Ohio State moved up only one spot to No. 8 in the next-to-last College Football Playoff rankings announced Tuesday.
That’s the bad news, though not unexpected.
What should encourage the Buckeyes are the comments of committee chair Kirby Hocutt about the potential of Ohio State rising to become one of the four teams in the playoff.
“There’s very little separation in the committee’s eyes between teams 5-8,” Hocutt said.
Alabama is No. 5, followed by Georgia and Miami. The Crimson Tide lost for the first time last week against Auburn and won’t play in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Georgia plays No. 2 Auburn, with the loser almost certainly out.
The same is probably true between Miami and No. 1 Clemson in the ACC title game, especially if Clemson wins. An Ohio State victory over No. 4 Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten title game would propel the Buckeyes over the Badgers.
If Ohio State wins Saturday, the choice could come down to the Buckeyes and Alabama.
Working against Ohio State is its two losses, particularly the 55-24 loss to Iowa on Nov. 4.
“It's a factor,” Hocutt said. “Two decisive losses sit on their resume — the Iowa loss that you mentioned and also the loss to No. 3 Oklahoma. That's obviously something that's on their resume and the committee references when we talk about Ohio State.”
But Alabama lacks the quality victories that the Buckeyes have over No. 9 Penn State and No. 16 Michigan State. Alabama’s best wins are against No. 17 LSU and No. 25 Fresno State.
“Obviously, it would be an impressive win that Ohio State would add to their body of work,” Hocutt said of a Big Ten championship. “It would also be an important designation to have on their resume when comparing them to any comparable team.
“That being said, that’s probably as far as I would feel comfortable going in trying to speculate what may or may not happen this weekend. But a conference championship being added to the resume is important when being compared to comparable teams."
Asked whether Ohio State and Alabama have comparable enough resumes that a conference title would make the difference, Hocutt was coy.
“I will be prepared and able to answer that question next Sunday,” he said.