Let me get this out of the way at the very beginning; there is nothing that I want more in the sporting world than for Ohio State to win a College Football National Championship. That is true this and every year; it is, was, and always will be my a-number-one sports wish.
However, my a-number-two wish is for the Buckeyes not to get thoroughly embarrassed on a major national stage, and that’s precisely what I’m afraid would happen if the Buckeyes win The Game on Saturday, then beat No. 22 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game the first Saturday in December, and then find themselves in the College Football Playoff committee’s top-four.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not rooting for Ohio State to lose to either their fourth-ranked rival or Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats, I’m just hoping that after they win their next two games, they wind up fifth in the final CFP rankings for one reason or another.
I’d be fine if that meant that No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame, and No. 6 Oklahoma all win out, and the Buckeyes just can’t get enough momentum to jump the Sooners.
I’d be slightly less ok — but ultimately still ok — if that meant that No. 1 Alabama lost to No. 5 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and both SEC teams made it into the CFP (this is obviously the darker of these two timelines).
And honestly, I’d probably be most ok if we got a defending national champion vs. defending national champion matchup in the CFP semifinals between No. 1 Alabama and (what would be) No. 4 UCF.
What I am most afraid of is beating the Top-4 Team Up North this coming Saturday, then destroying Chicago’s B1G team — who is likely going to be in the top-20 by then — and having the CFP committee errantly believe that Urban Meyer and his coaching staff have figured things out, only to have the Crimson Tide make the December 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Clemson look merciful.
Perhaps my fears are a direct result of the sports-PTSD suffered growing up during the John Cooper era, or the fact that I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2006, just in time for OSU to get embarrassed by Florida and LSU in back-to-back BCS National Title Games.
Whatever it is, as I explained earlier this season, the residual scars of painful losses are really hard to overcome for me, apparently.
So, I would rather just avoid them all together. Of course there is a major part of me that still wants OSU to sneak into the playoffs, because that means that they still had a chance to win it all. And maybe pre-2006 Matt would have thrown caution to the wind and been praying to Woody above to intervene on the Buckeyes’ behalf, but I — and all of Buckeye Nation — have seen a lot of stuff in the past dozen years, and I just don’t know if I’m ready to see any more.
However, you know what I do want to see? A Rose Bowl matchup with Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars where neither team plays defense and they both score 100. I think that there is a distinct possibility of that matchup — or at least OSU’s bowl assignment — happening regardless of the outcome in the Horseshoe on Saturday, but I would far prefer it happen with the Buckeyes coming in on a five-game winning streak and fresh off of their 38th Big Ten title.
If Ohio State is not successful against their rival on Saturday, chances are that TTUN will take care of business against Northwestern the following week, earning them a spot in the CFP. That would give the Wildcats their fifth loss of the season, making it highly unlikely that they would be selected for the Granddaddy of them All. Since the Buckeyes would have been the next team closest to earning a spot in the game — and the only conference squad left with less than three losses — it feels like a safe assumption that the Tournament of Roses committee would pick them to spend New Years in Pasadena.
So while a trip to the Rose Bowl is a pretty darn good consolation prize, no matter how you get there, I’d rather the Buckeyes win their way in, than simply getting in by default. So, if one of the scenarios (or another from any of the other possible chaos timelines) happens, and OSU is kept out of the CFP, despite winning their next two games, I would be perfectly content to watch the Buckeyes end their season in Southern California in a prestigious, yet relatively low-stress, bowl game.
Maybe it’s just me, but after the tumultuous season on and off the field that we’ve all had to suffer through, I think that we deserve it.