Ohio State was admitted into the 2016 College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes’ second appearance in three years and it wasn’t because of their iconic brand name.
The Buckeyes were simply one of the four best and most deserving teams in the country and boasted the most impressive resume outside of Alabama. Ohio State defeated three top-10 opponents in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan and recorded the most impressive out of conference victory with their pummeling of Oklahoma in Norman, the defacto Big 12 champion.
With all of that being said, I understand the argument for Penn State to be included in the playoff instead of Ohio State. It’s just incorrect. For the record, I think Penn State should be in the playoff after winning the toughest conference in the country and coming out of the toughest division in the nation, just not at Ohio State’s expense.
The fact is that Penn State lost two games this season and Ohio State lost one. That’s a big deal. Ohio State has no argument whatsoever if both teams have the same amount of losses. Head-to-head results on the field and conference championships are used to differentiate similar teams when their resumes are comparable.
While Penn State’s non-conference schedule is respectable that includes a close victory over AAC champion Temple and a close defeat to four-loss Pittsburgh, it’s not even comparable to the Buckeyes’ blowout of Oklahoma. Keep in mind this was also the first true road game for 16 of Ohio State’s 22 starters.
Now, some will argue that Penn State’s victory over the Buckeyes was fluky and that Ohio State controlled the majority of the game. This is all true, but Penn State won the football game. However, that doesn’t make Penn State better or even more deserving of a playoff spot with two losses. Thanks to Penn State’s rise from mediocrity, the Buckeyes possess the best overall loss concerning any of the one-loss teams.
Penn State lost to a mediocre Pitt team and was destroyed by Michigan 49-10. Should that be excusable because it was before Penn State got hot and won nine consecutive games? When Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in 2014, it was a bad loss, but it was their only loss. I realize Pitt traveled to Death Valley and beat Clemson, but they also lost four games and surrendered 61 points to Syracuse at home.
If you want to say that if the resumes were reversed and Ohio State had two losses with a victory over Penn State and a Big Ten title, it would be the Buckeyes still claiming a spot in the playoff based on their brand, you’re wrong. First of all, if Ohio State lost to Michigan 49-10, that’s an absurd concept and the Buckeyes would surely never get in based on that result alone.
The Penn State argument is that their losses were early in the season so let’s say Ohio State lost to Pitt and Wisconsin and Penn State’s only loss was to the Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions still have the better resume even if Ohio State wins the Big Ten title with two losses and an even better loss because of how highly ranked Ohio State was to begin the season.
The only reason Ohio State leapfrogged TCU in 2014 to make the playoff is because both teams had one loss and the 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game was used as the deciding factor. Sure, it will always be debatable as to why TCU dropped with a similar margin of victory against Iowa State on the same day, but nevertheless, head-to-head victories and conference championships put a team over the top when overall record and resumes are near identical.
That’s just not the case with Ohio State and Penn State. The selection committee factors in the entire regular season and not just the last nine weeks. Whether it’s Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State or Washington, not one of those teams would have been a home underdog to Maryland at any point during the season and that’s exactly what Penn State was in early October. It’s a moot point now, however it just goes to show you that you cannot earn a playoff appearance in September and October, but you can certainly lose the opportunity.
Last season, Michigan State defeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game with the Spartans going on to get trounced by Alabama in the playoff. Were Michigan State and Iowa truly the best two teams in the Big Ten? With the way everything unfolded, Penn State earned the right to ultimately win the Big Ten championship, but the two best teams in the Big Ten in 2016 were Ohio State and Michigan.
Ohio State is Ohio State because of their excellence on the field and overall body of work on a yearly basis. 2016 was no different as the Buckeyes truly earned their way into the playoff. The committee got it right.