Michigan players mark their territory with a flag on the 50-yard line at Ohio Stadium. (0:38)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren called No. 3 Michigan’s 45-23 victory over No. 2 Ohio State an “instant classic” and made the case after the game that “without a doubt” the Big Ten should end up with two teams in the College Football Playoff.
“One hundred percent,” Warren told ESPN on Saturday. “Clearly, Michigan and Ohio State are two of the best four teams in the country, and I think today proved it. Great football game. Epic football game. Without a doubt, I think they are clearly two of the best football teams in the country.”
The result advances Michigan to the Big Ten title game next week and essentially clinches a College Football Playoff bid for the Wolverines regardless of the outcome of that matchup.
It also leaves Ohio State’s postseason possibilities layered in ambiguity. The Buckeyes (11-1) will be considered one of the country’s top one-loss teams, and there will be a lot of intrigue about where they land come the College Football Playoff rankings show Tuesday. Much of their fate will be determined by the rest of the results Saturday and next week.
“This was a really good football game from start to finish,” Warren said, even after Michigan outscored Ohio State 21-3 in the fourth quarter. “These are two powerhouse teams and clearly two of the top four teams in all of college football. You look at all the games you watch. Put even the rankings to the side. If you ask yourself, who are the teams that are better than these two football teams in the country? These are two of the four best teams in the country. By far.”
The Big Ten has never had two teams selected in the College Football Playoff in the same year since the postseason model’s inception in the 2014 season. Ohio State reached the CFP once as a non-champion, going 11-1 in 2016.
In some ways, how Ohio State is perceived at 11-1 is a referendum on how the Big Ten is perceived.
“I truly believe that through this whole season,” Warren said. “Last season, this season. Today just reiterated how strong Big Ten football is. I’m excited to see these next couple weeks, where everything lands.”
Ohio State led the game 20-17 at halftime but ended up getting undone by a dizzying spree of big plays. Five of Michigan’s six touchdowns came on plays of at least 45 yards: passes of 69, 75 and 45 yards and fourth-quarter runs of 75 and 85 yards.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said the Buckeyes could prove they belong in the CFP if given a shot. He contended that the final score wasn’t truly indicative of the tenor of the loss.
“I thought we were in it, and we were fighting there at the end,” Day said. “It obviously got out of control down the stretch, but it wasn’t like we were outmatched in terms of just overall play, I don’t think. As we get to those decisions, I think you have to get to the body of work and what we’ve done. We’ve got a lot of good pieces on this team and we came up short today. But I think if we were able to get a shot in the top four, we’d be a dangerous team.”
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud added that Ohio State’s body of work this season wasn’t represented on the field today.
“Hopefully, we end up making the playoff again and still try to contend for a national championship,” Stroud said. “This one game does not define this team.”