A recently changed Big Ten tiebreaker could come into play in the East Division race, though it likely would affect only the timeline of naming a champion.
There was some brief consternation last season, when it appeared possible that Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan could finish in a three-way tie for first place in the East with one loss and no head-to-head tiebreakers available.
In that scenario, the division champion would have been decided by the fifth tiebreaker -- the highest-rated team in the College Football Playoff rankings. There's just one problem for this season: The final regular-season CFP rankings don't come out until Nov. 29, meaning the teams wouldn't know who is heading to Indianapolis until four days before the conference title game.
The Big Ten recognized this problem, and according to a spokesman, the league's administrators council changed the procedures during its regularly scheduled meeting last month.
Now, the fifth tiebreaker will be best overall winning percentage.
"The CFP ranking was removed as one of the tiebreakers due to the timing of when the rankings are released and the potential competitive and logistical impact the timing could have on the Big Ten championship game," league spokesman Adam Augustine told ESPN in an email Sunday night.
The ACC went through a similar rule change, eliminating the playoff rankings as one of its tiebreakers and instead turning to rankings from a private analytics firm.
The Big Ten's new rule will eliminate a potential timing headache but is unlikely to change who would make it to the title game in the event of a three-way East Division tie between Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State this season. The Nittany Lions' 24-21 upset of the Buckeyes on Saturday night left both teams at 3-1 in the conference. Penn State's only loss is to Michigan, which is 4-0 in league play. If Penn State wins out, Michigan loses only to Ohio State, and the Buckeyes win out, all three teams would finish 8-1 with their losses among themselves.
Therefore, the Big Ten's first four tiebreakers wouldn't apply.
1. Records vs. one another (all three would be 1-1)
2. Intradivision records
3. Records vs. next-highest-placed teams in the division, in order of finish (fourth place through seventh)
4. Records vs. all common conference opponents
So a three-way tie then would go to overall winning percentage, which would eliminate Penn State because it lost to Pittsburgh and would have two overall losses, compared to one for Ohio State and Michigan. It then would come down to the head-to-head record between the Buckeyes and Wolverines, which would send Ohio State to Indianapolis.
That's not a different outcome, however, than what using the CFP rankings likely would create.
Penn State likely would be ranked well below Ohio State and Michigan. And if Ohio State beat Michigan in the final game of the regular season, that most likely would convince the committee to rank the Buckeyes ahead of the Wolverines in the ensuing CFP poll.
What would have happened if Penn State hadn't lost to Pitt? Or what if a scenario arises in the future in which there is a similar three-way tie but each team has the same overall winning percentage?
Under the new rules, the sixth tiebreaker is: "The representative will be chosen by random draw."
That's right. A division champ and potential playoff contender could be decided by the league drawing names out of a hat.