Rob Oller: Game within the game: How will playoff committee view Buckeyes' season?
Let’s play a game of Should They or Shouldn’t They? And let's use Ohio State’s reduced football schedule as the playing board and the Buckeyes as the game piece.
Object: make the four-team playoff, where at that point, considering that COVID-19 remains on the prowl, the winner will be decided by a roll of the dice.
Rules: The Buckeyes move around the board trying to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee by landing on positive squares like “Wow, Ohio State has a dynamic offense!” while avoiding squares like “Whoa, that OSU pass defense is Swiss cheese!”
Ready, set, pray.
Buckeyes roll a six and land on: “No team since 1918 (5-0 Michigan) has won a national championship playing fewer than six regular-season games.” Ohio State, 4-0, needs to play Michigan State on Saturday and then Michigan on Dec. 12 to reach six, which means outmaneuvering the virus. Move back two spaces.
Roll a nine: “Eyeball test.” Committee decides that despite needing to cancel Michigan State, the Buckeyes at 6-0 — with wins against Michigan and a Big Ten West team in a Dec. 19 crossover game — are still better than 8-1 Texas A&M and 9-0 Cincinnati. Move ahead 11.
Roll a four: “Northwestern drops to 5-1.” Move ahead seven.
Roll a six: “Truth serum.” (This space takes an honest approach to fanboy thinking). It is 2016 and your team finishes 6-0. Do you really expect to make the playoff over teams that played 10 or more games, knowing how you would whine and cry if it was another team trying to make the same argument? Move back 10.
Roll snake eyes: “Instant Credibility!” Beating Michigan by four touchdowns and Wisconsin by 21 points tells the committee all it needs to know. Buckeyes are for real! Move ahead 12 and roll again.
Roll a 10: "Quarterback tests positive for COVID." Should have put him in bubble wrap. Remain in place until rolling doubles.
Roll a five: Nuts.
Roll a seven: Grrr.
Roll a three: C’mon, man.
Roll double twos: Finally, but now you’re behind Texas A&M and Florida.
Roll a seven: “Go directly to Big Ten jail.” Citing virus threshold protocols, the conference shuts down its season, leaving Ohio State stuck on 4-0 and begging for a playoff reprieve that does not come. Roll doubles or pay the Big Ten Network $2 million to be set free.
Who are we kidding? This is the same school that tried to profit off trademarking “The.” Ohio State’s accountants choose to wait on doubles.
Roll double eights: Yee-haw! Oops, land on Bored Walk, where a handful of Ohio State fans with nothing else to do wander outside an empty Horseshoe during The Game. Move back one.
Roll a seven: “Head coach tests positive for COVID.” Move back eight.
Roll a three: “Wow, does Ohio State have a dynamic offense!” Move ahead eight.
Roll a six: “Heisman Trophy Invite.” Justin Fields makes the “virtual trip” to New York. Move ahead six.
But the ceremony happens Jan. 5, too late for a playoff bump. Move back six.
Roll a five: “Puke Place.” Entire team gets COVID. Season over. Move back 12.
Roll double sevens: “Virus Schmirus." Clean bill of health. Move ahead 11. Roll again.
Roll an eight: “Whoa, that OSU pass defense is Swiss cheese!” Move back five.
Roll an 11; “Weakest Big Ten in decades. “ Move back four.
Roll a five: “COVID Outbreak in SEC.” Buckeyes catch a break when Alabama, Texas A&M and Florida cancel games as the virus marches through the south like Sherman. Move ahead six.
Roll a four: “Schadenfreude.” The committee finds it unseemly that Buckeye Nation would revel in the suffering of SEC teams. Move back 10.
Roll a three: “Precedent.” In 1954, ’57 and ’68 Ohio State played single-digit games (nine) during the regular season on the way to winning national championships. So the Buckeyes' playing only six or seven should not automatically exclude them from playoff consideration. Move ahead eight.
Roll a 10: "Irish blessing." Notre Dame defeats Clemson a second time in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, knocking Tigers out of playoff discussion. Move ahead five.
Roll a four: “Harbaugh quits.” Ohio State fans weep. Move back one.
Roll a six: “Big Ten flip-flop 2.0.” Conference reduces six-game eligibility requirement for Big Ten championship game to five games. Move ahead 10.
Roll a seven: “Pennsylvania Avenue.” President Trump tweets “GREAT state of Ohio voted for ME!!!! BUCKEYES SHOULD MAKE PLAYOFF!!!!” Skip next turn.
Time’s up. Game over. Ohio State comes out 181 squares ahead, which coincidentally matches the number of points the Buckeyes have scored this season — a sign? — but that’s only if the program gets COVID-19 under control.
The committee likely will look favorably on OSU at 6-0, but anything less and the Buckeyes will be left to pick up the pieces on a season that shoulda, coulda, didn’t.