Ohio State’s rout of Michigan propelled the Buckeyes up four spots to No. 6 in the next-to-last College Football Playoff rankings announced Tuesday night.
The Buckeyes trail No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Oklahoma and need to move up two spots after the Big Ten championship game Saturday against No. 21 Northwestern to qualify for the CFP for the third time in five years.
Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame remain 1-2-3 in the rankings. Alabama plays Georgia in the Southeastern Conference title game. Clemson is a prohibitive favorite over Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Oklahoma plays No. 14 Texas in the Big 12 title game. The Longhorns, coached by former Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman, are the only team to have beaten the Sooners.
The playoff selection committee had the same view of Ohio State’s 62-39 win over then-No. 4 Michigan as did most observers.
“It was their most complete game of the year, an impressive win,” committee chair Rob Mullens said. "The committee certainly took note of that. We moved them from No. 10 to No. 6. So clearly it had an impact.”
But it didn’t erase all reservations about the Buckeyes, particularly about their defense.
“We look at the full body of work, of course,” Mullens said. “The defense played better against Michigan, but that still is probably the shortcoming. Their offense has been able to carry them.”
Ohio State has more impressive victories than Oklahoma does. The Buckeyes also won at No. 12 Penn State. But Ohio State’s 49-20 loss at Purdue is a major stain on its resume.
Though Mullens said that Ohio State and Oklahoma had “similar” strength of schedules, he said the Sooners’ was stronger. That will be even more the case after Saturday’s games.
The Buckeyes have been on the CFP tightrope previously. In 2014, they jumped into the top four after their 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and then won the inaugural playoff championship. Ohio State qualified for the playoff in 2016 despite not being in the conference title game.
Last year, the Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game but were edged out by eventual playoff champion Alabama for the final spot.
The Buckeyes downplayed any CFP talk Tuesday night, saying they were focused solely on Northwestern. But they know the task.
“We just know we have to go out and make a statement,” quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. said. “We have to win the game and let the committee make a decision from there. We have to worry about Northwestern before we can worry about anything else.”
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