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Column: Ohio State got help on Friday; is now win away from legit playoff contention

West Virginia couldn’t seal the deal, but the Buckeyes moved closer to the CFP last night.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Last night there were three games played that had a direct impact on the potential for the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes to win their way into the College Football Playoff. In kickoff order, we had:

  1. No. 9 UCF vs. South Florida
  2. No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 West Virginia
  3. No. 16 Washington vs. No. 8 Washington State

Buckeye fans pulling for the best possible scenario for Ohio State to have a shot at the final four — should they beat their rival today and No. 19 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game next week — were rooting for the South Florida Bulls, the West Virginia Mountaineers, and the Washington Huskies.

Sadly for those fans, only one of those teams won, but that doesn’t mean that it was a completely disappointing evening of football. Instead, I would argue that the night went about as well for OSU as it could, given that only one of the underdogs pulled the upset.

Despite the fact that the UCF Knights won the War on I-4, 38-10, they suffered a devastating loss, as their incredible starting quarterback McKenzie Milton had to be rushed to the hospital following a gruesome injury to his right leg.

Now, no matter how seriously you take your football, you obviously never root for an injury of any kind — let alone one that looks as serious as this one does— and honestly, it feels more than a little ghoulish to even consider the positive impact that it could have on the Buckeyes. But, the fact remains that even if UCF keeps their unbeaten streak alive in the American Championship Game next week, this will likely give the CFP Selection Committee pause when considering the Knights for one of the final four spots if it should come to that.

Full disclosure, I live in Central Florida, and even though my OSU allegiance has prevented me from fully jumping on the defending national champion Knights’ bandwagon, I am still hoping that backup Darriel Mack Jr. can keep the team’s success going against Memphis next Saturday. This team deserves another high-profile trip to a New Year’s Six bowl, and I’m hoping they get it.

However, unless Mack comes out and goes full Cardale Jones against the Tigers, I would think that this horrible injury will be the final straw against UCF’s already long shot.

That brings us to the Shootout at the Big 12 Corral between the Sooners and the Mountaineers. As I mentioned in the article about the absurdity of the CFP committee that’s linked above, for some reason, Ohio State’s tragically bad defense is the reason that the committee views them as a fringe playoff contender, but Oklahoma’s horrific defense is an after-thought due to their “dynamic” offense.

Just to go over some of the basic facts that I mentioned in the other article, OU is 88th nationally in total defense, allowing 425.8 yards per game. Ohio State on the other hand is 70th in total defense, giving up 398.6. Admittedly, both are really bad, and I’ll even give the Sooners the benefit of the doubt because those stats are obviously inflated a bit because they play in the Big 12.

But, they gave up 704 yards in a 59-56 win over WVU last night. At least in OSU’s 52-51 win over Maryland last week they only gave up 535 yards.

Now, if Ohio State beats Michigan with anything short of 2014 Big Ten Championship Game dominance I don’t see a scenario in which they will jump the Sooners this week. However, I have no doubt that the committee has heard the complaints of their double-standard from media members and colleagues alike throughout the week; so, if Ohio State is able to win, and do so without surrendering half-a-thousand yards, I’d imagine that the defensive comparisons will begin to be more a part of the conversations... until of course talk turns to that 29-point loss to Purdue.

Finally, even though it started 30 minutes later than OU vs. WVU, the 2018 Apple Cup wrapped up at almost the exact same time as the Big 12 Pointsapalooza, because, well, there was a lot less scoring, and a lot more snow.

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

This proved to be the one game that completely went the Buckeyes’ way, as the Huskies won 28-15. In truth, this game will likely impact Ohio State win or lose against Michigan, assuming that the B1G East winner knocks off No. 19 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 1.

If Ohio State wins today, the Huskies’ win clears Wazzu out of their path to playoff contention, however, should OSU lose and UM beats Northwestern (or if OSU wins out, but gets excluded from the CFP), they will most likely spend New Year’s Day in Pasadena, facing the Pac-12 champ in the Rose Bowl. With the victory last night, UW will face Utah for their conference crown and a berth in the Granddaddy of them All.

So, looking forward, if we presuppose that Ohio State keeps their winning-streak alive over That Team Up North today, but chalk holds for everyone else, I think that there are three possible routes that the College Football Playoff Selection Committee could go with their penultimate rankings on Tuesday night.

The best case scenario isn’t super likely, but it would give the Buckeyes credit for two top-11 wins (Michigan and Penn State), jumping them over OU. That’s not gonna happen, but it would essentially guarantee the Buckeyes a playoff spot, should Alabama beat UGA in the SEC Championship Game next week. This timeline would also see the committee come to its senses and move two-loss LSU behind both Ohio State and Oklahoma.

The worst case scenario would see Ohio State, despite a W over Michigan, stay behind LSU, OU, and UCF; meaning that they could need a lot of help during championship weekend to have a shot at the final four. That being typed, I could see a scenario in the worst case multiverse where OSU beats Northwestern, and simply needs Tom Herman’s Longhorns to beat OU for the second time this season to get into the CFP.

However, should the Buckeyes beat TTUN, and the status quo remains in tact everywhere else, I think they will likely end up in sixth, behind Oklahoma (or even LSU). If that were to happen, OSU would need to win, and root for ‘Bama, Clemson, and Texas in order to get in.

Tuesday’s Potential CFP Rankings

Ranking Best Scenario Likely Scenario Worst Scenario
Ranking Best Scenario Likely Scenario Worst Scenario
1 Alabama Alabama Alabama
2 Clemson Clemson Clemson
3 Notre Dame Notre Dame Notre Dame
4 Georgia Georgia Georgia
5 Ohio State Oklahoma LSU
6 Oklahoma Ohio State Oklahoma
8 UCF Michigan Ohio State
9 Michigan UCF Michigan
10 Florida Florida Florida

Of course, none of this matters if the Buckeyes can’t win today in the ‘Shoe. So, if Dwayne Haskins and company can outscore the Wolverines this afternoon, come back here, and check out these possibilities before Tuesday night.