With only one regular season game left, the Ohio State football team is down to only a handful of possible postseason destinations.
The 52-51 overtime win over Maryland might have created a few ulcers among Buckeye fans, but it also meant that barring an unlikely series of upsets, OSU is basically locked into a New Year’s Six bowl berth.
Now, the question is whether that game will be one like the Peach or Fiesta Bowls, the Rose Bowl, or one of the College Football Playoff semifinals.
With the Buckeyes still ranked No. 10 in the nation, only one loss by a team ahead of them in the rankings, and another lackluster win on their resume, the chances of making the Playoff have dropped substantially.
It’s still possible, but a whole lot of crazy stuff would have to happen ahead of them.
Alabama is pretty much already a lock to make the field of four, and if they lose, it could put a second SEC team into the field as well. Notre Dame just has to beat a struggling USC to punch their ticket. Clemson has games left against middling South Carolina and Pitt teams.
If those teams win out, it would leave only one Playoff spot for the Big Ten champion, Pac-12 champion, and Big 12 champion, and defending national champion UCF.
But it will all depend on what happens the next two weeks. Here are all four possible scenarios and what they would mean for the Buckeyes.
Buckeyes beat Michigan and beat Northwestern
This is the only scenario where there’s even a chance for them to make the Playoff, but as mentioned above, they would still need a lot of help.
Otherwise, this would mean a trip to the Rose Bowl to face the Pac-12 champion (if they don’t make the College Football Playoff). Washington State, Washington, and Utah are their possible opponents.
A 12-1 Big Ten champion OSU team headed to Pasadena would have to be considered a successful season by all but the most miserable segment of the Buckeye fanbase.
Buckeyes beat Michigan and lose to Northwestern
This would send the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl and almost certainly leave the Buckeyes in one of the other non-playoff New Year’s Six games.
The Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl are both possibilities.
It is extremely, extremely unlikely, but OSU could get relegated to the Citrus Bowl if there are a bunch of upsets in conference championship games.
If New Year’s Six berths go to teams like Pitt and Northwestern, that would leave out higher-ranked programs with better records.
Buckeyes lose to Michigan, Wolverines beat Northwestern
This would almost certainly send Michigan to the College Football Playoff and the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl.
The Rose Bowl is contractually-obligated to be a Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup, and would love to have OSU and about 40,000 of its fans there to watch the game.
Buckeyes lose to Michigan, Northwestern beats Michigan
Northwestern would go to the Rose Bowl. Michigan would almost certainly grab one of the non-playoff New Year’s Six berths.
That would leave the Buckeyes hoping for one of the other at-large spots in the New Year’s Six.
Their high-profile history and large fanbase would make them an attractive choice for any of those games.
But again – if the right combination of upsets happens, it could lock lower-ranked teams into some of those spots and leave the Buckeyes in the Citrus Bowl.
[Note: an earlier version of this story mentioned the Sugar Bowl as a possible destination. However, like the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl is contractually limited to certain conferences. Only SEC and Big 12 teams can play there in non-playoff years.]