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Inside Slant: Big Ten, Big 12 face CFB Playoff selection doom

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If strength of schedule truly will be used as a measuring stick when it comes to selecting the four teams for the College Football Playoff, the Big Ten is in trouble.

So, too, is the Big 12, though to a lesser extent.

Best non-conference wins/notable losses for Big Ten schools
School
Non-conference win(s)
Non-conference loss(es)
Illinois
Western Kentucky
Washington
Indiana
Missouri
Bowling Green
Iowa
Pittsburgh
Iowa State
Maryland
Syracuse
West Virginia
Michigan
Miami (Ohio), App. State
Notre Dame, Utah
Michigan State
Wyoming
Oregon
Minnesota
Middle Tennessee St.
TCU
Nebraska
Miami (Fla.)
N/A
Northwestern
Western Illinois
Cal, Northern Illinois
Ohio State
Cincinnati, Navy
Virginia Tech
Penn State
Central Florida
N/A
Purdue
Western Michigan
Central Michigan, Notre Dame
Rutgers
Washington State
N/A
Wisconsin
Bowling Green
LSU
Best non-conference wins/notable losses for Big 12 schools
School
Non-conference win(s)
Non-conference loss(es)
Baylor
Buffalo
N/A
Iowa State
Iowa
North Dakota State
Kansas
Central Michigan
Duke
Kansas State
UTEP
Auburn
Oklahoma
Tennessee
N/A
Oklahoma State
UT-San Antonio
Florida State
Texas
North Texas
BYU, UCLA
TCU
Minnesota
N/A
Texas Tech
UTEP
Arkansas
West Virginia
Maryland
Alabama

The reason is a lack of marquee non-conference wins by teams within those leagues. When most strength-of-schedule rankings are figured, it's not only a team's opponents that matter; it's also their opponents' opponents. Thus, "good" non-conference wins are vital.

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The Big Ten has what looks to be three potential candidates for the playoff: Michigan State, Ohio State and Nebraska. The Huskers were the only one to go unbeaten in non-conference play, but they also already have lost to Michigan State.

In all, Big Ten teams were 5-11 in non-conference play against other Power Five leagues, with the wins coming over Missouri, Washington State, Miami, Pitt and Syracuse.

Michigan State's best non-conference win? It's Wyoming, which is a middle-of-the-pack team in the Mountain West and doesn't appear as if it will get to the needed six wins to go to a bowl. Ohio State's best non-conference win? Either Cincinnati or Navy, teams that look to have a seven-win ceiling this season.

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Big Ten teams had chances for some good wins. But Wisconsin lost to LSU, Maryland to West Virginia, Minnesota to TCU and Illinois to Washington.

Michigan State and Ohio State should pile up an impressive number of conference wins. But beating relatively mediocre teams in conference play should not impress the selection committee.

Big 12 teams were 4-6 in non-conference games against other Power Five schools -- and three of those wins came against the Big Ten (Minnesota, Iowa and Maryland). There also was a win over Tennessee, which is not expected to get a bowl bid. There also was a loss to an FCS team (though it was to North Dakota State, which is the best team in the FCS ranks).

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As with the Big Ten, Big 12 teams had some opportunities for notable non-conference wins against the likes of Auburn, Alabama, Florida State, UCLA and Arkansas. But each of those was a loss. The best non-conference win by a Big 12 contender? TCU beat Minnesota.

The Big 12 appears more evenly matched than the Big Ten, meaning there will be some conference wins that should garner some appreciative nods. But is the Big 12 too evenly matched? Is the league, sort of like the Pac-12, going to cannibalize itself?

Contrast the performances by the Big Ten and Big 12 schools with those in the ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. Among the ACC's victims: Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC and Oklahoma State. Pac-12 teams have beaten Michigan State, Texas and Northwestern. Then there's the SEC, which has wins over the likes of West Virginia, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Clemson and East Carolina. The best wins by teams in those leagues easily trump the best wins by Big Ten and Big 12 teams.

Remember the talk about opponents' opponents? If you beat the team that beat Michigan State, or Kansas State, or Clemson, or Notre Dame, it helps your bottom line. Conversely, if you lose to a team without a marquee non-conference win, that hurts your bottom line. And that should cause some worry in the Big Ten and Big 12.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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