- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Welcome to the postseason -- and a world where the Big Ten can play for a national title again. Some thoughts to start your morning:
1. The Big Ten promised freshness and better matchups with its new bowl lineup, and for the most part, the league delivered.
Minnesota is doing back flips about finally having an attractive bowl destination and its first New Year's Day game since 1962. Wisconsin heads to Tampa for the first time since 2008. Nebraska is going to a familiar spot in the Holiday Bowl, but at least the Huskers aren't traveling to Florida for a fourth straight year (and who could complain about a trip to San Diego?). Iowa will play in Jacksonville for the first time since 1983. Maryland gets a San Francisco treat.
The matchups are appealing as well, not to mention extremely challenging. Add in the major bowls, and Big Ten teams will face Alabama, Baylor, Auburn, USC, Missouri and Stanford, among others. Few if any of these games will be easy, and the Big Ten figures to be an underdog in most of them. That, actually, is not all that new.
2. The College Football Playoff selection committee could have chosen Baylor or TCU over Ohio State and made a perfectly reasonable case for it. The difference between those three teams and their credentials is razor thin.
But all along, we were told that conference championships would matter, and so would strong nonconference schedules. The Big 12 chose to not have a conference title game and further muddled things with its co-champions controversy. Even more damning was Baylor's nonconference schedule (SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo). Though the committee's objective is to select the four best teams and not send messages, choosing a team with Baylor's schedule would have hurt the entire sport. At least Ohio State tried to schedule decent teams, playing Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Navy. If Baylor's approach had succeeded, you could have looked forward to a lot of canceled high-profile matchups and more patsies.
A month ago, with Mississippi State riding a cupcake schedule toward the top at the time, I questioned whether the Big Ten's strategy of adding tough nonconference teams still made sense. We got our answer on Sunday. And it was an answer that will ultimately be good for all of college football.
3. I was very quick to forgive Cardale Jones for his infamous tweet in 2012 ("Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL we ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS"). He was young and dumb, and I am eternally grateful that social media wasn't around when I was that age.
There have been no indications of any problems with Jones since, and he earned a place in Buckeyes lore on Saturday night by leading Ohio State to its 59-0 win against Wisconsin in his first career start.
Still, the fact that Jones hoisted the Big Ten title game MVP trophy literally just a few blocks away from NCAA headquarters was at least a little ironic, no? I doubt he will be asked to star in one of those "Most of us are going pro in something other than sports" ads any time soon.
More links ...
Playing Baylor could help build Michigan State's credibility.
James Franklin is eager to bring Penn State to the Big Apple.
Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa made major changes this year.
Michigan's next coach will need to have autonomy.
Wild but true: Adam Sandler told Indiana QB Zander Diamont to stop smoking cigars.
Wisconsin has a chance to flush its Big Ten title-game flop against Auburn.
New Nebraska coach Mike Riley has shown a penchant for developing quarterbacks.
Purdue added a trio of commitments over the weekend.
Mike Thomas wants to make sure Illinois is not a one-hit bowl wonder.
Kirk Ferentz called Iowa's finish "disappointing."
337dAdam Rittenberg, Brian Bennett, Austin Ward and Mitch Sherman