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Evaluating Ohio State’s playoff chances after Saturday

The OSU football team and cheerleaders sing "Carmen" following the Buckeyes 62-3 win over Maryland on Nov. 12. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

The OSU football team and cheerleaders sing “Carmen” following the Buckeyes 62-3 win over Maryland on Nov. 12. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — No. 5 Ohio State entered Saturday’s contest at Maryland needing a little help from its Northern rival in order to make the College Football Playoff. If No. 3 Michigan won out until playing the Buckeyes, and OSU won that game, the Scarlet and Gray would be the representative from the Big Ten East, setting up a win-and-you’re-in scenario in the Big Ten title game.

But, just like every college football season, chaos unfolds. Undefeated Clemson, Michigan and Washington all lost on Saturday — two to unranked opponents. No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 all suffered a loss.

Welcome to November college football.

When the committee votes on Tuesday, the Buckeyes will likely be ranked No. 2 behind Alabama in the College Football Playoff poll. That second spot in the rankings looks pretty for OSU right now, but the Michigan loss makes it nearly impossible for the Buckeyes to go to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.

As it stands

OSU, Michigan and No. 10 Penn State all sit tied atop the Big Ten East division. For coach Urban Meyer’s team to advance to Indianapolis in the first week of December, the Buckeyes must win out and pray for the Nittany Lions and coach James Franklin to self-destruct in the final two weeks of the season.

Left on its plate, Penn State has Rutgers (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten) in New Jersey and then Michigan State (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten) at home. If Penn State wins out, it will represent the Big Ten East in Indianapolis.

For Michigan, just winning out guarantees the Wolverines a spot in the Big Ten title game. Michigan beat Penn State earlier in the season, which gives Jim Harbaugh’s team the edge in the head-to-head tiebreaker.

However, even without a Big Ten championship for OSU, the Buckeyes no longer need help from other teams. The Buckeyes will be granted a final four berth on merit alone — or so it’s perceived.

The Playoff

OSU is currently playing its best football after two consecutive 62-3 thrashings of Big Ten opponents. There’s no question that the Michigan loss to Iowa on Saturday night doesn’t help OSU, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt either.

OSU has at least two games remaining on its schedule, the last one being Michigan. From the past two seasons, the college football world has learned two things about the College Football Playoff committee: it places emphasis on conference championships and the last final impression is a lasting one on the committee. With that final game being against a Michigan team that could still be in the top four come Tuesday, OSU has the opportunity to separate itself from the rest of the field fighting for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the playoff.

For the committee, this is uncharted territory.

For starters, the committee has never put a two-loss team in the College Football Playoff, and this could very well be the year. Penn State and likely Big Ten West representative Wisconsin are just a Big Ten championship away from garnering serious consideration for a spot in the final four. This is a nightmare situation for the committee.

How does it value a two-loss conference champion against a one-loss Louisville or a one-loss conference champion Clemson or Washington? Or heck, a one-loss OSU?

To think that just winning out sends OSU into the playoff is ludicrous. The Buckeyes know better than anyone that a conference championship can lift a team by two spots. It can just as easily send a team back a couple spots.

The final verdict will be made on Dec. 4 when the playoff committee decides the final four. Although two convincing wins by OSU likely gives them the chance to play for its second national championship in three season, the Michigan loss on Saturday night almost definitely cancels the notion that OSU controls its own destiny.



  1. I guess we shouldn’t have had two kicks blocked against PSU. Those miscues may very well sink the FBS Playoffs. But, first things first. We have to break the hex that MSU has on us. Basketball and football lost key games to the Spartans last year and in previous seasons. One game at a time and let the chips fall where they will.

  2. The FBS needs to be expanded to 8 teams.
    The 5 winners of the Power 5 Conferences
    The best single representative of the combined smaller conferences.
    2 at-large selections.
    This requires one more weekend of play and would make all the difference.

  3. To think that Ohio State should still be given a chance to go to the National Championship even if Penn St or Wisconsin wins the conference championship is absolutely crazy. The Buckeyes haven’t played well all year and have been sloppy at best. They are a very young team with 90% of them being freshmen and they have no rhyme or reason to their play calling. They have been outplayed and have barely gotten by. Alabama would completely crush them and it would be very embarrassing.

    • I have heard this before. Alabama was screaming the same thing in 2014. We had no chance with a 3rd string qb. We all saw how that played out. I constantly see Alabama fans saying that we won’t get in and that they would kill us. It seems that you are all nervous to play us again. You should want Ohio State to get in so you can get revenge from the 2014 loss.

    • Yeah because winning their last 2 games 124-6 is barely getting by…

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