On October 23, the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes looked in control of their game against Penn State. But they had a late field goal blocked, which was returned by Grant Haley for a 60-yard, game-winning touchdown.
The Buckeyes have since climbed back to No. 2 behind top-ranked Alabama. But the Penn State loss still haunts them as they face the realistic possibility of not playing for the Big Ten title. As long as the Nittany Lions win out, they—not Ohio State—could be playing in a Big Ten Championship.
If this happens, should the Buckeyes still make the College Football Playoffs?
It’s little surprise that their quarterback, J.T. Barrett, thinks that his team should definitely be in if they win their final two contests against Michigan State and Michigan.
“I see it like this: If we win out all our games, Big Ten Championship or not, you’re not gonna put us in? Like you’re going to leave Ohio State out?” Barrett told Cleveland.com. “That’s how I see it. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Ohio State wasn’t in this position until last weekend, when Michigan lost 14-13 to the Iowa Hawkeyes. This puts Ohio State (9-1), Michigan (9-1), and Penn State (8-2) into a three-way tie atop the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions hold the division tiebreaker over OSU because of their win in the Oct 23 meeting. They now just need to take care of business against lower-tier opponents in Rutgers and Michigan State, combined with an Ohio State victory against Michigan.
The only path for OSU to Indianapolis is for Penn State to lose one of their final two games, combined with the Buckeyes winning out.
The CFP committee places a lot of emphasis on the four playoff teams winning their conferences. But in Barrett’s mind, it should be about whom the selection committee thinks are the best teams.
“I know Big Ten Championships and conference championships is a major thing,” said Barrett, “but then you’re talking about one of those two-loss teams and things like that. It’s something totally different.”
He added, “I think if we won our games, that’s the only thing we can control, the only thing we can handle. And (the playoff) is left to somebody else, people on the committee and things like that. At the end of the day, it’s one of those things of, ‘We can’t control that.’ We control winning games, and if we do that, I feel like we’ve done our part.”
This raises an important thought about whether the CFP committee would really overlook the Buckeyes in favor of two-loss teams like Penn State or the West division leader Wisconsin.
Ohio State isn’t alone in worrying about what the selection committee will do since other teams are also on the fringe. Undefeated Alabama is currently the only team that doesn’t have to question whether they’re in line for a postseason berth.
Unless things work themselves out over the coming weeks, the CFP selection committee isn’t in an enviable position right now.
“We don’t look forward,” CFP committee member Kirby Hocutt told Land of 10 regarding Ohio State’s chances. “As we saw, anything can happen on any given Saturday. We do not look forward and anticipate what may happen in the future.”
The biggest precedent for this situation thus far was in 2014, when No. 3 TCU fell to No. 6 despite winning 55-3 in their final regular-season game. Without winning a conference championship, TCU didn’t make it into the CFP. But Big Ten champion Ohio State moved up to No. 4 and would go on to win the CFP that year.
This season, it could be Ohio State on the outside looking in if they’re not able to play for a conference championship.