COLUMBUS, Ohio — The new College Football Playoff rankings announced on Tuesday will carry some interesting news for Ohio State. Whether or not it ends up mattering may be determined on Saturday.
The Buckeyes jumped up to No. 2 in the Nov. 15 CFP ranking. However, a tighter-than-expected 17-16 win against Michigan State could potentially lead to a team jumping Ohio State. Here are three questions to ponder ahead of the new rankings.
What happened last week?
Here are the results of the top-six teams from last week’s College Football Playoff rankings. (The seventh-ranked team is Wisconsin, which owns a worse record than Ohio State and lost to the Buckeyes.)
No. 1 Alabama beat Chattanooga, 31-3.
No. 2 Ohio State beat Michigan State 17-16.
No. 3 Michigan beat Indiana, 20-10.
No. 4 Clemson beat Wake Forest, 35-13.
No. 5 Louisville lost to Houston, 36-10.
No. 6 Washington beat Arizona State, 44-18.
Where will Ohio State be ranked this week?
Ohio State should still be at No. 2 when the newest rankings are released Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Buckeyes own road wins against two top-10 teams, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. And neither Michigan nor Clemson did much to show it deserves to jump Ohio State. Louisville flat-out lost, and Washington has too much ground to make up to pass the Buckeyes.
Does Ohio State’s CFP ranking even matter??
Two things are in play that could alter the importance of Ohio State’s ranking. First, Ohio State will likely have no shot at a playoff appearance if it loses to Michigan. On the opposite end of that spectrum, a Penn State loss coupled with an Ohio State win would send the Buckeyes to the conference title game and put them in control of their playoff fortunes.
In either of those cases, the ranking Tuesday will have almost no effect on Ohio State’s playoff pursuit. Where it may matter, though, is in the likeliest scenario. If the Buckeyes beat Michigan but Penn State wins the division, the CFP committee will have a tough decision on its hands.
The Buckeyes are widely viewed as one of the nation’s best teams, but not winning the division would leave them vulnerable to being passed by conference champions. The good news for Ohio State is that in that scenario, the likely Big Ten champion would be Wisconsin. Furthermore, Oklahoma is likely to win the Big 12. The Buckeyes beat both of those teams on the road.
Beating Michigan would give Ohio State another quality win (and also essentially eliminate the Wolverines, a top contender, from the playoff race). If Ohio State is already sitting at No. 2 entering that game, a win would make it even harder to exclude the Buckeyes. If they’re climbing back from No. 3 or No. 4, they’ll be working with a little less leeway.