Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Does Ohio State deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff?
Probably going to keep this one short this week because I’ve already talked about this team enough and would like to just put this season to bed, but mathematically the Buckeyes are still very much alive for a spot in the College Football Playoff. When the rankings come out on Tuesday, you will almost certainly see a top four of Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC in that order. Ohio State will slot in at No. 5, just behind the Trojans and just ahead of a two-loss Alabama team as we all anxiously await to see how the conference championship games play out next weekend.
Ohio State needs just one of TCU or USC to falter in their title games on Saturday, and they would likely be guaranteed a spot in the top four when the final rankings come out. How realistic is that? Well, both teams are only around a three-point favorite in their respective contests. The Horned Frogs will take on a No. 12 Kansas State team that features wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. USC battles a No. 14 Utah squad that has struggled at times this year, but seems to always get up for this exact sort of game. Neither of these matchups are easy wins for the favorite by any means, and its for that reason the ESPN Playoff Predictor still gives OSU an 87% chance to make it.
That being said, can they make it and should they make it are two totally different questions. I think the vast majority of fans would want their team to make a four-team playoff regardless of the stipulations that went into it. People are quick to point out the Ohio State sort of backed their way into a CFP spot when they won the national championship back in 2014. However, obviously these circumstances are much different, as that iteration of the Buckeyes defeated Michigan and won the Big Ten title in resounding fashion — two things Ohio State did not and will not do this season.
Sure, I want the Bucks to make the CFP. You can only win a championship if you are given the chance too, and this Ohio State team still has the talent to win it all if things break the right way. But to me, I don’t think they’ve earned that right.
When broken down, the Buckeyes’ resume really isn’t all that great. They won a pair of games against teams currently ranked in the top-20 in the AP Poll — Penn State (No. 8) and Notre Dame (No. 19) — but they didn’t look all that good doing it. Ohio State scored only 21 points against a four-loss Irish team, and if not for a Herculean effort by J.T. Tuimoloau against Penn State, OSU could have lost that game. Mix that in with struggles against Maryland and a blowout loss at home to your biggest rival, and it isn’t exactly a pretty season. Ohio State would still make it with a TCU or USC loss because there is literally nobody else to put in, but most years a resume like that wouldn’t be good enough to get the job done.
It also just feels wrong to lose the only game of the year that you had to win and be rewarded for it. Ryan Day, fresh off an embarrassing loss to the Wolverines on his own field, was trying to sell his team as “dangerous” if they were to sneak into the CFP. To me, that just shows that he doesn’t really get it. There is a time and a place for everything, and to be talking about a playoff spot after getting your ass kicked doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t trust Day to coach in any big games at this point until he gives up play-calling duties, and so I’m not really sure I’m ready for Ohio State to back into that No. 4 spot just to be blown out by Georgia in the first round because their head coach is terrified of teams with a pulse.
Gene, I am all in... On Ohio State making and deserving a spot in the CFP. And sure, that means I am being a homer and glossing over the fact that TTUN just opened a second straight can of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Whoop Ass on our beloved Buckeyes, but so be it. A dismal half (we could argue 3-4 quarters all day) of football against the No. 3 team in the country does not change my opinion of what this OSU team could be. And what they could be, is the best team in college football.
Ohio State was poorly coached on Saturday, and on top of that, players simply did not execute. The game plan was rooted in stubbornness, guys were making mental mistakes left and right, and Tuf Borland on DeVonta Smith is no longer the worst matchup I have seen for a Buckeye defender. It was all bad, bad, bad. Except... it really wasn’t.
I think too many people are turning a blind eye to the fact that OSU put up 300+ yards of total offense in the first half, held TTUN to 10 rushing yards on 11 carries, and was likely a 4th down incompletion and a textbook tackle away from something like a 27-10 lead in this one. The good guys completely dominated the first half, with the exception of literally two plays. Then doubt or anxiety or who knows what apparently crept it, and that’s where they lost me. And The Game.
Now, we should not ignore the second half meltdown. It was very real, it still hurts, and Ryan Day and his coaching staff should be held accountable. But further removed, I still do not feel like this game was some epic blowout. Down 24-20 in the beginning of the third quarter, Ohio State seemingly dialed up a fake punt, which could have changed the course of the game. Something was lost in translation, and the play instead turned into a rushed (real) punt from Jesse Mirco. On the Buckeyes’ next possession, Chip Trayanum took a screen pass down to the opponent’s 23-yard line, only for a double penalty to back them up into a 1st-and-35 situation. I could go on and on, but the fact of the matter is, OSU was in this game until damn-near the end of it. So they weren’t blown out by an inferior team home, in my opinion. They imploded once all season, and it came back to bite them in the ass.
But are we really going to act like this Ohio State is not arguably the most talented team in college football? And I know talent does not guarantee you a spot at the table, but if there is any sort of debate, does ability to (potentially) win it all not become the default tiebreaker? Truthfully, only two teams deserve anything this year, and everything else is up for debate. So let’s take a quick look at what I assume are the two team standing directly in the Buckeyes’ way.
TCU completed an undefeated regular season. Congrats. If they win the Big 12 title game, they should absolutely be in. But if they don’t, then let’s be real about their season: They can score against other Big 12 defenses, but they are just “meh” at stopping them. They consistently trailed in games and pulled off a few borderline miracles, and the schedule they did so against? Not great. Kansas fell back to earth, Oklahoma State fell off the face of it, and Boomer Sooner Oklahoma was never good to begin with. If people were constantly trying to keep Lincoln Riley-led OU teams out of the CFP, are we now saying this iteration of the Horned Frogs is better than any of those squads? Nothing against TCU at all, but if they lose their conference championship game, then the Frogs are simply a one-loss team with some nice things you can point to. Just like Ohio State, but with (sorry, just being honest) lesser talent.
As for USC, well, I will keep it brief. A two-loss, non-conference champion does not deserve a spot in the CFP. While I respect the hell out of the Pac-12 this year, if the Trojans were to lose two games to Utah, they just don’t get a shot at Georgia or TTUN. Besides, if it doesn't work out this year, they can always go buy another roster and try again in 2023.
That’s where I am at, Gene. Bitter and belittling good teams because I am petty and vindictive as a fan. But truthfully speaking, I absolutely believe that the Buckeyes deserve a shot if TCU or USC were to lose. One nightmarish loss be damned, OSU is a great team. They have talent coming out the ears, Notre Dame and Penn State wins look pretty good right now, they were ranked No. 2 (!) on Thanksgiving Day, and if either of the teams directly above them lose, I really don’t even think it is a debate. Maybe I am looking at this through scarlet and gray-colored glasses, but let me grieve in my own way!