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Ohio State may have an edge over Alabama in the College Football Playoff

Geography and conference alignment may play a bigger role than we’re giving it credit for.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

“They may have robust discussions this season, but it seems a lot of the members may think about football the same way. They may value similar attributes (they seem to love defense) and believe success arrives through similar avenues.”

-Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com

The College Football Playoff selection committee, in many ways, is a homogenous bunch. It is 100 percent male, mostly white and all members are at least 44 years of age. However, one area where they have managed to find diversity is in their geography. Current and former athletic directors represent all five major conferences, while former coaches hail from three of the Power-5 conferences in addition to Conference USA and the MAC. In three previous iterations of the playoff, the committee has shown a commitment to both geographic and conference diversity, which may stem from how the selection committee itself was chosen. In all three years, the committee selected teams from four different Power-5 conferences (as of yet, no independent team or non-Power-5 team has made it into the top four). The Big Ten, ACC and SEC have been represented in each year and, with the exception of Ohio State last season, every team has been a conference champion in the year it was selected.

While the committee’s selection of Ohio State last year might seem to be the nail in the Buckeyes’ coffin this season, given the availability of seemingly stronger playoff contenders, it actually might work in favor of Urban Meyer’s squad. Last year, the Big Ten cannibalized itself. With two worthy playoff teams, the group chose in favor of Ohio State rather than the conference champion Penn State. Rather than selecting two teams from the same conference, it chose the one it thought was the best option.

Similarly, the committee may have a choice to make in the SEC to take the conference champion (Auburn or Georgia) or Alabama. The Crimson Tide do not hold a win over a current top-15 team, and given the value the committee has placed on strength of schedule (why Wisconsin, despite being undefeated, is not yet in the top four), it would seem to be a break from the status quo to give the nod to two SEC teams, locking two other conferences out of the playoff. In addition, the Big Ten and SEC both have five teams currently ranked in the AP Poll--including three each in the top 10. The committee obviously values the strength of both conferences, but if history is any indicator, it will go for diversity and take one from each.

“But Mitchell got the nod after a week in which she became the career leader for 3-pointers in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history.”

-Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com

Fans of Ohio State women’s basketball already know that senior guard Kelsey Mitchell is probably the best player in the nation in her sport. After this weekend, it’s apparent to everyone else, too, as Mitchell was named the espnW Player of the Week following the Play4Kay Shootout in Las Vegas. Even more impressive is that this was a huge weekend in women’s basketball, with South Carolina, the defending NCAA Tournament champs, losing for the first time in nine months.

Mitchell totaled 91 points in three games in wins for the ninth-ranked Buckeyes over Memphis, Florida Gulf Coast and No. 14 Stanford in Las Vegas. In that time, the senior drained seven threes against Florida Gulf Coast to get to 402 for her career, overtaking UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ previous NCAA record of 398. Saturday against Stanford, Mitchell drained 19-of-20 free throws--a single game record at Ohio State. Mitchell was the obvious selection for tournament MVP honors.

Mitchell has scored at least 30 points in 24 career games, including both outings against a very good Cardinal squad this season. In the Buckeyes’ season opener against Stanford, the senior guard scored 30 points in Ohio State’s 85-64 win. Saturday, Mitchell scored a team-high 37 in a 94-82 victory in overtime.

The guard entered the season as one of the Buckeyes’ most decorated players. A two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, Mitchell has also been a scholar athlete since her arrival on campus. She was named an AP Preseason All-American for the third-straight year after leading the Big Ten in scoring last season.

Ohio State moved up to the No. 8 spot in the latest AP Poll released today, the only blemish on their 4-1 record coming to now-No. 4 Louisville in Columbus. Next up, the Buckeyes are scheduled to face Duke in Durham, NC on Thursday night.

“Losing any game hurts, but there is something about losing to Ohio State that is eviscerating for the Wolverines.”

-Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

For Ohio State fans, Saturday’s win over Michigan was too close for comfort until the last couple minutes of the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes finally pulled away following Jordan Fuller’s interception. For Michigan fans, Saturday’s matchup was a special form of torture, especially given last season’s double-overtime loss to the Buckeyes (and yes, the spot was good). The Wolverines are now 0-3 against Ohio State under head coach Jim Harbaugh, and 1-13 in the last 14 seasons. Harbaugh is now tied with Rich Rodriguez for the worst coaching record against Ohio State, and the Buckeyes’ six-game win streak is now tied with Jim Tressel’s 2004-09 run versus the Wolverines, in which he went 6-0. Moreover, Ohio State has narrowed the seemingly insurmountable gap in Michigan’s all-time record in the rivalry to 58-49-6.

Fifth-year senior John O’Korn took the blame for the loss during an emotional press conference following the game--a matchup where, prior to last week, he was not considered the starter. Instead, redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, who had started for three weeks previously, entered concussion protocol following Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin, making way for O’Korn, a transfer from Houston, to get the start. In other quarterback news, Wilton Speight, who didn’t see the field for the last eight games of the season, announced Sunday that he is transferring...somewhere.

Despite the quarterback carousel on both sides, Saturday’s iteration of The Game earned the highest regular-season rating for a college football game that FOX has ever had, crushing the previous record set by the matchup of Ohio State and Penn State earlier this season. This year was the first time that FOX has broadcast the Ohio State-Michigan game, and it earned a 6.7 rating--the lowest rating for the matchup in the past three seasons. Last year’s rating was a 10.4--what we would expect from the double-overtime thriller on the field.

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