Look on the bright side, Buckeye Nation. Ohio State just escaped having to wear an alternate black helmet for the entire 2018 season.

If the Buckeyes had made the four-team playoff instead of Alabama, they would be wearing black hats as the ultimate bad guys of college football. Instead, OSU escaped that stigma when the College Football Playoff selection committee ranked Alabama No. 4 after No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Georgia. The Buckeyes were No. 5.

Ohio State is not beloved outside its own fanbase, and getting in ahead of Alabama only would have deepened the dislike, as OSU detractors would have pointed to the Buckeyes’ 31-point loss to unranked Iowa as proof that the committee views OSU’s brand as lacking any blemish.

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Instead, the 55-24 loss to the Hawkeyes on Nov. 4 was a coffee stain on a white shirt. It proved the Buckeyes can be prone to collapse, and the lack of consistency cost them. The unsightly thread weaving through the OSU program is that you never know what you will get. Blame the up-and-down performance of quarterback J.T. Barrett, coaching lapses and a sometimes no-show defense.

Given the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the playoff selection, I find it reassuring that in the end it was not politics but the lingering stench of a blowout loss to an unranked team that kept Ohio State out.

As committee chairman Kirby Hocutt explained, “More damaging was the 31-point loss to Iowa.”

The selection process requires further fine-tuning. Can anyone adequately explain why winning a conference championship game, as the Buckeyes did Saturday against Wisconsin, means so much, except when it means so little? But I still like the human element — the eyeball test — in the selection process. If Ohio State played Alabama five times the Buckeyes would win two, when they should have won three. That’s them in a nutshell.

Again, a silver lining can be found. Some Ohio State fans embrace the reputation of the Buckeyes as villains, but I would think the majority prefer admiration over ridicule. And in an odd way, finishing No. 5 earns them back-handed respect. Ohio State lost out this time. Good for it.

Disdain for the scarlet and gray begins with jealousy, as it almost always does with successful teams, but also includes issues of arrogance, perceived unfairness and lopsided levels of luck. Remember the Luckeyes of 2002? That team won the hearts of Ohio State fans but darkened the hearts of enemies who seethed every time the Buckeyes won a close game. The cherry on top the bitterness sundae was the way OSU defeated Miami in double overtime in the Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State haters still see Terry Porter’s late flag floating across their field of view.

Non-Buckeye Nation got its revenge four seasons later, when Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators thumped the undefeated Buckeyes in the 2007 title game, prompting chants of “overrated.” One year later, much to the chagrin of critics, Ohio State back flipped into the BCS national championship game after losing to unranked Illinois two weeks before the final rankings were released.

Underlying the anti-OSU sentiment was antipathy toward the goody-goody image portrayed by Jim Tressel, which explains why so many first stones were cast when Tattoogate led to NCAA sanctions and Tressel’s removal as coach before the 2011 season.

And to think that all of the above is mere backdrop to more recent resentment. In 2014, the Buckeyes leapfrogged TCU into the No. 4 spot in the playoff, then shoved it down naysayers’ throats by winning the national championship. Last season OSU made the playoff despite failing to win its division, then lost 31-0 to Clemson as the finger-pointing mobs chided, “Told you so.”

A national championship remains the goal for the Buckeyes, but there is something to be said for occasionally taking a breather in a lesser bowl — as long as you win. Playing Southern California in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 is not the worst way to remove the black hat and let a black eye heal.