Why 1-loss Ohio State clearly would trump 1-loss Alabama in a Playoff debate (if it came to that)
Close your eyes, Ohio State fans.
Imagine a reality in which you’re sitting there on late Saturday afternoon and you’re trying to wrap your head around losing as a double-digit favorite in a game for the sixth consecutive year. The Buckeyes’ path to the B1G Championship is now blocked by Penn State, and all of the sudden, the Playoff is in serious jeopardy. James Franklin is running around The Shoe like he just won the Super Bowl.
(No matter what he says about this just being another game, this is Franklin’s Super Bowl, and understandably so. Lose a couple games to OSU the way Penn State has and it’s not difficult to understand why that’d be the case.)
Now open your eyes.
Yes, that might be your worst nightmare. You’ve been there before. You remember 2016 when you had to deal with the thought of Penn State going to the B1G Championship and possibility earning a Playoff bid ahead of the 1-loss, non-conference champ Buckeyes. That, however, didn’t happen.
Your nightmare this time is that with 1 loss and without a conference title, your team is on the outside looking in. Even worse, it’s Alabama who gets more love as the 1-loss, non-conference champ.
Now open your eyes a little more. Why? Because if you look a little closer, you’d see why that should never be a reality.
One-loss Alabama has zero reason to make the field ahead of 1-loss Ohio State. That’s assuming we’re talking about both as non-conference champs.
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Before you tell me “but ESPN loves Alabama and the selection committee will give them the benefit of the doubt,” consider this. When the first Playoff poll came out, Ohio State and Alabama were both undefeated. Who was No. 1 and who was No. 3? That’s right. The Buckeyes got the top slot, even ahead of LSU.
What in a 3-week stretch could possibly change how the selection committee views Ohio State’s résumé? Let’s say both 1-loss Ohio State and 1-loss Alabama both beat their rivals on the road to end the regular season. Michigan is ranked higher than Auburn and would still be ranked higher if both teams were to lose.
So IF that scenario unfolded, and neither team could improve their résumés during conference championship weekend, Alabama wouldn’t have any chance of getting a last-second leg up (that’s what happens when you have Cupcake Week). Here’s what their résumés look like right now:
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And again, winning at Michigan vs. winning at Auburn is essentially a wash. Both Alabama and Ohio State will have lost at home to likely top-5 teams, and both teams will have gone 8-1 against the Power 5.
The difference? Ohio State has been absolutely dominant and actually had a game like Wisconsin on its schedule while Alabama’s non-LSU slate was weak. It doesn’t hurt that Cincinnati, who Ohio State dismantled, remains in the Top 25.
You’re lying to yourself if you think the selection committee doesn’t already know all of these things. Ohio State proved itself to the selection committee to earn that No. 1 ranking, which I cannot emphasize enough how important that was as it relates to this argument.
Shoot, I’d still guess that OSU would get the benefit of the doubt if it lost by double digits to Penn State. Why? It has far more quality wins than Alabama. It’s simple.
The selection committee has been criticized a lot for its use of the “eye test.” You know what’s passing the eye test? Beating Power 5 teams by an average of 40 points and heading into Week 13 ranked No. 1 in FBS in scoring offense AND scoring defense. That’s a ridiculous feat, regardless of what happens on Saturday against Penn State.
If you want any more evidence to show that this isn’t some ESPN narrative to make sure Alabama gets more love than Ohio State, then consider this. Paul Finebaum, AKA “The Mouth of the South,” went on Get Up and said the following.
“Don’t forget the B1G. The B1G can still make an argument for two teams.”
I kid you not. That’s how good Ohio State has been. That’s the kind of impression we’re talking about. A lot of people (myself included) would tell you that the Buckeyes are the best, most complete team in America right now. They’re more complete than LSU and certainly more complete than Alabama. LSU, however, is more deserving of that No. 1 spot right now because it has a better résumé.
But there’s no scenario that could unfold — outside of LSU losing as a 44-point favorite to Arkansas and then also losing as a double-digit favorite at home to Texas A&M to give Alabama an SEC Championship berth — that would make me or the selection committee think Alabama can have a better 1-loss résumé than 1-loss, non-conference champ Ohio State come Selection Sunday.
Rest easy, Ohio State fans. There are no guarantees the rest of the way, but I’d feel confident betting on one thing.
That nightmare scenario with Alabama isn’t happening.