According to a source very close to a College Football Playoff committee member, and who was privy to the final debate over the No. 4 seed, it wouldn’t have mattered if Ohio State had “decisively defeated” unbeaten Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game.
Ohio State jumped out to a 21-7 lead over the 12-0 Badgers and was driving late in the second quarter in what looked like could be a knockout touchdown drive. After J.T. Barrett, playing six days after undergoing knee surgery, first missed wide-open receivers K.J. Hill and then Johnnie Dixon on what would have been sure touchdowns, the drive stalled and a field-goal attempt was blocked.
The Buckeyes had to settle for a 21-10 halftime lead.
By the time the game ended two hours later, they had to come up with a final defensive stop to hold on for a 27-21 win.
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” the source said of the final score. “Ohio State was not getting in ahead of Alabama.”
Which begs the question, why did committee chair Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech, say this the previous Tuesday, when Alabama was ranked No. 5 and Ohio State No. 8? …
“Reflecting on the discussions over the last two days, obviously there’s three spots that separate them right there, but it’s close separation from team No. 5, Alabama; 6, Georgia; 7, Miami; 8, Ohio State,” Hocutt said on live TV. “Those teams are close. Very little separation in the committee’s eyes between teams 5 through 8.”
If that were true, something obviously changed from when he made his comments Tuesday night until the time the Buckeyes’ six-point win in Indianapolis concluded.
As it is, the Crimson Tide, 12-point losers to Auburn in their final regular-season game, will face No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl semifinal; No. 2 Oklahoma will meet No. 3 Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal – and Big Ten champ Ohio State (11-2) will face Pac-12 champ USC (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas.
Jeff Snook, a 1982 graduate of Ohio State, has written 12 books on college football.