Ohio State football: Do the Buckeyes still have a path to the Playoff?
In the words of the great Jim Carrey, so you’re telling me there’s a chance? For OSU, the regular-season-ending loss to Michigan seemed certain to have eliminated the Buckeyes from College Football Playoff contention … but not entirely.
ESPN’s Football Power Index lists 7 teams as still having a mathematical shot at a Playoff berth. The bad news is that the Buckeyes are a distant 7th of those teams, with a 6.8% chance of getting a spot. The good news is that they are 1/7th of the potential field, at least per ESPN’s interpretation.
So how could OSU increase that chance? Of course, the Buckeyes can’t. The 10-2 regular season is over. But if Buckeye Nation is trying to ponder who to root for, here’s how their Saturday cheering interests should align.
1) Georgia needs to thump Alabama
Georgia is in the Playoff, regardless of the SEC championship game. A 1-loss Georgia team with a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game is easily in the field.
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But Alabama, of course, already has lost a game. Does an 11-2 Alabama team trump a 10-2 Ohio State team? Maybe, maybe not. This isn’t the dominant Alabama of past seasons. The Tide barely squeaked past Auburn, and beat 6-6 LSU and 6-6 Florida by 7 and 2 points respectively.
Alabama could get past OSU or could not — particularly if UGA beats the Tide badly. Meanwhile, if Alabama wins, the SEC gets 2 teams in the Playoff and that doesn’t bode well for the Buckeyes.
2) Iowa needs to beat Michigan
Rooting against Michigan? Of course, that won’t be a great hardship to Buckeyes fans. If Michigan wins, the Wolverines are almost certain to claim a spot. If Iowa upsets them, Iowa won’t get a spot, and a 2-loss Michigan team would probably slide below the Buckeyes (although the argument that Michigan beat OSU head-to-head makes that far from certain).
3) Baylor needs to beat Oklahoma State
ESPN gives OK State a 31% chance of a Playoff spot, but Baylor a 0% chance. A 12-1 Oklahoma State team would likely make the field over Ohio State, but an 11-2 Baylor team with a regular-season loss to OK State and another to TCU probably wouldn’t. So there’s another chance here.
4) Houston needs to beat Cincinnati
If Houston does beat Cincinnati and the CFP uses that as grounds to leap a 2-loss Ohio State team over a 1-loss Cincinnati team, the resulting furor will be deafening. But Cincinnati probably does have to win to claim its CFP spot, and a Houston victory would probably enhance the general chaos that OSU needs.
Does OSU need all 4?
So, do all 4 of those things have to happen? No, but 3 of them probably do. Notre Dame is probably locked in ahead of the Buckeyes in the CFP pecking order. So is Georgia, regardless of what happens in Atlanta.
That leaves a pair of remaining spots. If Alabama loses, Cincinnati loses, Oklahoma State loses and Michigan loses, there’s 2 spots still up for grabs. In that situation, Cincinnati probably would get in and the 4th spot would likely go to OSU or Alabama, although Michigan would likely have some complaints. It wouldn’t hurt the Buckcyes if Oregon wins the PAC-12 title game, simply because it puts a little polish on the only other OSU loss.
But if Oklahoma State beats Baylor, for instance, then the four could be Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Ohio State. Of course, at that point, OSU has to jump both the Michigan team that just beat them and the Cincinnati team that only lost 1 game. Or maybe the best play would be for Michigan to win and OK State, Cincy and Alabama to lose. A four-team field of Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State could happen. A 2-loss OSU team seems as solid as a 2-loss Alabama team, after all.
In any case, Ohio State needs at least 3 of the above 4 items to happen, and if all 4 happen, that 6.8% chance just might pay off. Granted, it’s a lot of contingencies, but any chance is better than no chance.