INDIANAPOLIS — A Big Ten championship title. An 11-2 record. Wins over four top-25 opponents.
That is the resume Ohio State (11-2, 9-1 Big Ten) will bring to the table when the College Football Playoff committee decides on its four teams to make the playoff.
Ohio State beat the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers 27-21 in Indianapolis to claim the Big Ten championship and leave its fate up to the voters.
Following No. 6 Georgia’s win in the SEC title game, an ACC championship win by No. 1 Clemson and No. 3 Oklahoma winning the Big 12 title, three spots appear to be locked up. The only other teams that would appear to have any claim to that fourth spot are No. 11 USC, a two loss Pac-12 champion, No. 2 Auburn, which lost the SEC championship game, and No. 5 Alabama, a team that lost to Auburn.
However, more than likely, the the final spot in the playoff will come down to the Buckeyes or the Crimson Tide. The committee might have to decide on which is more important: a stronger slate of wins or fewer losses.
The Buckeyes have wins against No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 9 Penn State and No. 16 Michigan State, as well as a road win against Michigan, which has been ranked at times this season. Alabama has wins against No. 17 LSU, No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 25 Fresno State.
Ohio State’s list of quality wins is what could give it the potential nod, but its two losses could be what holds it back. Though one of the losses came against highly ranked Oklahoma, the second came in a 55-24 blowout loss to a 7-5 Iowa team. Alabama’s only loss came to Auburn, which finishes the season 10-3 and as the runner-up in the SEC championship game.
This will be unchartered territory for the committee, no matter which of the two teams it picks. No two-loss team has ever reached the playoff. No conference has ever been represented by two teams.
There is precedent involving two previous Ohio State teams that could seem to apply here.
A one-loss, non-conference champion Ohio State in 2015 was not enough to make the playoff despite being the reigning national champions and having a team deemed by many to be among the most talented in the nation. Ohio State, a one-loss, non conference champion in 2016, reached the College Football Playoff because of its strength of schedule, and two-loss Big Ten champion Penn State — which beat Ohio State — did not make the playoff.
This situation, in only the fourth-ever College Football Playoff, seems to not fit in perfectly with any of the aforementioned scenarios, leaves this as a much of a mystery for how the committee will respond Sunday when the announcement is made at noon.