The Case For and Against Ohio State Making the College Football Playoff

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel (4) celebrates after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines in the second overtime at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 30-27 in double overtime.Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes are a one-loss team who may be on the outside looking in when it comes to the College Football Playoff. Should they or shouldn’t they be considered?

The College Football Playoff Committee may have an interesting connundrum on their hands this season. We may have a situation where a conference champion is left out of the playoffs in favor of another member of that conference.

The Big Ten, such as the SEC in years past, is a victim of their own success this season. Simply too many good teams, and not all of them will be able to go to the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State has lost a single game this year – a head-to-head meeting with the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 22. That loss is what has kept the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten Championship Game, and what could ultimately lead to them missing the playoffs.

But does Ohio State belong in the top four, regardless of what transpires between Penn State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game?

This problem isn’t new, and it happened regularly with the BCS when it was in place (as any Georgia or Auburn fan if you want verification). But when fans have actual people sitting around a conference table to blame rather than a computer ranking, the reaction is more visceral.

There can be a case made in both directions, and depending on how you interpret the criteria used by the selection committee, the decision could go either way. I’m going to argue with myself here, and tell you why the Buckeyes shouldn’t and should be in the playoff discussion.

Oct 22, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Grant Haley (15) reacts against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Ohio State 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Case Against the Buckeyes

Strikes Against Ohio State:

  • Not playing in conference championship game
  • Lost head-to-head with possible conference champion
  • Poor Performances vs unranked teams

Quite simply, the college football purists and many who believe in the merits of a championship believe that if you can’t even make your conference championship game (less yet win it), you don’t belong in the playoffs.

While this is a black-and-white approach to the problem, it’s not always that simple. The committee is charged with selecting the “four best teams” to participate in the playoff. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a conference champ is one of those four teams.

The confusion comes when a supposed “best team” who did not play for a conference title resides in the same conference as a champion. Should Penn State – whose two losses came to non-conference foe Pitt and in-conference Michigan – win the Big Ten title game, is there really a way to keep them out of the playoff?

Probably not.

There has to be some weight given to playing that extra game against a top opponent and winning your conference. Ohio State had their chance, and couldn’t get it done.

Ohio State’s season is done, save whatever bowl game they are invited to join. They shouldn’t be rewarded for sitting idle in a week when Penn State and Wisconsin are slugging it out.

It may not seem fair to penalize a team for losing the wrong game as opposed to the least number of games, but head-to-head is another part of the committee’s formula. If Penn State wins the Big Ten title, then it would seem almost ludicrous to place Ohio State above them in the rankings.

The Buckeyes opening two weeks against Bowling Green and Tulsa (although blowouts) are unimpressive. The performances turned in by Ohio State against weaker teams such as Northwestern and Michigan State won’t help the committee look any more favorably at the Buckeyes either.

In the end, Ohio State must hope for a Wisconsin victory and some other upsets in title games for them to have a real shot at making the College Football Playoff.

The Case For the Buckeyes

Points In Ohio State’s Favor:

  • Only one loss is to a ranked team
  • Have beaten three current Top 10 teams
  • Strength of schedule
  • Eye test

It doesn’t take long to look at Ohio State’s body of work and see that they are clearly a playoff-worthy team.

By the current team rankings and won-loss records, the Buckeyes have one of the five most difficult schedules in the nation, along with Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Wisconsin. On the flip side, Penn State’s schedule ranks around the 15th most difficult.

The Buckeyes are the only program who has even played four current Top 10 teams, less yet beaten three of them – Oklahoma, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The head-to-head loss with the Nittany Lions and the exclusion from the Big Ten Championship game are indeed tough to overcome, but Ohio State has beaten more quality opponents, and by a much wider margin of victory than Penn State.

The loss to Penn State was also only a 3-point margin, and the game rightly could have gone either way.

Just the “eye test”, which is something the committee is supposed to weigh heavily into their decision, should tell them that Ohio State is simply a better team than Penn State. A 3-point loss doesn’t erase that fact.

If the committee wants to follow their charge, and put the four best teams in the playoff then Ohio State must get serious consideration, regardless of what happens in the Big Ten and other conference championship games.

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