Three weeks from tomorrow, the Ohio State Buckeyes will take to the field for the first time in 2020 as they begin a conference-only, eight-game regular season. The coronavirus pandemic has taken college football — which even pre-COVID was the most volatile major American sport — and thrown a gazillion monkey wrenches into its already out-dated and undemocratic processes.
Since winning the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014-15, the Buckeyes have had an up-and-down relationship with the CFP committee, getting in for season which they maybe shouldn’t have, and being left out when they absolutely shouldn’t have been excluded. But with unbalanced schedules, no non-conference opponents, and seasons starting four to six weeks apart, there really is no way to predict how the committee is going to look at the inherently disparate resumes of teams vying for berths in the 2020 playoff field.
So, traditional logic would suggest that coaches and teams should do everything in their power to make a statement each and every time that they have the opportunity to do so; namely, keeping their studs in for as long as possible and running up the damn score.
But in this incredibly weird year, is that the best option for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes? Let’s take a look at the factors that might play in to deciding if OSU should attempt to hang 100 on all of their opponents this fall.
Pro — Run It Up
- ACC teams are scheduled to play 11 games this fall, SEC and Big 12 teams are scheduled for 10, and that’s before conference championship games. So, If Ohio State is to be in contention for the College Football Playoff, they will have played nine games (eight regular season plus the Big Ten Championship game), but will be compared to teams with two or three more data points.
The Buckeyes will inherently be at a disadvantage in terms of resume, so perhaps breaking the scoreboard can make up the difference. So, to compensate for playing 25% fewer games than other Power Five teams, OSU could just pile on the points in order to make a statement.
- Speaking of statements, Ohio State no longer has a marquee non-conference opponent on the schedule and they are avoiding the best B1G West teams in this year’s crossovers, so they are left with just Penn State, TTUN, and the conference title game when it comes to top-line opponents (mileage on the term “top-line” will obviously vary).
So, while Alabama, for example, has LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and Georgia on the schedule, it might help the Buckeyes’ cause to really show out in as many games as possible, especially against their handful of “quality opponents.”
- Despite the fact that the College Football Playoff Committee touts their reliance on advanced analytics, and that the group includes individuals who understand the sport on a deeper level than the media members who traditionally vote in polls, more times than not, they simply default to the tried-and-not-always-true “eye test.”
So, if the committee needs something flashy to impress them, especially in a season as bizarre as this one, Day and the Buckeyes should give them something flashy.
- The margin for error is likely to be incredibly thin this season. Theoretically, with fewer games, comes fewer losses. So, even though conference title games will guarantee that there’s at most one undefeated team per league, when the committee is splitting hairs on who to put in, it stands to reason that you want to do as much as you can to stack the deck in your favor.
Against — Not to Run It Up
- There are four spots available in the College Football Playoff, and they will almost certainly all be filled by a Power Five team (although I would love to see an AAC team get in this year). With all due respect to the legions of former Ohio State assistants currently coaching at Texas, with Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State last weekend and the Longhorns struggles with Texas Tech, it is increasingly difficult to imagine that the eventual Big 12 champion will be undefeated come Selection Day.
So, should Ohio State just simply run the table — as I believe they will — they’ll automatically be in the playoff, even if the ACC, Pac-12, and SEC also produce an undefeated champion. Therefore, the focus should simply be on winning, not on by how much.
- Thanks to the B1G’s mismanagement of the season, instead of having a schedule with extra bye weeks built in in order to compensate for potential additional COVID-delays, the Buckeyes will now have to play, and win, nine games in nine weeks to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
While I certainly expect them to do that, there is no need to put players in additional danger of getting injured just to score a few extra brownie points. Day just needs to follow the blueprint that he laid out last season. Get up by five or six touchdowns by mid-third quarter, and then pull the starters and get the young guys enough experience just in case someone does get hurt.
It’s just too risky to have players in the game scoring irrelevant touchdowns when they could potentially suffer season-ending injuries on any play.
- With the advantage of starting later than almost everyone else — and therefore seeing a month+ of games unfold before taking the field — Day and company will have a better understanding of the college football landscape heading into their Oct. 24 season opener against Nebraska. They will know what they are up against, and whether or not they actually need to take the risks required to dial up their offense.
By being backloaded (in comparison to the three major conferences already playing), Day can start the season sticking to the traditional script, i.e. getting Justin Fields and other starters out early in the second half. Then, if they get to mid-November and it looks like they might need some extra umph to convince the committee, they can start pouring it on down the stretch.
I think that Day should find a mix of the two options. Find a few more opportunities to score than you would in a normal season, but don’t do anything that could too drastically jeopardize the team’s ability to achieve its biggest goals.
What do you think? Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments below.
Should Ohio State run up the score on every opponent this season?
This poll is closed
Yes. Gotta give your team every opportunity to advance.
No. Slow and steady wins the race.
I don’t care as long as they hang 100 on TTUN!
After some unexpected start and stops, I am back to posting a column every single day from preseason camp until whenever Ohio State’s football season ends. Some days they will be longer and in depth, some days they will be short and sweet. Let me know what you think of this one, and what you’d like to see me discuss in the comments or on Twitter. Go Bucks!