible for the Big Ten title game, but it could enhance their CFP profile.
Even if the Buckeyes do not play this week, they will likely see a sixth game on Dec. 19 without playing in the Big Ten Championship Game as the Big Ten decided before the season that the remaining 12 teams not in the title game would play each other. Those games would be scheduled first based on standing within each division with an intent not to repeat matchups if possible.
Whether Ohio State finishes with five or six games on its schedule, it would be the fewest of any team to play for a championship in the BCS era (since 1998) if it enters the CFP. By comparison, the SEC hasn't had a game canceled yet, though that may change with the season coming to an end. The Michigan cancellation is Ohio State's third in 2020.
Regardless of what happens, Ohio State could also become the first undefeated Power Five champion not to play for a national championship since Auburn in 2003. That would be more of a certainty if No. 6 Florida beats No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Clemson defeats No. 2 Notre Dame to win their respective conference championship games. In that scenario, there is a good possibility those four teams remain at the top in the CFP.
At least for a day, there will a national discussion about ethics. If the rules are changed to allow Ohio State to play, that would eliminate Indiana from the Big Ten title game. The Hoosiers lost head-to-head to Ohio State for their only defeat of the season. Their administrators also voted for the six-game minimum along with the rest of the league.
The ACC already cancelled the last regular-season games for Notre Dame and Clemson this Saturday in order to pave their way to the CFP. The SEC has refused to do the same for Alabama and Florida. If the Big Ten does that for Ohio State, money would have to be a consideration. Playoff teams each earn $6 million from the CFP.
"Will this be principles for CFP/money?" wondered one conference official.