The Big Ten Championship Game pits Penn State against Wisconsin on Saturday night. Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin believes the winner should have a shot at the College Football Playoff.
It seems clear that Ohio State will receive a spot in the College Football Playoff despite not even winning its own division in its conference. That’s bound to create some controversy, especially if the team that wins Saturday night’s Big Ten Championship Game doesn’t also get a bid.
Penn State coach James Franklin is hoping the CFP committee rewards the Big Ten champion. His Nittany Lions face Wisconsin in the conference title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, a contest that last year acted as a de facto play-in game for the College Football Playoff when Michigan State beat Iowa and earned a berth.
That might not be the case this season, though. Penn State has won eight straight games, a streak that includes a thrilling 24-21 home win over Ohio State on Oct. 22. The Nittany Lions have put a mediocre 2-2 start behind them to get to their first-ever Big Ten Championship Game against a Wisconsin team that also has an argument for the College Football Playoff should it win Saturday night.
The Badgers’ losses came by seven points to both Ohio State and Michigan, the two teams widely considered to be the best in the Big Ten. And the Big Ten has been considered by some to be the top conference in the nation for most – if not all – of the season.
Initially, Franklin took a step back on Sunday’s Big Ten Championship Game media teleconference when asked if the title game winner should be included in the Playoff.
“To be honest with you, I don’t really have a strong opinion. We’re focused on Wisconsin and excited about this opportunity,” Franklin said. “Whatever the powers that be decide, we’ll be happy and excited for whatever that opportunity is.”
But it didn’t take long for Franklin to formulate an opinion.
“I think you can make the argument that the Big Ten is stronger than any conference in the country,” Franklin said. “If you’re playing in the Big Ten Championship Game, both have earned it. I think it has to carry weight (for the CFP committee). Championship games should carry a lot of weight, in my mind.”
Whether or not the committee sees it the same way remains to be seen. It has to decide if it wants to reward the winner of arguably the nation’s top conference and potentially punish Ohio State for not qualifying for the Big Ten title game.
It won’t take long for us to find out after Saturday night, but Franklin doesn’t believe there should be much of a debate.