Ohio State remains No. 4 in second College Football Playoff rankings

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State players get ready to take the field for the game at Penn State on Oct. 31.

Ohio State stayed at No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night.

While an outbreak of coronavirus cases led it to cancel its game at Illinois on Thanksgiving weekend, wiping off the second game on its schedule in three weeks and leaving it with a smaller body of work than other top Playoff contenders, it was not penalized by the selection committee.

Top-ranked Alabama, as well as Notre Dame and Clemson, remain ahead of the Buckeyes, following last week’s initial rankings. Texas A&M, Florida and Cincinnati were fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, rounding out a top-seven that remained unchanged.

Three more weeks are left in the regular season before the final rankings are released on Dec. 20, setting the field for the four-team playoff.

The Buckeyes, who are 4-0 in this pandemic-altered season, are left with increasingly few opportunities to cement their spot. 

Saturday’s game at Michigan State is up in the air after the Buckeyes paused organized team activities for three days in the aftermath of calling off their game against Illinois.

While they resumed on Tuesday, additional virus cases could jeopardize the matchup with the Spartans if they emerge in the coming days. A spike late last week began on Wednesday before leading the cancellation at Illinois.

But the Buckeyes remain on pace to reach the postseason.

Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa who serves as the chairman of the selection committee, said they kept Ohio State ahead of Texas A&M for the final spot this week following a lengthy discussion, ultimately favoring the Buckeyes’ prolific offense.

During a teleconference with reporters, Barta referenced “the firepower and the explosiveness” of the Buckeyes, mentioning quarterback Justin Fields, running back Master Teague III and wide receiver Garrett Wilson all by name.

He said the 13 members of the selection committee also remained impressed by their recent win over Indiana, which sits at No. 12 in the rankings.

Last week, Barta raised some questions about Ohio State’s defense after it allowed almost 500 total yards to the Hoosiers, but they were not enough to affect its positioning.

There is no minimum requirement of games to reach the Playoff. Since its inception in 2014, the committee has been tasked with selecting only what it determines to be the best four seasons in the country, an emphasis that benefits the Buckeyes, who have been impressive in fewer weeks.

But Barta called it a challenge this season to evaluate teams with sizeable discrepancies in their number of games played.

“Frankly, it's a problem,” Barta said. “It's a problem that's nobody's fault. It was created by the pandemic.”

While Ohio State was not pushed down in the rankings this week, it would benefit from a return to the field.

The remaining scheduled games offer chances for it to impress the committee in a closing case for qualification or seeding.

“The more games we're able to watch, the more we're able to evaluate a team,” Barta said. “So while there's not a set number, there's not a minimum requirement, it is one of the factors that's talked about when we're talking about comparing different teams."

The teams ranked ahead of Ohio State have played eight or more games this fall, while Texas A&M and Florida, the two teams from the Southeastern Conference behind the Buckeyes, have played seven games and eight games.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman