The initial CFP rankings should make one things crystal-clear for Ohio State fans. While the Buckeyes would love to be No. 1, the best thing for OSU’s Playoff chances is for Georgia to beat Tennessee handily and run the SEC table.

Yes, that does seem counter-intuitive. The Bulldogs are the defending national champions, and the Buckeyes will not make it to the top of the national pecking order without all of the top SEC teams taking a loss. So surely OSU fans should root for a Tennessee upset?

Not really.

If Ohio State takes care of business, beats Michigan, and wins the B1G title, they’re no worse than No. 2 come CFP seeding day. A 1-loss SEC team (say, Alabama) would probably not jump the undefeated Buckeyes. Even if Clemson were to go undefeated, an undefeated Clemson team would not jump the undefeated Buckeyes.

What Ohio State has to consider as a contingency plan is what happens if it loses a game.

An 11-1 or 12-1 Ohio State team would fall behind a 1-loss SEC champion, should no one run the SEC table. It could be leap-frogged by an undefeated Clemson team. If the loss was to Michigan, the Wolverines would go ahead of OSU. And that quickly adds up to a recipe for a 1-loss OSU team gunning for a single open CFP spot and very plausibly ending up No. 5 or maybe even No. 6, sitting home from the Playoff for a second straight year.

If Georgia wins out, that means a second loss somewhere for Alabama (either in trying to get to the SEC title game, or in that game), which knocks the Tide out of contention. Eliminating 1 team from a logjam is no small thing, particularly when it’s the team that would have the strongest claim to a strong schedule. Neither Georgia nor Tennessee can compete with Alabama on that front. An 11-1 Tennessee team with a bad loss and having missed out on the SEC Championship would not have a great case head-to-head with an 11-1 Ohio State team. There’d be room for Georgia, Michigan, and even maybe Clemson, and the Buckeyes could grab the 4th spot.

Tennessee has a slightly weaker overall resume than Georgia, despite what the rankings say. Tennessee’s win over Alabama lifts them above the fray now, but if Georgia matches that, and particularly if it does so in more impressive fashion than the Vols, advantage Bulldogs. Georgia has won by at least 17 points in all but 1 game, and while its schedule is fairly humble, games ahead against bowl-bound Mississippi State and Kentucky will help the Bulldogs’ overall strength of schedule — while also probably not jeopardizing that 1 game within less than 17 points bit.

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On the other hand, Tennessee has won 3 1-score games this season — yes, Alabama, but also vs. 4-4 Florida and 4-4 Pittsburgh. The Vols’ toughest game after Georgia will be 5-3 South Carolina, currently ranked 47th in the Sagarin rankings. A big drop-off in the middle of the Vols’ schedule would cast doubts on the quality of the overall slate.

Ohio State hasn’t played anybody within a closer margin than 11 points yet, and has a higher strength of schedule ranking than either Tennessee or Georgia, which will probably be helped by upcoming games against Maryland (a bit) and Michigan.

Obviously, the biggest obstacle ahead of Ohio State is maintaining its own success. Keep winning and the rest is details. But to the extent that Buckeye Nation’s attention might wander — after all, OSU is a 38-point favorite Saturday at Northwestern — OSU’s fans might be well advised to root for a Georgia blowout and an uncluttered SEC thereafter. Chaos tends to favor the SEC, and Ohio State would like a nice uncluttered path to the CFP.