COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State will find out Tuesday night exactly what the College Football Playoff committee thinks of it.
A No. 2 ranking means the Buckeyes have earned its respect. Below that means the committee still has doubts.
Ohio State hasn’t been favored by the group so far this season. Despite the fact that the Buckeyes beat Oklahoma and Wisconsin on the road, Texas A&M was the one-loss team that got the No. 4 spot in the initial rankings. Then, when the Buckeyes took it to then-No. 10 Nebraska, 62-3, it wasn’t enough to jump Washington.
The CFP committee will release its newest rankings at approximately 9 p.m. ET Tuesday. Ohio State has good reason to expect to be second. After all, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington all lost Saturday. Meanwhile, the No. 5 Buckeyes walloped Maryland, 62-3.
However, Ohio State also suffered a devastating setback. Michigan’s loss to Iowa means the Buckeyes have to root for a Penn State loss in addition to running the table in order to win their division. If the Nittany Lions don’t lose to either Rutgers or Michigan State, even an 11-1 record won’t give Buckeyes a chance to win the conference.
With that in mind, here are our thoughts on the two most important questions for Tuesday’s show.
Where will Ohio State be ranked?
Despite the aforementioned reluctance by the committee to put Ohio State in the top four, this is the week that will change. The Buckeyes were the top-ranked one-loss team last week, and there’s a good argument for that remaining. Even though three previously unbeaten teams got added to the one-loss mix, none can match Ohio State’s resume.
Here are each team’s best wins (to reflect the most recent games, we’ll use the new AP Top 25 instead of last week’s CFP rankings).
Clemson: vs. No. 3 Louisville, at No. 17 Florida State, at No. 18 Auburn, vs. No. 25 Troy
Michigan: vs. No. 6 Wisconsin, vs. No. 9 Penn State, vs. No. 12 Colorado
Washington: at No. 11 Utah
Ohio State: at No. 6 Wisconsin, at No. 8 Oklahoma, vs. No. 19 Nebraska
Louisville: vs. No. 17 Florida State
No other team in the country has wins on the road against two top-10 teams. Clemson and Michigan are right there in terms of impressive wins, though. Washington and Louisville have no chance of being ranked ahead of Ohio State.
What does it mean?
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Penn State wins out. Otherwise, none of this will matter because the winner of Ohio State-Michigan would win the division. The only question for Ohio State right now is whether its resume at 11-1 is good enough to become the first non-champion to reach the playoff.
The Buckeyes have more things in their favor than past non-champion contenders. First, it’s possible that Wisconsin and Oklahoma could win their respective conferences. If that’s the case, Ohio State has both fewer losses and a head-to-head advantage.
Even if those two teams don’t win their conferences, those are still two good road wins. Additionally, Ohio State would have a win against Michigan to close out the regular season. Furthermore, the Buckeyes have also had sufficient time to demonstrate they’re a changed team after the loss. That’s something that didn’t exist last season.
Now for the bad news. TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in 2014 despite winning in its final week. It’s possible that same fate befalls Ohio State. If the committee goes conference champions or bust, there’s nothing Ohio State can do.
For the time being, though, being ranked as high as possible gives the Buckeyes better footing to withstand any gains teams might make on championship weekend.