COLUMBUS, Ohio — With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the list of Ohio State’s potential bowl destinations has begun to take shape.
At the moment, the College Football Playoff remains a distinct possibility — although the Buckeyes’ path to playoff is more complicated than it seems. But unless second-ranked Ohio State loses its two remaining games, it’s hard to imagine the Buckeyes slipping out of the New Year’s Six.
Where will Ohio State be heading this postseason? Here’s a look at the Buckeyes’ three most likely destinations:
College Football Playoff semifinal (Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl)
When it comes to the College Football Playoff, there might not be a more fascinating storyline to follow in the coming weeks than how the committee will view Ohio State at season’s end.
After a weekend where No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington each suffered defeats, one would imagine the Buckeyes have a good chance of placing second in Tuesday night’s playoff rankings reveal. And while Ohio State can bolster its résumé with a win against the Wolverines on Nov. 26, the Buckeyes could also wind up the odd man out in their conference title game as Penn State now owns a potential tiebreaker over OSU in the Big Ten East.
Two years into the playoff postseason format, all eight participants have been outright conference champions. That’s not to say the Buckeyes won’t be the first team to buck that trend, but it will be interesting to see how the playoff committee views and ultimately ranks a team that not only doesn’t win its conference, but doesn’t even play in its conference title game.
Nonetheless, with where Ohio State currently ranks and the possibility of Penn State suffering a loss between now and the end of the season (the Nittany Lions play at Rutgers and at home against Michigan State to close out the regular season), the College Football Playoff remains the Buckeyes’ most likely winter destination.
Should Ohio State ultimately not make college football’s final four, one would imagine the Buckeyes would head to Pasadena.
If the Big Ten champ makes the playoff, the Rose Bowl would then have an opportunity to select the next-highest ranked team from the conference. If Ohio State isn’t in the Playoff, that team would likely be the Buckeyes. Even if the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes on Nov. 26, Ohio State’s Rose Bowl hopes would still be alive, assuming Michigan would go on to win the Big Ten crown. In such a scenario, the Rose Bowl’s choice would come down to a two-loss Ohio State and a three-loss Wisconsin, which the Buckeyes beat in Madison earlier this year.
Factor in the notoriously high travel rate of the Ohio State fan base and it’s not hard to see the Buckeyes heading to the ‘Grandaddy of them all.’
In the event Ohio State loses to Michigan and the Wolverines either lose the Big Ten title game or the Rose Bowl opts for Wisconsin, the Buckeyes would then become one of the most — if not the most — attractive of the at-large candidates. In that case, the Orange Bowl would almost assuredly use its Big Ten tie-in to select Ohio State and pit the Buckeyes against an opponent from the ACC.
This scenario would be very similar to the spot the Buckeyes found themselves in a year ago, with Michigan State in the playoff and the Rose Bowl opting for Big Ten runner-up Iowa instead of OSU. As a result, the Buckeyes took part in the premier non-playoff game of the postseason slate, facing off against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
Can I interest you in J.T. Barrett vs. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, perhaps?
Given where Ohio State currently fits into the playoff picture, the Rose Bowl and the playoff itself remain much more likely destinations. But the Orange Bowl is still very much in play depending on how the next three weeks of the college football season play out.