The College Football Playoff rankings have had their share of controversy in it’s three seasons. In 2014, four one-loss conference champions had to fight for three spots. Alabama and Oregon had much better resumes so that left Ohio State and Baylor to fight for the final spot. Both teams had losses to unranked teams, but the committee decided that Ohio State’s resume was stronger, leading to their 2014 National Championship. In 2015, Michigan State won their fair share of ranked games, but did not win very many games convincingly. When the Playoffs finally came around, they were outmatched by an Alabama team who shut them out 38-0. This season, the Buckeyes will likely not make the Big Ten Championship game due to a loss to Penn State, but still have a Playoff caliber resume. This is the first season that the committee will need to decide if a non-conference champion deserves a playoff spot. Here is why Ohio State’s playoff hopes are alive.
How Ohio State Can Make the Playoffs
If Michigan State can upset Penn State on the road and Ohio State win the Big Ten, there will be no question that they deserve a Playoff spot. The main threat to Ohio State outside of Michigan is Washington. Washington currently sits at No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings and will face two Top 25 opponents in the next two weeks. The Huskies have not gotten much love this season, as they haven’t had a very difficult schedule. In terms of opponent winning percentage, Washington ranks 110th of 128 FBS teams. In the same category, Ohio State ranks 44th in the country. If Washington wins out, they will have a conference title, something the Buckeyes will not have. The committee will have a difficult time deciding if this is enough for Washington to leapfrog the Buckeyes.
Ohio State can still control their destiny though. The Buckeyes have ranked road wins over Oklahoma and Wisconsin, and have ranked home wins over Nebraska and possibly Michigan. Three of these four wins would be over Top 15 teams even if Wisconsin were to lose the Big Ten Championship. While Ohio State does control their destiny, Head Coach Urban Meyer will be driving home one key point all week.
It seems pretty obvious at this point but it must be said. The loser of this Top 3 match-up will be eliminated from the College Football Playoff race, but the winner will not be automatically handed a spot. If Michigan wins, they will move on to the Big Ten Championship where they may still be upset. If Ohio State wins, they will either have an extra week of rest and need to hope that their resume can get them a playoff spot, or will be in a similar position and go on to play in the Big Ten Championship. However, a strong outing against Michigan could prove to be enough to earn them a playoff spot.
How They Match Up
Michigan has proven that they can win time and time again this season. With back-to-back-to-back home wins over Top 10 Colorado, Penn State, and Wisconsin, Michigan has a solid resume. This will be the first time that the Wolverines will travel to face a tested ranked opponent however. Up until now, Michigan’s only road tests have been against Michigan State and Iowa, both of which are tough environments to play in.
Ohio State on the other hand has the upper-hand. The Buckeyes have won the past four meetings, and 11 of the last 12. The last time the Wolverines have come into Columbus and won was 2000. While history may not mean much, the Buckeyes should be confident in their ability to win. The Buckeyes have the advantage over Michigan in terms of Total Offensive yards, and rank very similarly in Total Defense.
One story to watch will be who starts at quarterback for Michigan. Junior Wilton Speight was injured two weeks ago against Iowa and was forced to miss last week’s game against Indiana. The injury is to his non-throwing shoulder. Senior John O’Korn has taken reps alongside Speight this week, and Jim Harbaugh has yet to decide who will start tomorrow against Michigan. This decision could ultimately make or break Michigan’s chances of beating Ohio State.
Ohio State’s Playoff Hopes are Alive
It will not be an easy task for the Buckeyes. However, with a win against Michigan, Ohio State can rewrite history books yet again with an improbable way of making the College Football Playoffs. It may be unorthodox, but the Buckeyes are certainly deserving of a chance to play in the Playoffs, and can do so by beating Michigan.