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Ohio State will likely need some help this weekend to make the College Football Playoff

A Big Ten Championship will help, but it won’t be enough on its own to get the Buckeyes into the top four.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“The defense played better against Michigan, but that still is probably the shortcoming. Their offense has been able to carry them”

- Rob Mullens, College Football Playoff Committee Chair

The latest set of College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday night, and Ohio State, thanks to their 62-39 thrashing of then No. 4 Michigan, jumped up to No. 6. The top three remained the same — Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame — while Georgia and Oklahoma moved up to No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Michigan dropped to No. 7, just behind the Buckeyes.

While none of these moves were shocking or unexpected, the roadblock in Ohio State’s path to the College Football Playoff remains Oklahoma. Mullens was asked about both teams in Tuesday’s teleconference, in which he gave a somewhat confusing breakdown of the two schools.

When it came to the Buckeyes, Mullens described their defense as a shortcoming, saying the offense has carried them to where they are now. With the Sooners, Mullens said that “while their defense has been a challenge, the offense has been superior.” It almost seemed as though for Ohio State, the offense having to pick up the defense is a negative, but for Oklahoma the offense carrying the team’s incredibly poor defense — one that is allowing nearly 33 points per game — is looked at as a positive.

At the end of the day, the Sooners are ranked ahead of the Buckeyes in the Playoff Committee’s eyes. If Ohio State wishes to crack the top four, it would likely take a performance resembling their 59-0 Big Ten Championship win over Wisconsin in 2014. Otherwise, OSU fans should be rooting hard for Alabama and Texas this weekend in their respective championship games.

“We’re very ready for this game. It’s been the motto since the start of January: get to Indy. Now that it’s here, we have to take full advantage of the moment...”

- K.J. Hill via OSU Athletics

While Ohio State fans will have rooting interests in a couple different games this Saturday, there is still a game to be played for the Buckeyes themselves. Their Big Ten Championship foe Northwestern is a team that many expect OSU to roll over, but should not be taken lightly. The two teams have faced off just three times in the last decade, Ohio State winning all three — most recently a close 24-20 contest in Columbus in 2016.

It is more likely than not that the Buckeyes come away victorious against the Wildcats this weekend. The problem is that, as previously mentioned, if OSU wants a chance at a playoff spot, they will have to win in blowout fashion. This is something that Northwestern has simply not allowed all season.

Against the Big Ten’s premier schools, the Wildcats have either won outright or kept things close. Early in the year, the lost by just three points to Michigan before knocking off Michigan State 29-19. They also took down Wisconsin and Iowa, while only losing by 10 to independent Notre Dame. The Wolverines were Northwestern’s only conference loss on the year, and they have rattled off three straight wins to end an impressive regular season for Big Ten Coach of the Year Pat Fitzgerald.

After coming off a nearly 400-yard six touchdown performance against the nation’s top defense last weekend, Ohio State will need another big time performance from quarterback Dwayne Haskins to give them a chance at a playoff run.

“We look forward to welcoming back the Matta family and recognizing Coach Matta’s extraordinary accomplishments at Halftime of tomorrow nights game vs. Syracuse.”

- Chris Holtmann via Twitter

Tomorrow is a huge night for hoops in Columbus for a multitude of reasons. For starters, the undefeated No. 16 Buckeyes (ranked No. 1 according to the NCAA’s new NET ratings) will take on Syracuse in one of their toughest tests yet this season. Despite the Orange having their worst start since 2006, the return of guard Frank Howard should help Jim Boeheim’s squad turn things around.

In addition to a quality opponent coming to Value City Arena, the game will function as this season’s free game for students — the second time such a promotion has been offered in Holtmann’s first two years as head coach of the Buckeyes.

However, as if this game needed any more juice, Holtmann announced Tuesday on Twitter that former Ohio State head coach Thad Matta will be honored at halftime. Matta is the winningest coach in Buckeye hoops history, finishing with a career 337-123 record at OSU. Beginning in 2004, Matta led OSU to five Big Ten regular season titles, four Big Ten Tournament titles, two Final Four appearances, and the 2008 NIT Championship. Matta and Ohio State mutually agreed he would step down in 2017 due to long term health issues.

Around Campus

Men’s Hockey

In their last time out, No. 5 Ohio State defeated No. 6 Penn State 5-2 in Columbus. With the game tied at two late in the third period, Dakota Joshua found the back of the net to put the Buckeyes on top with 2:17 remaining. OSU would cash in two empty-netters before time expired to split the weekend series with the Nittany Lions.

Women’s Soccer

Izzy Rodriguez and Devon Kerr earned United Soccer Coaches All-North region honors on Monday. Rodriguez was named a first-team all-region defender, and Kerr a second-team all-region goalkeeper. Rodriguez had four goals, tied for the team lead, while adding two assists for a team-high 10 points. Kerr tied for third in the Big Ten with eight shutouts.

Men’s Tennis

Ohio State signed three blue-chip recruits during the National LOI signing period: Cannon Kingsley, JJ Mercer and Robert Cash. Kingsley is the No. 3 recruit in the 2019 class and is No. 1 in the UTSA Junior rankings. Mercer is the No. 24 recruit in the class and the No. 1 recruit out of West Virginia. Cash is No. 21 in the class and the No. 1 prospect in Ohio.

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