COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Ohio State’s playoff positioning is more precarious than ever, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the polls released Sunday.
Ironically, Michigan’s loss Saturday night was the worst-case scenario for the Buckeyes. Now, even a win against the Wolverines wouldn’t automatically put Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. If Penn State wins its remaining two games against Rutgers and Michigan State — those two teams have combined for one conference win all season, and it was when they played each other on Saturday — it could leave the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes tied for first in the East Division. And Penn State would hold the tiebreaker thanks to its 24-21 win over Ohio State on Oct. 22.
The Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) thrashed Maryland, 62-3, on Saturday night in one of their most impressive performances of the season. However, that wasn’t the impetus for the Buckeyes’ latest rise in the polls. Instead, they can thank No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington for losing in the same weekend.
As a result, Ohio State is now the No. 2 team in the country in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll — viewed as unquestionably the best one-loss team in the country. Only unbeaten Alabama outranks Ohio State.
Previous rankings (Coaches/AP): No. 5/No. 6
New rankings (Coaches/AP): No. 2/No. 2
Last result: Beat Maryland 62-3 on Saturday
What it means: It means Ohio State is in position to potentially be considered the first great victim of the playoff era. That’s not to say the Buckeyes will have that happen, just that it can. It’s clear that voters in both polls view Ohio State’s résumé as the second-best in the country. That might not matter, however, if the Buckeyes don’t play for a conference championship.
Ohio State has a case for playoff inclusion regardless, but the committee has never included a team that didn’t win its conference. The two-year playoff history is a small sample size, but there’s no denying the emphasis the committee places on conference titles. Just ask TCU, which dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in 2014 despite winning big on the final weekend.
Up next: Ohio State plays at Michigan State at noon ET on Saturday.