COLUMBUS, Ohio — The bad news for Ohio State is that if the College Football Playoff started today, the Buckeyes wouldn’t be in it.
The good news is they have five weeks to fix that.
As expected, Ohio State sat outside the top 4 in Tuesday’s initial rankings release, trailing No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Texas A&M and No. 5 Washington. Sitting at No. 6, however, the Buckeyes’ path to the playoff is very clear: win the Big Ten and they’re in.
Although, that might not be as easy as it once seemed.
Path to the College Football Playoff
Fear not, Buckeye fans, Ohio State still controls its own playoff destiny — sort of.
Assuming the Buckeyes don’t suffer another loss and the Wolverines remain undefeated, the Nov. 26 matchup between the two rivals will serve as a de facto Big Ten East title game, with a playoff spot likely up for grabs the following week in the conference championship game. All Ohio State needs to do is win its next three games — this weekend against Nebraska, at Maryland and at Michigan State — and the Buckeyes will have the potential to replace Michigan in the top 4.
Again, this is assuming the Wolverines also continue to win.
If they don’t, that’s where Ohio State could get in trouble. Should Michigan lose between now and Nov. 26, the Buckeyes would no longer control their path to the playoff. Rather, it would be Penn State — ranked 12th by the committee — that would be in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten East.
If the Buckeyes beat a Michigan team that has already previously suffered a loss and the Nittany Lions win out, Penn State would be heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.
In that case, an Ohio State team without a chance to even play for the Big Ten title would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs. So, yes, Buckeye fans, for at least the next three weeks, you should be rooting for your rival.
Aside from the obvious game against the Wolverines — and Michigan, despite being ranked third, might be the most impressive team in the country to this point — and a subsequent Big Ten title game, the Buckeyes’ biggest test will come this weekend. Under the lights at Ohio Stadium, Ohio State will welcome a top-10 opponent in No. 10 Nebraska, which is coming off an overtime loss to No. 8 Wisconsin.
With a win over the Cornhuskers, the Buckeyes would add another quality win to their resume, although at this point, all that matters in Columbus is winning the Big Ten title. But beating a quality opponent like Nebraska is never a given and, with the inconsistencies Ohio State has shown in the past month, the Buckeyes should have their hands full.
Nevertheless, all of Ohio State’s goals for the season are still very much in front of it.
Win the Big Ten and they’re in. At this point, that’s all that matters.