Big Ten votes to allow Buckeyes to play in championship game

The Big Ten voted Wednesday to eliminate the minimum-game requirement and allow the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to play in the conference championship game Dec. 19 against No. 14 Northwestern in Indianapolis.

“The decision was made in collaboration with the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors and the conference office,” the Big Ten announced. “The decision was based on a competitive analysis which determined that Ohio State would have advanced to the Big Ten Football Championship Game based on its undefeated record and head-to-head victory over Indiana regardless of a win or loss against Michigan.”

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Ohio State (5-0) ranks fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings and leads the Big Ten East Division by a half game over Indiana (6-1).

The Big Ten decided before the season teams would have to play at least six of their eight scheduled regular-season games to qualify for the championship. Ohio State fell short of the minimum games requirement because it had games against Maryland, Illinois and Michigan cancelled.

“On behalf of Ohio State University, the players, all those associated with the football program and our fans,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said in a statement, “I am appreciative of our Big Ten Conference colleagues for reconsidering the six-game requirement to qualify for the Big Ten championship game. A lot of changes have happened since that recommendation was put in place. I know making this decision was not easy, and I am thankful for the opportunity our players will now have to play in Indianapolis as an undefeated East Division champion.”

Indiana Athletic Director Scott Dolson also released a statement in reaction to the Big Ten decision. The Hoosiers would have played in the championship game if the rule had stayed in place even though they lost to the Buckeyes.

“Coach (Tom) Allen and I are proud of this team and the success we have had so far this season,” Dolson said. “We are one of only two teams in the country with three top-25 victories and have matched a program record for Big Ten wins. Although we understand the conference’s decision, we are disappointed. From the start of the year, we have said we can only control what we can control. We had a chance to earn our spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but ultimately fell a touchdown short on the road against a great Ohio State team. We look forward to resuming activities and completing one of the best seasons in our school’s history.”

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