Ohio State’s coaches spent the better part of the last week reeling in five-star super recruits and laying the groundwork to add additional four and five-stars to the fold. This was fine and good and, heck, perhaps even a bit of a gamesmanship, until James Franklin and Penn State rallied from a big early deficit and a bunch of first half mistakes to do what PSU’s done seemingly the entirety of the last eight weeks – which culminated with winning the Big Ten Championship Game over Wisconsin, 38-31.
Clemson did everything they could to make Clemson’ing a thing again, but a clutch fourth down defensive stand allowed the Tigers to win a second straight ACC championship and likely punch their ticket to a second straight College Football Playoff.
Late Friday evening, Washington put together an impressively dominant win over No. 8 Colorado, 41-10, to complete their own playoff case and add one more worthy side meriting consideration to the mix.
So where do we stand now?
Conventional wisdom, even as of, say, 10 p.m. ET Saturday evening, feels all but turned upside down. You may have been adamant that a chalk final four of 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Clemson and 4. Washington made sense for everyone, but you certainly have to feel at least a little less sure after witnessing the Lions’ impressive comeback.
Still, the Buckeyes’ potential options are relatively finite, especially compared to so many other future bowl/potential playoff participants who won’t know their fate until Sunday afternoon.
Here’s where Ohio State’s going bowling during the 2016-2017 bowl season:
Ohio State plays in the Fiesta Bowl vs. Clemson or Washington
If the committee punts on “punishing” the Buckeyes’ not doing better than losing a conference championship game participation tiebreaker to fellow co-Big Ten East Division champions Penn State, it’s possible OSU stays No. 2.
Recent history, which College Football Playoff chair Kirby Hocutt says has no bearing — and that precedent doesn’t matter; his words! — would likely have OSU being knocked down a peg a la Florida State, who won the ACC in 2014 but did so after surviving close call after close call after close call and never really bettering their standing despite going undefeated. Worth noting that those Noles were undefeated but were behind a pair of one loss teams in Alabama and Oregon.
In either case, the Buckeyes would be headed to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in familiar Glendale, AZ in the Phoenix area with No. 1 seed lock Alabama playing in the Georgia Dome for a second straight game.
Ohio State plays in the Peach Bowl vs. Alabama
If the committee has been intellectually dishonest about the value of a conference championship during their weekly rankings reveals during the last three weeks, it’s possible Ohio State is somehow knocked down to No. 4.
The Buckeyes beat the best team other than themselves in the Big Ten, lost to the third best team, and beat the fourth best. Other than a 13th data point, there is no resume metric that says Clemson or Washington is superior to the Buckeyes’ curriculum vitae-wise.
That said, if the committee is simply making it up as they go along, we can’t rule out the possibility of an Ohio State-Alabama rematch in the 1 v. 4 game. Don’t look so excited, Ohio State fans.
Ohio State plays in the Rose Bowl against USC
It seemed impossible not even 24 hours ago, but now there’s creeping doubts that a very traditional, very staid group of predominately older white male college football power brokers could be unadventurous and simply go to the tried and true formula of the four highest ranked conference champions. This was the case in 2014 and 2015 by and large, with only Big Ten champion Ohio State over Big 12 co-champs TCU and Baylor the point of any real contention.
If the committee somehow goes back into a shell and decides to leave the team with the most Top 10 wins of any team in the country out, the Buckeyes will fall back into the Rose Bowl spot vacated by Penn State and play most likely 9-3 (and one of the hottest teams in the country), USC.
The Rose Bowl is always special in its own way, but to younger people -- and especially in a post College Football Playoff world -- would come as a mostly unwanted participation trophy. But at least those picturesque sunset visuals, right?
For OSU faithful, this would amount to the darkest timeline. It probably only has about a 15% chance of coming to fruition. But we can’t reasonably rule out the possibility.
Anyone who says they know definitively how the committee thinks or feels who isn’t one of the 12 people in that room is lying.
Now all that’s left is to wait and see who’s the least wrong.