After a largely uneventful weekend in college football, Ohio State’s shot at earning a slot in the College Football Playoff is still more or less where it was a week ago – win, and you’re probably in.
The #9 Buckeyes won, as did all of the top 12 teams in the Playoff Rankings. Most did so fairly easily, although #8 Notre Dame struggled against Navy and #12 USC failed to pull away from a 5-6 UCLA team. Both of those results are good news for Ohio State.
OSU’s clearest path to the playoff remains the same as it was a week ago. The Buckeyes have to take care of Michigan this weekend, and then beat #5 Wisconsin in Indianapolis. Then, the most helpful results would be: #1 Alabama wins out, knocking #6 Auburn and #7 Georgia down the rankings. #3 Miami beats #2 Clemson in a lopsided ACC title game (although a Clemson blowout over Miami would probably be enough as well). #4 Oklahoma wins out, knocking off #12 TCU.
With OSU just one spot behind Notre Dame last weekend, the Irish struggling with Navy and with just one game left, there’s not much chance for them to improve their case for inclusion. If the Buckeyes can add wins over the Wolverines and Badgers, plus a Big Ten title, they would be a near-lock to jump ND. It’s entirely possible that they could do that when this week’s Playoff rankings are released.
USC’s struggles against UCLA mean that they now have an even less-compelling case to jump way up the rankings than they did a week ago. They’re off this weekend and will then play 10-2 Washington State or a 9-3 or even 8-4 Stanford team in the Pac-12 title game. There’s no way that would be enough to vault them over an OSU team with wins against Michigan and #5 Wisconsin.
With the Pac-12 effectively eliminated and at least four teams ahead of OSU guaranteed to lose in a scenario where the they win out (Iron Bowl, SEC title game, ACC title game, Big Ten title game), the Buckeyes are seemingly in good shape. The only way they would get left out is if the committee opted to put two teams from the ACC, SEC, or Big 12 in.
Among the national projections that have OSU out of the playoff field this week, with only one exception, all have Wisconsin in. That’s significant. If you’re hoping to see the Buckeyes in that top-4 on football’s version of Selection Sunday, you’d only really be concerned if people were picking an 11-2 Big Ten Champion OSU to get left out.
SB Nation is the only outlet suggesting that could happen. They project Auburn to beat Alabama, and then for the committee to take both of those teams in the playoff field. That would mean picking an 11-1 team that failed to win its division or conference, whose best wins were over #16 Mississippi State and #20 LSU.
Remember that when OSU got in without winning its league last season, that was with wins over three of the top eight teams in the final playoff rankings. Alabama’s resume isn’t anywhere close to that. It’s certainly possible that the committee could do that, but they would have to lean pretty heavily on the “eye test” to get there.
Keep an eye on where the committee ranks LSU and Mississippi State this week. If they both jump up the rankings after fairly unimpressive wins over 4-7 opponents, it could be a sign that they’re setting themselves up to make a case for an 11-1 Alabama. But as long as the Tide rolls the next two weekends, it won’t matter.
College Football Talk, the only outlet below who projects the Buckeyes to win the next two weekends, has them in the Playoff field.
The bottom line: As Snoop Dogg said that Al Davis said, “Just Win, Baby, Win.”
Yahoo: Peach Bowl vs. UCF
SB Nation: Fiesta Bowl vs. USC
SI.com: Peach Bowl vs. UCF
College Football Talk: #4 seed in Sugar Bowl vs. #1 Alabama
ESPN: Fiesta Bowl vs. USC
ESPN: Fiesta Bowl vs. USC
CBS: Fiesta Bowl vs. USC