For Ohio State, only an embarrassing loss will keep them out of College Football Playoff

Joey Kaufman
Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis lifts wide receiver Austin Mack after he scored on a 16-yard reception during the 56-27 victory over Michigan. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

When Ohio State faced Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game five years ago, the Buckeyes annihilated the Badgers, 59-0.

The rout left the Buckeyes with a compelling closing case for a College Football Playoff bid, and in turn, the selection committee seeded them fourth, the final spot in the field, over Baylor and TCU, the Big 12’s co-champions.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter

It might take the reverse event for the Buckeyes to fall out of the playoff picture this year, like a blowout loss to Wisconsin when the teams reconvene in the conference title game in Indianapolis on Saturday.

“And to me, that’s just preposterous; I don’t see that happening,” said Heather Dinich, a reporter who covers the playoff for ESPN. “But that’s the one scenario that would knock them out. If they play a respectable game and they lose to Wisconsin, I think they’re in.”

Outside of such a far-fetched scenario, most observers believe Ohio State, which is more than a two-touchdown favorite against the Badgers, has clinched a spot in the playoff ahead of conference championship weekend.

The Buckeyes continue to hold some margin for error as one of the three remaining unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, one that was ranked No. 1 last week. The CFP selection committee’s penultimate rankings are to be released Tuesday night.

“The way they’ve dominated this season, a loss to Wisconsin isn’t going to erase all that,” said Jerry Palm of CBS Sports. “That level of dominance is going to be rewarded.”

When Ohio State was installed as the top team in last week’s rankings, Rob Mullens, chairman of the selection committee, referred to the Buckeyes as the most complete team.

They are ranked in the top five in the nation in both total offense and total defense, a résumé furthered by the 56-27 romp at Michigan.

“When you watch Ohio State against Michigan, there was no shred of doubt that they are one of the best teams in the country. … They embarrassed Michigan on the road,” Dinich said, adding that the so-called “eye test” is a big selling point among selection committee members.

Should the Buckeyes falter on Saturday, they are expected to tumble only so far in the top-four of the rankings.

Ohio State would still hold one less loss than Wisconsin, which would be the Big Ten champion, and it would have no fewer losses than Utah, the possible Pac-12 champion, or Baylor and Oklahoma, two more one-loss teams that will play in the Big 12 title game.

The field of playoff contenders was further shortened when Alabama lost to Auburn on Saturday, the Crimson Tide’s second loss. No team has made the playoff with more than one loss.

Palm projected the Buckeyes to be seeded third or fourth in the case of a loss.

A convincing win, however, could help Ohio State hold the top seed ahead of LSU, which faces fourth-ranked Georgia in the SEC championship game.

The No. 1 seed will likely avoid facing defending national champion Clemson in a semifinal matchup.

The top two seeds are also placed at “the most advantageous sites,” according to the playoff’s protocol. The semifinal games are to be held at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, and the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Advantageous factors include possible home-field advantage, as well as travel convenience for fans and the teams’ familiarity with the site. Further preference is given to the No. 1 seed.

Hafley among Broyles finalists

Jeff Hafley, the first-year defensive co-coordinator for the Buckeyes, was named Monday as one of five the finalists for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach, joining LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady, Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow. ... Ohio State announced that "everyone who played" on offense and defense graded as champions in its win at Michigan.


Ohio State vs. Wisconsin

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

TV: Fox (Ch. 28)

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)

Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast:

Next game