The Big Ten has voted to change its rules to let Ohio State play in next weekend’s title game, a move that will increase the Buckeyes’ chances of making the College Football Playoff and potentially bring millions in added revenue to the league’s 14 schools.
The conference’s Administrators Council voted Wednesday to change the rules put in place at the beginning of this pandemic-shortened season which required teams to play six conference games to be considered for the title game. Ohio State, the league’s only undefeated team, had three games cancelled and is currently 5-0.
The rule change matters because Ohio State has the conference’s best shot at making the playoffs—the Buckeyes were ranked No. 4 in this week’s playoff rankings—and conferences are paid a healthy sum for each team they place in the semifinals. Last year, the Big Ten made $6 million when Ohio State was selected.
There’s potentially even more money at stake this year. If Ohio State makes the playoff and a second Big Ten team (such as Indiana) receives an at-large bid to another major bowl game, the conference will earn an additional $4 million. Then there’s the less tangible media exposure and recruiting benefits of having teams play high-profile games.
The conference said in a statement that the decision was made on a “competitive analysis,” which found that, had Ohio State been able to play Michigan this weekend, it would have advanced to the championship game with either a win or a loss.
Ohio State will now play No. 14 Northwestern in the title game on Dec. 19. Should the Buckeyes win that game, they appear to be a lock for the semifinals. It would be their fourth playoff appearance in the seven-year history of the semifinals.
The Big Ten’s Administrators Council is comprised of the athletics directors and senior women administrators from all 14 members. Wednesday’s decision was also made in communication with the school presidents and chancellors.