Ohio State did enough to win the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, rallying to defeat Wisconsin 34-21 in Indianapolis.
But did the Buckeyes do enough to remain No. 1 in the final College Football Playoff rankings?
That is the big question facing Ohio State today after everybody comes down from celebrating and shakes the confetti out of their shoes.
The Buckeyes had to rally against a Wisconsin team they had beaten by 31 points in the regular season. OSU trailed for a good chunk of Saturday’s game, more than they had trailed in every game all season combined.
The teams that OSU is competing against in CFP seeding — that is to say, the two other undefeated Power 5 conference champions — frankly made a better case for No. 1 in their conference title games.
No. 2 LSU eased past No. 4 Georgia 37-10 in the SEC title game. And No. 3 Clemson drilled No. 23 Virginia 62-17 to capture the ACC crown yet again as the defending national champion stretched its winning streak to 28.
Clemson has stayed at No. 3 and I don’t see the Tigers jumping past the other Tigers of LSU so it seems a sure bet that the No. 1 debate comes down to LSU and Ohio State, as it has for weeks.
We are putting a great deal of emphasis on conference title games here because history shows that the CFP voters do. Recall the 2014 B1G title game, when OSU routed Wisconsin 59-0. The result was lopsided enough to vault the Buckeyes past Baylor and TCU and into the CFP Top 4, where they of course went on to win the national championship.
Having such a close game against the Badgers while their two rivals for the top spot rolled to their league championships might weigh against the Buckeyes.
In fact I think it will.
I’m projecting LSU to jump back to No. 1 when the final votes are tallied today, setting the Tigers up against No. 4 seed Oklahoma, the Big 12 champ, in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 28. That leaves Clemson and Ohio State to square off in the CFP semifinal, almost certainly in the Fiesta Bowl.
Which one is the No. 2 seed is irrelevant, unless you are deeply concerned about whether OSU wears scarlet or white jerseys (as the “home” or “road” team) to face Clemson.
As for the rest of the New Year’s Day 6 picture, I have waffled all week about whether Penn State or Wisconsin would be the B1G’s representative in the Rose Bowl should OSU go to the CFP. Despite Fox TV analyst Joel Klatt campaigning for Wisconsin late in Saturday’s game, I have changed by mind again and now think No. 10 Penn State is headed for Pasadena and No. 8 Wisconsin is headed out of the Top 10 in the CFP rankings and out of the New Year’s Day 6 bowls.
Now, on to our B1G bowl projections, in the conference’s approximate bowl selection order: