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B1G mailbag: Championship game and playoff scenarios

Iowa could be in the running for the Rose Bowl, but its finale against Nebraska looms large. Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Your questions. My answers. Let's hit it.

Brian Bennett: It's important to remember that the Rose Bowl itself no longer gets to do the picking. If the Big Ten champion makes the playoff, then the non-champion with the highest ranking in the College Football Playoff rankings will go to Pasadena.

It's an interesting scenario you bring up. Some of of it would depend on how Iowa played in the Big Ten championship game. Say the Hawkeyes lose a close game to the Buckeyes. That could help their cause a lot. Not that the Associated Press poll is necessarily indicative of how the selection committee thinks (and hopefully it isn't), but right now Iowa is only five spots behind the Spartans and could make up ground if Michigan State loses at Ohio State and the Hawkeyes win out.

Still, Michigan State would have wins over Oregon and Michigan, which could carry more weight than anything on Iowa's résumé. That, plus recency bias -- it's always better to lose early than right before the committee meets for the final time -- would likely get the Spartans to the Rose Bowl in your scenario.


Brian Bennett: Our first playoff rankings come out Nov. 3. Who's excited? And who can explain to me why the committee still does a full Top 25?

Anyway, Ohio State may or may not be in the top four when the first set of rankings come out, depending on what happens elsewhere. Right now, they're probably at No. 4 or on the periphery. But here's the thing: it doesn't really matter.

As we saw last year with TCU, the committee is more than happy to throw out all previous rankings and start anew in the final week. The Buckeyes' only way into the playoff is to go undefeated, because they don't own any signature wins to date (but they would if they beat Michigan State, Michigan and, likely, Iowa). A 13-0 Ohio State team is making the playoff, no ifs ands or buts. So whether they're in the top four or on the outside in early November is irrelevant. But, of course, we'll make a big deal of it then anyway.


Brian Bennett: That Iowa-Nebraska finale could be fascinating. There's a possibility that the Hawkeyes could be looking to stay alive in the playoff chase, while the Cornhuskers are fighting for a bowl bid. That would add some spice to the Heroes Game, huh?

It's going to be a close call for 3-4 Nebraska to get to a bowl. I thought last week's game against Minnesota was a must-win, and Mike Riley's team responded with its best sustained performance of the season. This week, the Huskers get a suddenly struggling Northwestern team at home, and they're at Purdue on Halloween. If they take care of business in both, they'll be in pretty good shape. You'd think Nebraska would be favored at Rutgers, but the thought of Leonte Carroo going against that tattered pass defense is a little scary.

Big Red could still theoretically win the West but would need to win out (which includes beating Michigan State at home) and get two losses from Iowa. That seems unlikely, especially given how inconsistent Nebraska has been all year. But it would be a heck of a comeback story, huh?


Brian Bennett: I still think Wisconsin is the biggest threat to Iowa in the West, despite the head-to-head loss. That's because the Badgers should be handily favored in all the rest of their games, and their outstanding defense will keep them in every contest. Still, Paul Chryst's team struggles to score, which could lead to an upset (Illinois has its best chance in six years vs. Wisconsin this weekend, in my opinion). And Iowa would have to lose twice.

If you're Badgers fan, you have to root hard for Indiana, (gulp) Minnesota and Nebraska against the Hawkeyes in the coming weeks. Wisconsin has gotten some breaks before on the way to Indy (see: 2012) and is in need of some serious help this year.