COLUMBUS, Ohio — As it turns out, the debate when it came to Ohio State making the College Football Playoff wasn’t much of a debate after all.
The Buckeyes aren’t only in college football’s final four, they’re in it as the No. 3 seed and are set for a Fiesta Bowl battle with No. 2 Clemson.
Some observations on Ohio State’s second berth to the College Football Playoff:
The committee got it right
After Penn State beat Wisconsin to win the Big Ten championship on Saturday night, some tried to reignite the debate between whether the Buckeyes or the one team to beat them this season belonged in the College Football Playoff.
But the reality is, it was never much of a debate at all.
Simply put, Ohio State accumulated a better record this season against a tougher schedule than the Nittany Lions did. Yes, Penn State possessed the advantage when it came to head-to-head and the conference championship. But those are just two parts of a resume comprised of the entire season. Everywhere else, the Buckeyes had the edge.
The selection committee claims it doesn’t set precedents for following years, but Ohio State may have very well set one this season. It’s smart to schedule a tough out-of-conference slate. The Buckeyes’ road win over Oklahoma in September seems to have left them with some room for error.
Yes, Penn State, September counts.
As for the other three teams in this year’s playoff, it’s tough to argue with the committee’s choices. Alabama was a lock, as was a one-loss Clemson, and Pac-12 champion Washington has looked dominant in recent weeks.
In my opinion, the only team with a fair gripe right now is Michigan, which very well could be one of the nation’s four-best teams. But lose two of your last three games to close the season, and all bets are off.
College football’s mini-combine
Remember the way NFL executives flocked to last season’s Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Notre Dame?
Hopefully they enjoyed their stay in Glendale.
Between the Buckeyes’ and Tigers’ rosters, there will be no shortage of future pro talent on the field in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal. On Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller’s most recent big board, he slotted four players from Ohio State and three from Clemson in his top-50.
The most intriguing matchup? How Tigers star quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams will perform against a Buckeyes secondary that includes three potential first-round picks in cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker.
It’s a showdown that will interest both fans and scouts alike.
A golden era of Ohio State football
Regardless of where the Buckeyes go from here, take some time to appreciate just where it is Ohio State football currently stands in the national landscape. There have only been three College Football Playoffs. The Buckeyes have been a part of two of them.
And for as impressive as making the first one with Cardale Jones was two years ago, this could very well be Urban Meyer’s finest coaching job yet. Ohio State entered the season replacing 16 starters, including 12 NFL draft picks, from a season ago. The Buckeyes didn’t only reload — in some areas, they improved.
Only Alabama can claim to be in better shape when it comes to the overall health of its program. Behind the Crimson Tide, Ohio State and Clemson appear to be on another level.
The two teams will play on New Year’s Eve, but regardless of who wins, both programs can claim to be in the midst of their own golden eras.
When it comes to the Buckeyes, expectations rarely change. But after the playoff selection Sunday, this season has already exceeded even the most optimistic fan’s hopes for the 2016 campaign.