COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Big Ten Conference dropped its six-game minimum requirement for the league championship game Wednesday, clearing that way for No. 3 Ohio State to take on No. 15 Northwestern in another chance for the Buckeyes to burnish their playoff credentials.

The Buckeyes (5-0) will try for their fifth straight conference title when they face the Wildcats (5-1) on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis. Ohio State finished the regular season with only five games after Michigan had to pull out of Saturday’s showdown because of COVID-19 issues.

The rule change had to be approved by the Big Ten Conference Administrators Council, which includes athletic directors, senior women’s administrators and presidents from all 14 schools.

“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,” the Big Ten said in a statement.

The conference determined before the season that teams would have to play six of their eight scheduled games to qualify for the championship game. Ohio State – No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings and the conference’s only undefeated team – has missed three games because of issues with the pandemic.

The latest was the annual grudge match against Michigan, which canceled its trip to Columbus because of rising COVID-19 cases and players in quarantine. Falling a game short of the threshold set by the league, the Buckeyes would have been outside looking in.

Ohio State Coach Ryan Day said he was “appreciative” that other conference schools voted for the revision.

“A lot of changes have happened since that (six-game) recommendation was put in place,” Day said in a statement. “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.”

Though Ohio State is already in the top four of the CFP rankings, a win against Northwestern could be important in securing a playoff spot. The CFP selection committee said it ranks teams based on on-field performance, “using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable.”

MAC: The Mid-American Conference made it official by declaring No. 24 Buffalo as winner of the East Division title.

The announcement came after the Bulls (4-0) appeared to clinch the title outright once their game against Ohio (2-1) last Saturday was canceled and declared a no-contest. That decision was made because Ohio’s roster was depleted due to COVID-19.

Ohio was the only team left with a mathematical chance to win the division before the cancellation occurred.

Buffalo closes its season by hosting Akron (1-4) on Saturday and then advances to the MAC championship game in Detroit on Dec. 18. The winner of Saturday’s game between Western Michigan and Ball State will be the West Division champion.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

(13) WISCONSIN 73, RHODE ISLAND 62: Brad Davison scored 23 points, and the Badgers (4-1) defeated the Rams (3-3) in Madison, Wisconsin.

(2) BAYLOR 83, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN 52: Adam Flagler scored 11 of his 14 points before halftime when the Bears (4-0) took control on the way to a win over the Lumberjacks (3-2) in their home opener.

(13) TEXAS 74, TEXAS STATE 53: Freshman Greg Brown scored 18 points, and the Longhorns (5-1) eased past the Bobcats (3-2) in Austin, Texas.

(17) TEXAS TECH 51, ABILENE CHRISTIAN 44: Kyler Edwards scored 19 points, and the Red Raiders (5-1) avoided a major upset in a defensive struggle with the Wildcats (5-1) in Lubbock, Texas.

(19) RICHMOND 78, NORTHERN IOWA 68: Tyler Burton had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and the Spiders (4-0) used a 21-6 run in the second half to pull away from Northern Iowa (1-4) in Richmond, Virginia.

(20) FLORIDA STATE 69, INDIANA 67: Scottie Barnes banked in a runner with with two seconds left in overtime to give the Seminoles (2-0) a win over te Hoosiers (3-2) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge – their 25th straight home victory.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

(2) LOUISVILLE 73, DUKE 49: Dana Evans scored 24 points and the Cardinals (5-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) pulled away in the second half to beat the Blue Devils (3-1, 0-1) in Durham, North Carolina.

(4) NORTH CAROLINA STATE 76, ELON 47: Elissa Cunane had 22 points and 13 rebound in three quarters as the Wolfpack (5-0) rolled past the Phoenix (2-1) in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(9) KENTUCKY 79, MARSHALL 45: Blair Green scored a career-high 17 points to help the Wildcats (5-0) defeat the Thundering Herd (1-1) in Lexington, Kentucky.

(11) UCLA 102, UC SANTA BARBARA 45: Charisma Osborne had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Michaela Onyenwere added 17 points to reach 1,500 in her career, and the Bruins (3-1) routed the Gauchos (0-1) in Los Angeles.

(13) ARKANSAS 79, SMU 47: Amber Ramirez hit six 3-pointers and scored 18 points as the Razorbacks (6-1) rolled to a win over the Mustangs (0-4) in Dallas.

(19) MICHIGAN 93, BUTLER 54: Naz Hillmon scored 25 points to lead the Wolverines (5-0) past the Bulldogs (0-3) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

(23) TEXAS 73, IDAHO 48: Charli Collier had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Longhorns (3-1) made 12 3-pointers in a win over the Vandals (2-1) in Austin, Texas.

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