Ohio State football: Why the Buckeyes should be in the CFP
The College Football Playoff wasn’t created to reward some obscure metric of competency, or to reward college football’s Little Brothers of the Poor. It was created to bracket the 4 best teams in the nation and give meaningful closure on the up-and-down season of the sport. The four best teams get in, and somebody gets crowned champion.
Yes, it’s a tough break for No. 5 — always. It’ll be a tough break for No. 9 when the bracket expands to 8 teams, or for No. 13 when it expands to 12 teams. But the 4 best teams in the nation includes Ohio State, which is why the CFP should — and will — too. If not tonight, when the initial CFP rankings come out, certainly by the time it really matters.
We can start with the one given — Georgia. Even if the Bulldogs lose a game, they’ve been so thoroughly dominant — particularly on defense — that their spot in the CFP should be certain. Most of this season has felt like Georgia and everybody else. So concede a spot. And then … well, then it gets interesting.
Do you reward little brother (Cincinnati), who will steamroll a poor schedule, likely without a loss? Or the power conference behemoth who has spent the season tripping over its own feet only to emerge at the last second (Oklahoma)? Even if that conference hasn’t been relevant in the Playoff in ages and the team survives like a teenage character bumbling through a horror movie?
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Do you reward the 1-loss power from the SEC? Even though that loss isn’t to Georgia, but to a team that itself has turned around and lost to Mississippi State? Even if that team squeaked by a 4-4 Florida team? Do you reward the West Coast team that (gulp) beat Ohio State in Week 2? Even though Oregon promptly turned around and took its own loss to a ho-hum Stanford team a few weeks later?
Some of these debates will become academic. If Alabama takes another loss, they’re not in the field. If Oklahoma stumbles its way to even a single loss, the Sooners are almost certainly out. Even Cincinnati could lose. But even if they don’t … OSU should be in.
Yes, the Buckeyes lost in Week 2. But there is precedent for not holding an early loss — particularly a quality, non-conference loss like Oregon– against an otherwise qualified team. Like, maybe the 2014 Buckeyes, who lost — in Week 2, at home — to a gritty Virginia Tech squad. Winning out the rest of the way got the Buckeyes the nod over 1-loss Baylor and TCU teams. And of course, 2 games later, OSU was the national champion.
Did OSU have the resume in 2014? Sure. They went undefeated in the Big Ten, and had their single loss early and out of conference. Also, they had a dominant offense that rolled over everybody they met, even in the CFP. Sound familiar? The current Buckeyes boast the top scoring offense and top total yardage offense in the nation. They’ve got playmakers — Stroud, Henderson, Olave, Wilson, Smith-Njigba. They’ve got one of the best teams in the nation (even if the defense is a little bit suspect).
Could Cincinnati even be competitive with Ohio State in an actual game? All due respect to the Bearcats, but there’s substantial reason to think the answer is no. Ditto for Notre Dame. Oklahoma might give up 50 to the Buckeyes, and Alabama doesn’t look a ton better right now.
We can talk about metrics — about ELO and FPI. But at the end of the day, Ohio State is simply too talented to leave out of the CFP — so long as the Buckeyes take care of their end of the bargain. Which is the other thing — yes, State’s schedule is a bit soft. But it’s about to beef up with the two Michigan schools and a potential Big Ten title game matchup.
When it comes to the CFP field, Ohio State belongs. Believe it now or learn it later.