“[The long shots] Ohio State [Current projection: No. 9. Playoff chance: 25 percent].”
As everyone pretty much knows by now, there’s little chance of Ohio State being able to make the College Football Playoff this season. That doesn’t mean that the possibility is completely out of the question, though. The Buckeyes simply need a lot of help to get there, including top teams in front of them in the rankings to lose. Some of it also comes down to where teams are ranked in tonight’s College Football Playoff rankings. And of course, at the end of the day, the best thing the Buckeyes can do after they smashed Michigan State is to keep winning and doing it in impressive fashion.
Urban Meyer’s squad faces Illinois and Michigan in the final two games of the season, the former coming at home in J.T. Barrett’s last home game with Ohio State. Then the team travels to Ann Arbor for The Game against arch-rival Michigan. All the Buckeyes need to do to clinch the East division is to beat the Illini and they’ll secure themselves a spot against currently-undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game.
“What’s better than beating your rivals and claiming a conference championship? There’s obviously one thing that tops it, of course, but there’s also a reason it’s not the primary objective for the Buckeyes when they show up for offseason workouts with a “Get to Indy” — and to the Big Ten Championship Game — message hanging in the weight room.”
Even with all of the hype surrounding the very outside chance that Ohio State can get into the playoff, Urban Meyer and his team aren’t having any of it - at least, not publicly. That’s because the goal has been the same all season: Win a Big Ten championship. The rest would theoretically take care of itself. Of course, the team is aware that fans expect national championships every season, and that expectations are always going to be high with Urban Meyer at the helm, but sometimes it’s about the way that they get the job done, and unfortunately, they haven’t been very consistent in that regard this season.
But even after losses to Oklahoma and Iowa, the Buckeyes still control their destiny in the Big Ten race, and have a comfortable hold on being the East representative in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. If everything goes according to plan over the next two weeks, Ohio State will face off against the Badgers in Indianapolis, just like in 2014. And even if no playoff comes from it, they’ll have the chance to call themselves Big Ten champions - something that hasn’t happened often in recent years.
“And yet since 1988, Illinois has beaten Ohio State more times (nine) than anyone but Michigan (12).”
Heading into the rivalry game against Illinois, Marcus Hartman of Dayton Daily News took a deeper dive into the series with the Fighting Illini and found a couple of interesting tidbits. The first, as seen above, was that other than Michigan, Illinois has beaten the Buckeyes more times than any other team since 1988. That alone is quite surprising on the surface, but they have historically always played Ohio State tough and obviously taken the win nine times since that mark.
The second stat is that the last five of those nine wins against the Buckeyes came on the road, meaning the Illini came to Columbus in 1992, 1994, 1999, 2001, and 2007 and stole a win from the Buckeyes. The 2007 loss is an easy one to remember for Ohio State fans, as the tandem of Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall was a nightmare for the defense that night and the Buckeyes were seemingly out of the national championship race after that (until they weren’t) and bumped from the top spot in the polls.