The Big Ten’s big CFP opportunity turns into a B1G disaster

The Big Ten’s big CFP opportunity turns into a B1G disaster

The one thing that absolutely couldn’t happen to the Big Ten in their first 2-team college football playoff shipment did. And it may take a long time to hear the end of it.

The conference that hasn’t produced a national football champion in 9 years or a national men’s basketball champion in 23 years couldn’t miss this opportunity.

A full 50% of the B1G’s CFP field. A chance at the game of all ages – an Ohio State-Michigan rematch for the national title. Combine that with the $7 billion media rights deal the conference just signed in 2022, and the feeling would be the brand has never been hotter.

Instead, the larger the stage, the greater the throttling work.

The Buckeyes and Wolverines are brothers in shattered dreams after squandering their semi-final chances.

Training decisions weigh heavily

Neither Big Ten team was eliminated on what was the biggest day in college football playoff history. Michigan and Ohio State scored a combined 86 points and lost by a combined 7.

Lack of talent, which seemed to be a problem for the B1G as recently as Michigan’s loss to Georgia a year ago, wasn’t a factor. Neither the Wolverines nor the Buckeyes were outplayed by their opponent.

Indeed, both B1G teams probably should have won. But a pair of curious decisions from each coach loomed large in games decided by wafer-thin margins.

For Michigan, it was an early decision that was a headache. The Wolverines shoved the ball down TCU’s throat for their entire first drive before clinching at 2. A momentum-changing fourth down loomed.

Instead of running the ball behind the best offensive line in the nation, or giving quarterback JJ McCarthy a run-pass option, or even just taking the points, Michigan chose a different path. The Wolverines tried to turn a true freshman tight end into a quarterback.

Michigan called the Philly Special against TCU…but they weren’t playing against a Matt Patricia defense so it didn’t work.

— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 31, 2022

It’s hard to say which reeked worse – the appeal or the execution.

Probably the call, because no execution would have made it work against a TCU defense that seems to practice against the “Philly Special” every day of the week, sometimes twice.

If Michigan had simply failed on a regular play call, TCU would have been backed up to their own 1 on their first offensive snap. Talk about a pressure cooker.

Instead, because Jim Harbaugh got cute, the Horned Frogs opened their first possession from the relative comfort of the 10-yard line. There were still 55 minutes of football left, but everything about finishing that ride in Michigan set the tone for what was to come.

The Horned Frogs felt they could compete with Michigan all month. After that stop, they knew they could. Hope is the most powerful fuel for an underdog, and Harbaugh gave it to the Frogs.

Ohio State’s coaching gaffe came on the other end of the game.

The Buckeyes were separated from the end zone by 31 yards and 24 seconds, but had 2 timeouts to work with. Surely the move was to keep the pedal on the coin. Even though Ohio State didn’t reach the end zone, they could cut Noah Ruggles’ game-winning field goal attempt by 10-20 yards.

But for some reason, Ryan Day decided Ruggles was close enough. He handed the ball over on the first down, actually losing a yard. CJ Stroud had to throw the ball out on third down, which means the Buckeyes made 1 play that had a chance of success in their last 3.

If the ball was at 15, it would have been a good strategy. But asking a college kicker to nail a 50 yards with all the pressure in the world on him is absolutely insane.



— The CFB Transfer Portal (@TPortalCFB) January 1, 2023

When will B1G bounce back?

At this point, there is no exaggeration of B1G’s championship failures in its 2 flagship sports. The problem is even more acute in basketball, where 9 teams reached last year’s NCAA Tournament and none of them made it past the Sweet 16.

“At least we’re not the Pac-12!” is not an inspiring battle cry. And it gets even sadder when you resort to raiding this conference for its most prominent programs.

And that may be the answer to ending the Big Ten droughts – more net shots.

Of course, 1 out of 14 teams can’t get a title. But maybe 1 in 16 will. Although in this case, it’s not waiting until next year. It is to wait until 2024.

Although given the way things are going for B1G in the 21st century, what’s a few more years without a title?

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