Things could be worse for the 12 thankless souls who make up the College Football Playoff committee. Quarterback J.T. Barrett could have gotten hurt this Saturday during an Ohio State victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. If that had happened, they would have been forced to make a judgment on whether the Buckeyes were worthy of the four-team playoff without seeing how they play without him.

Things could be worse for the 12 thankless souls who make up the College Football Playoff committee.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett could have gotten hurt this Saturday during an Ohio State victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. If that had happened, they would have been forced to make a judgment on whether the Buckeyes were worthy of the four-team playoff without seeing how they play without him.

But because Barrett suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week against Michigan, the committee will have a chance to evaluate the Buckeyes with sophomore Cardale Jones running the offense, and apparently, that's what they plan to do.

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Ohio State is No. 5 in the ranking, a sign the committee hasn't written the Buckeyes off simply because the third-team quarterback from preseason practice is now the starter. But it doesn't mean they won't.

"Ohio State's situation has not been impacted at this point due to J.T. Barrett's injury," said committee chairman Jeff Long, the athletic director at Arkansas. "We will evaluate his injury and his replacement in this championship game. The No. 5 ranking of Ohio State is not impacted by the injury at this point, but it will be evaluated in this last championship game."

If you were waiting for the inevitable but, there it is. Even if the Buckeyes win, committee members can go behind closed doors and share their football insight ("Gosh, I don't know, Barry, how did he look to you?") and make a subjective judgment over whether the quarterback's play - and not just the team's play - was enough.

I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, it would become another example of college football's postseason absurdities. A four-team playoff, instead of just two teams, was supposed to bring the sport a truer champion.

Instead, we could have the Deliberating Dozen trying to figure out not whether an Ohio State team that went 12-1 and won the Big Ten championship earned a chance to play in the national semifinals, but whether its spot should go to another team because its quarterback is out.

Because the Buckeyes are No. 5 and because Long said their ranking hasn't been affected yet, that gives the committee an out. If the Buckeyes beat the Badgers and still finish outside the top four, committee members can say it wasn't because of Barrett's injury.

A rankings shuffle last night in which TCU jumped from No. 5 to No. 3, ahead of unbeaten Florida State, has already put Ohio State in a bad spot. The move caused ESPN analyst and former Ohio State standout Joey Galloway to say that it "closed the door on (No. 6) Baylor and Ohio State. If the teams in the top four win, they are in."

Although that's a big "if," Ohio State could do the committee a huge favor and lose. If the Buckeyes win and finish No. 5, there isn't going to be enough of a difference between Ohio State and TCU to make the four-team playoff an improvement over the old system; Barrett's injury will doubtless be cited as a reason.

Again, I hope it isn't. Predicting what might happen isn't the same as analyzing results. Committee members can't possibly know the impact an injury will have on a team.

If that same group had been asked how the Buckeyes would fare after Braxton Miller went down before the season, it's doubtful any of them would have foreseen Barrett shattering records and becoming a Heisman Trophy candidate.

They would have been wrong.

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter