Ohio State will make the College Football Playoff if it wins out.
Write that down now. Don’t think Ohio State gets in with a 12-1 record, three-time national championship coach Urban Meyer and Heisman Trophy candidate J.T. Barrett? We’ll believe it when we don’t see it.
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We saw it in 2014, when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 16 in the first set of rankings before a run that resulted in the national championship. We didn’t see it in 2015 when the Buckeyes finished 12-1, but they didn’t have the Big Ten championship after losing to Michigan State. We saw it again in 2016 when Ohio State finished 11-1 and didn’t even play for the Big Ten championship.
We’ll see it again in 2017 if they care of business on the field.The Buckeyes are the highest ranked Big Ten team at No. 6 in the first set of rankings, which were dominated by No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama. We know the one-loss trio of No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Clemson and No. 5 Oklahoma are ahead of the Buckeyes now. We know the Tigers beat the Buckeyes 31-0 in the College Football Playoff last season and the Sooners beat the Buckeyes 31-16 this year. We know all three of those teams could win out, too.
We don’t care. The Buckeyes will make the College Football Playoff if they win out, and not just because the AP Poll has them at No. 3 now. Ohio State would have victories over Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and, most likely, Wisconsin. That should be enough to land in the top four.
If not, then why would you ever argue about conference strength ever again? We obsess about conference rankings. It’s a dominant topic in the offseason, during the regular season, bowl season — all the time. That’s what Ohio State is hoping carries this argument. The Big Ten has been in the best conference argument all season.
The conference can back that claim up given three teams in the top 10 in Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State and No. 9 Wisconsin. That’s the only conference with three top-10 teams. No. 24 Michigan State is in the mix, and unranked Michigan will be in this top 25 when they play the Buckeyes on Nov. 25. That seems like enough to get the Buckeyes in if they beat that group of teams.
But is it? The SEC and Pac-12 had the most teams in the first set of rankings, but the Pac-12’s highest ranked team is Washington at No. 12. The Pac-12 also is generally considered the first conference out of the playoff mix.
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|SEC||5||Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU|
|Pac-12||5||Washington, USC, Stanford, Arizona, Washington State|
|ACC||4||Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, N.C. State|
|Big 12||4||Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State|
|Big Ten||4||Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State|
And the SEC? Alabama and Georgia are fine for now, but they still have to play at the end of the road. We’ll see what the score looks like next to Ohio State and Penn State’s 39-38 instant classic. The two-team SEC theory is fine, but we still think at the end it’s more likely that the SEC champion and Big Ten champion go instead, especially if Georgia loses.
Look at the competition in the SEC East. Look again. It’s not there
As for the next three teams? We’d also take Wisconsin, Michigan State and unranked Michigan over Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU head to head in any order. Feel free to disagree.
Who cares? Conference strength doesn’t matter more than winning out at this point.
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If there’s a dominant concern from the first set of rankings, then that’s it. Ohio State can’t lose again. Neither can Penn State — who needs Ohio State to lose twice just to get to the Big Ten championship game. Wisconsin can’t lose once. Those three might be top 10 teams, but they must win out if they want to get in. That’s going to increase the stakes in November, and that’s how it should be in the Big Ten.
The Big Ten hasn’t missed the playoff yet, and we don’t think that’s the case, despite the first set of rankings. if Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin all lose a game, then that will be the case. But one of those teams should win out the regular season, and we have a feeling two out of Georgia, Notre Dame, Clemson and Oklahoma won’t be in at the end of it.
If it comes down to a Big Ten champion vs. Notre Dame for the final spot, then, well, get ready for the argument of all arguments. We still don’t see Ohio State or a Big Ten champion losing that one either, especially with the benefit of a conference championship game.
Like we said, we’ll believe it when we don’t see it.