Penn State winning the Big Ten could be a nightmare to the playoff selection committee

Rich Barnes/Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State is going to play for the Big Ten Championship next Saturday with a chance to win the conference outright for the first time since 1994.

At No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the Nittany Lions might be playing for a spot in the final four too.

The College Football Playoff selection committee's criteria, as laid out on their website, makes it clear that above all else, they value conference championships. After that comes strength of schedule and head-to-head competition.

Based on that, should Penn State win Saturday and claim the title of arguably the best conference in football, they should be in the playoff, right?

Well, there's a problem with that.

Ohio State might get the Big Ten's spot in the playoff.

There's a ton to still play out over the next seven days, but Penn State could create a massive conundrum for the College Football Playoff selection committee, who in the last rankings had Ohio State at No. 2 (and that was before they beat No.3 Michigan.)

Washington still has to play in the Pac-12 title game next Friday, but if they win, they'll have only one loss on the season — to USC, one of the best teams in the nation. A one-loss Washington is in the playoff.

Clemson still has to play in the ACC title game next Saturday, but if they win, they'll only have one loss on the season. Clemson is already No. 4 in the rankings and if they have an ACC title to their name, they should be in the playoff.

Oh, and Alabama is already in the playoff. It doesn't matter what happens in the SEC title game — the Tide are playing for the national title.

Let's say we have chalk on championship weekend and all teams win by 10 points. Who does the committee pick if they can only take one Big Ten team?

Do they take one-loss Ohio State, who has quality wins over Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and only lost to a quality opponent in contention for the playoff, or do they select the two-loss Big Ten champions who beat Ohio State head-to-head?

No one can say with any certainty they know the answer to that question — including those on the committee.

Has a coin ever decided who plays for the national championship?