Last week I wrote a piece declaring that Wisconsin was the Big Ten’s one hope of making the College Football Playoff. I was pretty confident in that statement too. The Badgers hadn’t really played anyone of note at the time but given their undefeated record and where the other teams in the conference stood, it seems highly plausible.
Well, some things happened in week 11 of the season.
Ninth-ranked Washington chalked up a second loss to unranked Stanford. Auburn trucked number one Georgia and I don’t have a strong enough word to describe what Miami did to number three Notre Dame. Wisconsin still won the game against the 20th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes but something else happened.
Number 13 Ohio State but a 45-point beatdown on number 12 Michigan State. Suddenly Ohio State is back to the offensive powerhouse that put up more than 30 points against everyone but Iowa and Oklahoma. That loss against Iowa still doesn’t look very good but that loss to Oklahoma is looking better and better each week. The Sooners have dropped 50+ points on three different teams now.
So now we’ve got Ohio State occupying the ninth spot.
It’s not a great spot with only two weeks left in the season but suddenly, there is a path for the Buckeyes to get into the College Football Playoff. It’s a bit of a murky path but let’s take it.
Obviously, Ohio State needs to win both their upcoming games against Illinois and Michigan. If they lose either of those, the jig is up and we can forget about everything after this sentence. So the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume they win both of those. Illinois is a gimmie but Michigan could put up a fight but the Buckeyes should win.
So let’s look at the eight teams ahead of Ohio State right now:
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
Notre Dame is basically done. Games against Navy and Stanford are left but what of the Fighting Irish’s spirit? Even with two wins, Notre Dame isn’t likely to move up much.
Georgia has only one shot: win the SEC title game. If the Bulldogs don’t bounce back against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, it’s all moot and can only help Ohio State. No matter what Georgia does, it helps clear the path for the Buckeyes.
Auburn’s basically in the same boat as Georgia. Ironically, it’s Alabama standing the ways of both of them. Win out and it’s even better for Ohio State.
Wisconsin is the most interesting of the remaining teams. Ohio State fans need to root for Wisconsin to win their remaining games but not by much. Michigan either needs to keep the game close or win it at the last second. Both scenarios should keep Wisconsin and Michigan ranked but the former will make Wisconsin an even more impressive conquest.
In the Big Ten Championship game, Ohio State will need to do what it did the last time the two teams met. I was actually there and man, it got boring watching them smack Wisconsin all over the field. Trounce an undefeated or one-loss Wisconsin and Ohio State should see a good jump in the rankings.
Not a whole lot can be done about Oklahoma. The Sooners are tearing it up but every win by them makes their defeat of Ohio State more reasonable.
Thankfully Miami and Clemson are right next to each other because they’re going to take care of each other. They’re going to meet on December 2nd and only one will survive. You can already cross one of them off the list already.
Last but not least, there’s Alabama. They haven’t been super impressive but they’re most likely going to win out. As long as they don’t lose close in the SEC title game, they’re either in or out.
Lots going on here but that works in favor of Ohio State. Only one or two things need to go right and Ohio State to win out and suddenly we’ve got a different Big Ten team into the playoffs.
Considering the ups and downs of the Buckeye season, credit has to be given to Urban Meyer and his staff. It’d be the second time he’d suffered what should’ve been a season-crippling loss and still made the playoff.
And that’s why college football is the best.