Ohio State’s fate rests with playoff committee
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Reveling in Saturday’s thrilling win over Michigan and shut out of the Big Ten Championship game, Ohio State can only wait a week to see whether it will get a national playoff spot.
The No. 2 Buckeyes (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 2 CFP) lost control of their destiny when they stumbled at Penn State on Oct. 22. Their win over Michigan put into a play a tie-breaker system that gives No. 8 Penn State the Big Ten East Division title and a shot at No. 5 Wisconsin in the conference championship game next Saturday.
The scenario also puts the playoff committee in the unprecedented position of possibly putting a team among the top four that won’t have a conference championship on its resume. Will Ohio State’s strength of schedule, quality wins and “body of work” be enough in the eyes of committee members to put the Buckeyes into the four-team New Year’s Eve playoff?
The answer will be revealed Dec. 4.
Committee members are given the flexibility to “examine whatever data they believe is relevant to inform their decisions,” including the instant classic 30-27 double-overtime win over No. 3 Michigan and the nation’s top defense last Saturday.
“Our body of work stands for itself,” Ohio State guard Billy Price said. “We beat a very good Wisconsin team, Oklahoma, the team up north (Michigan), Nebraska. Those are very quality wins. Yes, there might have been some struggles, but a win is a win. In the Big Ten you are not given wins. Our body of work shows that we belong in this playoff picture.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer — who fell to the turf moments after Curtis Samuel ran for the winning touchdown Saturday night — was either too flustered to think about it immediately after the game or didn’t want to get into it.
“I think we’re one of the top teams in the country,” Meyer said.
Ohio State recorded three wins over AP top 10 teams : No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 3 Michigan. Plus, the Buckeyes beat No. 14 Oklahoma back on Sept. 17.
“I mean it’s really out of our hands,” quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “At this time I think we are one of the top four teams in the country, personally, but I think that, like I said, it’s up to the committee to do their thing.”
Ohio State players and coaches will watch the Big Ten Championship on TV like everybody else Saturday night, knowing that the committee could choose to move the winner into the top four and bump the Buckeyes outside. A victory by No. 5 Wisconsin (9-2, 7-2, No. 6 CFP) could be more beneficial to Ohio State, because the Buckeyes beat the Badgers 30-23 in overtime a week before losing to Penn State (10-2, 8-1, No. 7 CFP) by three points in October.
Regardless of who wins that game, Ohio State center Pat Elflein — who played in his last game at Ohio Stadium and celebrated on the field with thousands of scarlet-clad fans who poured from the seats — believes the Buckeyes belong.
“How can you keep us out?” he said.
The other issue for the committee is whether Michigan belongs among the top four, despite having two losses. The Wolverines shut down Barrett and the Ohio State offense for much of the game and likely would have won if not for two disastrous interceptions by quarterback Wilton Speight. Coach Jim Harbaugh said his team lost only because of poor officiating, and afterward players made a case for their inclusion in playoff.
“Along with Alabama, we are arguably one of the best teams in the country,” Speight said.