The Big Ten eliminated its six-game minimum requirement for teams to compete in the conference championship game and advanced No. 4 Ohio State to the 2020 Big Ten Championship Game. The conference announced on Wednesday that its administrative council overturned its own rule after consultation with league athletic directors and university presidents. As a result, the No. 4 Buckeyes will take on No. 14 Northwestern in Indianapolis on Dec. 19.
The Buckeyes' eligibility for the Big Ten title has been a national talking point for the past couple of weeks and it took center stage on Tuesday. Ohio State's Dec. 12 game against Michigan was canceled due to ongoing COVID-19 issues within the Wolverines' program, putting its eligibility for the title game in jeopardy. At 5-0, Ohio State fell one game below the six-game minimum for title game eligibility previously agreed upon by Big Ten ADs before the season. By default, No. 12 Indiana would have been the Big Ten East representative even though the Hoosiers lost to Ohio State 42-35 on Nov. 21.
However, according to the league statement, "the decision was based on a competitive analysis which determined that Ohio State would have advanced to the Big Ten Football Championship Game based on its undefeated record and head-to-head victory over Indiana regardless of a win or loss against Michigan."
Also at stake was the Buckeyes' path to the College Football Playoff. Based on the selection committee's latest rankings, Ohio State would probably be in regardless of whether it won the Big Ten title, but this adds to the assurance for the Buckeyes.
The Big Ten decided in September, prior to starting its eight-game season, that it would require teams to play at least six of the scheduled games in order to protect the integrity of the championship game. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported that the minimum was unanimously agreed upon. But in recent weeks, some Big Ten athletic directors, including Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez and even Michigan's Warde Manuel, have publicly favored overturning that rule.
"I don't believe that anybody at Ohio State or any other team should be punished for decisions that we made by looking at eight games and saying, 'We should play six,'" Manuel said during a Zoom call with reporters, "not knowing the effects of what happens to them and their team versus what happens to our team."