Pennsylvania, Michigan – not Ohio


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Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten for so long and with such brute force that it’s hard to imagine another team advancing to the Buckeyes’ place as the major league contender for the College Football Playoff game. I have facilitated three weeks of the 2021 season imagined. Opening the door for another team to win the conference: OSU squabbled again on Saturday, following last weekend’s disappointing loss against Oregon by battling to oust Tulsa, while the two eastern division rivals – Pennsylvania and Michigan – look poised to replace the Buckeyes. As a team to beat, just as Clemson’s early loss and questionable offenses led to haphazardism to the ACC, the Buckeyes’ inability to rediscover last year’s form could spell havoc in what was a boring and predictable playoff chase. Looking weak – although Crimson Tide is still the team to beat – this year’s National Semifinalists could be filled with power programs like Penn State and Michigan. Even before entering the post-season phase, the idea that a team other than OSU could win Big Ten trophies ran counter to nearly every pre-season prediction and outcome of the past decade. Since hiring Urban Meyer in 2012 and promoting Ryan Day in 2019, the Buckeyes have lost just four regular season games and have held the past four conference championships, and in the East, the Wolverines and Nittany Lions have benefited from the doubt. Michigan moved to 3-0 with a 63-10 win over Northern Illinois and began playing the league at home next Saturday against Rutgers. Penn State also did not lose after Auburn topped 28-20 in prime time, Nittany’s second victory in three weeks against a competitor ranked in the USA Sports Today AFCA coaches poll. Washington and New York with a total of 107 points. With a fresh start at Cade McNamara in the quarterback, coach Jim Harbaugh drew on the ground game to produce the program’s most productive three-game stretch in a decade. In the Tigers and Wisconsin, PSU has now had the two most impressive wins of any team in the country. In games against the Ducks, Golden Hurricane, and Minnesota, both teams playing at a high level after their struggles during the 2020 season speak of the unpredictability of 2021 and the difficulties of relying on any takeaways from a pandemic year to predict how this regular season will turn out. In 2020, Penn State opened 0-5 for the first time in modern history before winning four consecutive goals. Michigan went 2-4 and seemed directionless enough in the process to put Harbaugh firmly in the hot seat before September, and one year later, it’s clear that 2020 was a two-program aberration that posed the biggest threats to the Buckeyes’ dominance of the Big Ten. For the first time in years, the conference appears open to participation. Follow college reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg


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