DALLAS — When’s the last time Ohio State had a disappointing bowl matchup?
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Let’s go through a list of some top programs in college football who got paired with some… less appealing foes this bowl season. Florida State faced Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl. Texas took on Missouri in the Texas Bowl. No. 7 Auburn, one win from the College Football Playoff, will face No. 12 UCF in the Peach Bowl. (While the Knights are undefeated, they’re also a Group of 5 team coached by someone who’s already moved on.)
Contrast that with Ohio State’s recent bowl history:
- 2016: Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl
- 2015: Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl
- 2014: Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Oregon in the CFP National Championship
- 2013: Clemson in the Orange Bowl
- 2012: Ineligible due to bowl ban
- 2011: Florida in the Gator Bowl
- 2010: Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl
- 2009: Oregon in the Rose Bowl
- 2008: Texas in the Fiesta Bowl
- 2007: LSU in the BCS National Championship
- 2006: Florida in the BCS National Championship
- 2005: Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl
- 2004: Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl
It’s been more than a decade since Ohio State played in a bowl game that didn’t fit any of the criteria of a top bowl game: College Football Playoff game, New Year’s Six bowl, BCS bowl or Jan. 1 bowl. Virtually all of those games also came against the blue bloods of the sport, too, with either success, tradition or fan bases comparable to the Buckeyes.
While it helps that Ohio State has been flat-out good most of that time, there’s also one example that shows Buckeyes fans probably won’t ever have to worry about winding up in the Foster Farms Bowl against Washington State. In 2011, the Buckeyes were 6-6 with an interim coach and a cloud of NCAA violations looming over the program. They lost their last three games of the regular season. In a system that functioned by a pecking order, those results didn’t exactly scream, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ And yet the Buckeyes ended up in a January bowl, playing in the Gator Bowl against a team that had won two national championships in the last six seasons.
If anything, the College Football Playoff has only enhanced Ohio State’s chances of ending up in a great bowl against a marquee opponent. There’s even more of a chance now that the Buckeyes will play for a national championship, with four teams making the field instead of two. But in addition to that, the CFP selection committee sets the matchup for the other four New Year’s Six games and tries to create the most compelling matchups.
In each of the two years the Buckeyes haven’t made the playoff, they’ve played in the game widely considered to be the best non-playoff matchup of that bowl season. In the 2015 season, it was No. 7 Ohio State against No. 8 Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. This season, it’s No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 8 USC in the Cotton Bowl. It’s a small sample size so far, but all indications are that if the Buckeyes are in the New Year’s Six, they’ll almost certainly be placed against the best opponent possible and not sacrificed against a Group of 5 opponent like Western Michigan or Central Florida.
So while Buckeyes fans are disappointed in not making the playoff, they can take solace in the fact that it could always be much worse. Just ask Florida State or Texas.