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Why Michigan State, Nebraska could have a clear path to College Football Playoffs

As expected, the Big Ten didn’t get much love as the very first College Football Playoff rankings came out. Given there is no undefeated team left in the conference, it was a given they’d be lagging behind teams from the SEC and reigning national champion Florida State.

However, despite the initial jolt to the ego, there was a clear message and an even clearer indication of how anyone from the Big Ten can make the inaugural College Football Playoff. While it may not involve completely controlling its own destiny, the funny thing is the Big Ten champion may have the rest of the college football world right where they want them.

As for that Big Ten champion, the CFP committee made it clear that the Big Ten’s best shots at a semi-final spot rest with Michigan State and Nebraska. While it may be easy to see, considering their rankings are the best in the Big Ten (MSU at No. 8 and Nebraska at No. 15), the real reason lies in the fact that they have remaining resume builders and fewer obstacles to a one-loss season than teams outside of the Big Ten.

Those crying foul over how low the Big Ten is ranked right now need to remember one thing — there is still plenty of football to be played. In fact, the current No. 1 versus No. 4 matchup won’t happen unless complete and utter chaos occurs around the rest of college football.

After all, Mississippi State and Ole Miss play every year on the final weekend of the regular season in the annual “Egg Bowl” matchup. Not to mention Mississippi State still has No. 6-ranked (all our rankings from here on out will be official CFP rankings) Alabama still left on the schedule.

Ole Miss still has No. 3 Auburn this weekend and the end of the season matchup with the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Then there’s the annual end of season matchup between Alabama and Auburn to help eliminate a few other options.

It all lines up to at least one if not two of these teams ending the season with two losses, and that’s where Michigan State and Nebraska come in to the picture.

As for building that resume for the Big Ten title?

Michigan State can earn wins over Ohio State and potentially Nebraska or Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game while all that chaos happens around them and the SEC West champion gets a very weak SEC East champion.

A Michigan State team with 12-straight wins, an undefeated conference season and a Big Ten title on its resume alongside a host of two-loss teams makes it much more attractive to the selection committee at the end of the year.

Nebraska’s situation is a bit more murky, but equally doable. It of course involves all those teams in the SEC knocking each other off, but it also involves getting a rematch against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game.

An 11-1 regular season with the only loss to the only undefeated team in the Big Ten certainly is a resume booster, especially if you exact revenge on a neutral site like they would be able to in Indianapolis.

While we know the path to a College Football Playoff isn’t clear, and may take some time to develop for the Big Ten champion, there is a path to the semi-finals for said champion.

If said champion is Michigan State or Nebraska it could be all Tournament of Roses for them in the end, and that would shock the rest of college football as it stands today.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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