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Column: Who will be the ‘next man up’ in the College Football Playoff?

Because bowl games are where stars are born. 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It would be folly to say we didn’t expect Marvin Harrison Jr. to be really good when he first arrived at Ohio State. However, every player has that game that puts them on the map, and Harrison’s performance in the 2022 Rose Bowl was truly his coming out party.

Harrison had five catches for 68 yards and zero touchdowns in three 2021 regular season games. Then he had six catches for 71 yards and three incredible acrobatic scores against Utah to give Ohio State the win in the Granddaddy of Them All.

We had high expectations for Harrison in 2022 and he’s certainly lived up to them. But it begs the obvious question: Who will be the ‘next man up’ in the College Football Playoff? The good news is we have some options.

Why no defensive players, you might ask? Well, the future of the Ohio State defense has already made itself known this season. Looking at you, J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer and Michael Hall.

Jayden Ballard

Ohio State v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Ballard might be the most parallel comparison to Harrison when we consider where Harrison was this time last year. The redshirt freshman has eight catches for 155 yards and one touchdown this season with action in four games. Notably, four of those catches (and 113 of those yards and his single touchdown) all came against Toledo earlier this season.

Ballard is also behind Harrison on the depth chart. Harrison has a couple inches on the 6-foot-2 Ballard, but the more junior receiver also has hints of the hands and speed that have made Harrison so exciting to watch this season.

Gee Scott Jr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Ohio State at Northwestern Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Like Ballard, Scott came to Ohio State as a four-star receiver, but Scott has had another season to develop under the tutelage of the star receivers who came before him in Columbus. He’s also moving over to the tight end spot — one that Ohio State is incorporating more and more. Scott has five catches for 28 yards and a score this season. He saw similar numbers in 2021, when the rotation was so deep that it was impressive Scott managed five catches.

As C.J. Stroud will be looking for more outlets Saturday, Scott could be the mid-range target he needs in third-down situations.

Chip Trayanum

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Of course there’s going to be a running back on this list, and of course it’s not going to be freshman Dallan Hayden, who’s already had three 100-yard games this season. Enter: Chip Trayanum, who’s listed at second on the depth chart behind Miyan Williams and who might just be the Trey Sermon of 2022.

Like Sermon, Trayanum came to Columbus as a transfer from Arizona State, though the younger back has more eligibility remaining. Though he came to Columbus to move back to linebacker, the needs of the many outweighed that pull and, alas, the transfer found himself lining up on offense for the first time against Iowa. Trayanum had 83 yards against Michigan which is certainly respectable against one of the top rushing defenses in the nation.

He’ll need another strong performance against the top rushing defense in the nation come Saturday.