Sure, it was an emotional roller coaster at times, but eventually, they pulled through. In what is becoming close to annual tradition, Ohio State beat Michigan earlier today, to end the regular season at 10-2. They clinched a spot in the Big Ten Championship game before the opening coin toss of ‘The Game’, and after consecutive third place finishes, ensured that Michigan would finish fourth in the division.
All of those things are pretty good, in my humble opinion. And now Ohio State gets to play another football game, against a (likely) undefeated Wisconsin squad.
There’s plenty of stakes here. For one, there’s the Big Ten Championship, and the shiny trophy, bragging rights, and record books placement that comes with it. There’s an automatic fancy bowl game invitation, perhaps against USC, or Washington, or Washington State. By virtually every metric, winning that game would equal a very successful season.
But, as of the time of this writing, anyway, there are additional possible stakes. Should Ohio State win, they have a legitimate shot at a bid in the College Football Playoff, despite their two losses. Depending on who you listen to, they might even be the favorite to grab one of those spots, should they knock off the Badgers.
I have a potentially unpopular opinion here. I don’t think I really care if they make it or not.
Let me explain
I mean, yeah, obviously, going to the Playoff is better than not going to the Playoff
Don’t get it twisted. Ohio State is my favorite college football team and if there’s a chance for them to potentially win a national title, I’d like for them to do that! I would not be rooting against such an occurrence, and I think that would be the ideal, preferred outcome. I realize that saying that I don’t really care if they make it is some intense, first-world fan stuff here, so stick with me for a second. Let’s at least be clear about that.
But even with a Big Ten championship, Ohio State’s resume has some substantial holes
In other years, perhaps most other years, this wouldn’t even really be a conversation. This Ohio State team, with this resume, wouldn’t really be in the playoff conversation last year. They certainly wouldn’t have been in it back in 2014. But because of a series of crazy losses and upsets, here we are.
It’s difficult for me to get really indignant about the idea of Ohio State potentially missing the playoff when they have two losses. And not just two losses, but two big, great, honking blowout losses. And while one of those, an early season loss to an excellent Oklahoma team, is defensible, the second, is not. Ohio State got murdered by a not-that-good Iowa team. An Iowa team that lost to Purdue. One that finished 7-5 and finished fourth in their division. And that’s a blemish that’s just too hard to ignore.
A B1G Champ Ohio State would have beaten a top-10 Wisconsin team, and a Penn State team that probably finishes in the top-15 or so, and an CFP Top 25 ranked Michigan State team (that, in our heart of hearts, I think we know isn’t really that good). I think Michigan is pretty good, but the playoff committee may disagree. And then it’s a lot of forgettable dreck.
Maybe that’s good enough for the No. 4 seed. Maybe it isn’t. Honestly, I think the margin is close enough, and OSU’s flaws apparent enough, that I can’t muster good and righteous indignation over it. If you can, that’s cool. Live your best life.
Deep down, I don’t think Ohio State is good enough to win a national title this year
This is just me talking. But I don’t see this as a 2014 situation. Ohio State isn’t playing its best possible football at the moment (although if they just flat out blast Wisconsin, maybe I’ll change my mind). This is a team with some clearly defined flaws. It’s defense struggles to defend tight ends in the passing game. Its downfield passing game is prone to stagnation. Heck, the entire offense is stagnant against very good competition.
Don’t misunderstand me. This is a really, really good college football team. On a per play basis, they were the best team in the country for most of the season. But deep down, do I think they could win two games against Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson or Georgia? I don’t think so. Not right now.
And if Ohio State does get a bid and gets rocked in the first round again? Oh Lordy, the takes. The takes would be brutal.
I’d probably be more upset at the prospect of them winning out and not getting a chance to prove themselves if I thought Ohio State had a great shot at running the postseason table. And it’s okay if you feel differently! But that’s not where I am now.
There are still very meaningful accomplishments on the table
That doesn’t change how I feel about the Big Ten title game, or even this season, to be honest. Beating an undefeated Wisconsin team would be a huge deal, and would cement a big deal bowl game. A loss could mean Ohio State’s worst bowl assignment since the ill-fated 2011 campaign, and only their second non-major bowl since 2004. It would mean Wisconsin fans bragging all offseason. Nobody wants that.
A win but a playoff miss gives Ohio State a shot at a really good Pac-12 team, or perhaps Notre Dame. That’s not the playoff. But I think that’d still be a matchup worth getting excited for.
If the Buckeyes win out and sneak in, awesome. Maybe they can improve, get healthy, get hot at the right time, and make me look like a total idiot for writing this. But if they do beat Wisconsin (and that’s an if; Wisconsin is really good), I won’t be bent out of shape arguing about whether Ohio State should or should not get a playoff invite.
I don’t know about y’all. But if there’s a Big Ten championship trophy in Columbus, I’d be good either way.