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You’re Nuts: Should Ohio State host a CFP home game?

A hot topic within Buckeye Nation this past week...

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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: Should Ohio State host a CFP home game?

Josh’s Take: Yes

First off, Gene Ross, I would like to ask for your help before we get into this debate. Could you please share the all-points bulletin I am putting out For Ohio State Athletic Director, Gene Smith? I want this thing to spread throughout the country, so that we can hopefully locate and bring home the real Gene Smith, who was recently replaced by an imposter... or possibly a sophisticated robot.

Imposter or robot are the only two explanations for the comments we heard last week regarding future potential CFP scenarios. Why else would the OHIO STATE Athletic Director suggest that if OSU were fortunate enough to host a CFP playoff game, “he” would like to see it played in India-freaking-napolis? Am I living in a shadow realm? I know this movie is coming out soon: am I in Doctor Strange’s multiverse of madness already?

All joking aside (not really; somebody please check on Mr. Smith), and with all due respect: an Ohio State-hosted CFP game being played anywhere other than Columbus, Ohio is a terrible, terrible idea. The Buckeyes play their homes games here, period. Other venues might be slightly more favorable, but The Shoe is as synonymous with OSU football, as Juwan Howard is with starting melees with Big Ten basketball opponents.

Why would the Buckeyes play a “home” game in another state? If Smith wanted to suggest Paul Brown Stadium (home of the AFC Champions) or FirstEnergy Stadium (home of a professional football team) because they are professional venues in the state of Ohio, maybe it would make a little more sense? But I just don’t get where Smith is coming from.

First off, the Buckeyes have lost just four games in The Shoe in the last 10 years! I feel like I could stop my argument there. You want to talk about a home-field advantage... that is one of, if not the best, home records in all of college football over the last decade. Do you want to know how many games they’ve lost in Indianapolis during that same period of time? Well, I’m just assuming you know the answer is two, so that was sort of rhetorical, but that is half the amount of games OSU has lost in Ohio Stadium — with far fewer opportunities to do so. It’s not as if Lucas Oil Stadium is Ohio State’s home away from home. They play there often, I get it. But if you break down the numbers, the Buckeyes don’t have the same statistical success in Indy.

So let’s look at the whole “fast track” idea. I’m guessing Smith believes that Ohio State’s team is at its best when their athletes are unencumbered by inclimate weather or field conditions? Sure, I get that. Is he saying Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, etc. would not share the same advantage? Playing on turf or synthetic grass does nothing to give OSU a leg up, in my opinion. On the other hand, look at the meteorological benefit(s) of playing in The Shoe. Those other schools I mentioned don’t play in adverse conditions very often. There is wind, rain, and all that other stuff teams may have to contend with, but cold and snow are a different story. I understand that Ohio State lost to TTUN in crappy weather, but they are at least more used to it.

Starting in October, OSU is sometimes forced to deal with the elements, and more often than not they prevail. Their roster is comprised of more “midwest” guys than most of CFB’s elite, so it is something they’re accustomed to. You think the snow during this past rivalry game was tough for Ohio State? Imagine USC or Texas having to play in it, in late December/early January.

Lastly, all of the previous arguments I’ve made pale in comparison to this: Ohio State fans. We are a rabid bunch, and damnit, we deserve a playoff game in Columbus! We travel all over the country to watch our Buckeyes play, but The Shoe is home. It’s ours. There is no better environment, for my money, than Ohio Stadium and the accompanying tailgate. A game played in Indianapolis, in Lucas Oil Stadium, just wouldn’t be the same. It could be filled with 100 percent OSU fans, and it still wouldn’t feel like a home game. If Ohio State is going to host a CFP matchup, why would we do it away from... home!?

Ask Georgia football players and fans this: would you rather play a playoff game, with your season on the line, in Athens (Sanford Stadium) or Atlanta (Mecedes-Benz Stadium)? They’re both in state of Georgia, right? What’s the difference? Does grass or turf make that much of a difference, where you would rather play off-site? I’m guessing the answer would be a resounding “hell no!”

And that’s where I’m at as an Ohio State football fan. There is a snowball’s chance in hell that I would rather see the Buckeyes play a CFP game anywhere other than Ohio Stadium... let alone in a different state! Hold the game on a sheet of ice for all I care, but if OSU is going to “host” a game, it should absolutely be held at home. Keep Lucas Oil — The Shoe is where they (and we) belong.

Gene’s Take: No

Let me start my argument by saying that I do not necessarily believe that Ohio State shouldn’t host a College Football Playoff game or use Lucas Oil Stadium as their “home” venue if the opportunity for such a situation to arise. I am simply playing devils advocate here so as to stick to the format of You’re Nuts. However, that being said, I don’t think Gene Smith is entirely wrong, and I think he likely admitted more than he realizes by making the comments he made this past week. Regardless, while the vast majority of OSU fans would want to see a playoff game in the Shoe, I think there are points to be made on the flip side of the coin.

Buckeye Nation has so often said that they would love to see an SEC team come up north and play in the harsh conditions of winter not usually seen south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Would the southern powerhouses of Alabama, Georgia, LSU and others be prepared to play football in sub-20 degree weather having only played and practiced in nothing below 65-70 degrees throughout their careers? While this has been a fun hypothetical argument to make throughout the years, there’s been no real way to prove it outside of a potentially expanded College Football Playoff (that we now know won’t be coming for at least a few more years) or when the Crimson Tide come to Columbus as part of a home-and-home in 2027.

Is that actually true, though? It may have been with the way Ohio State played pre-Ryan Day, but I dont know if the cold weather and elements are the Buckeyes’ friends any longer. In case you haven’t noticed, the current Ohio State offense is heavily centered around the passing attack. You know what makes it harder to have a stellar passing attack? Snow. Offense certainly wasn’t the issue when the Buckeyes lost to Michigan this past season, but clearly the weather didn’t help them in any way. Would those same elements hinder an Alabama team whose offense is largely similar to Ohio State’s? Sure, but as for Georgia — a team that predicates itself on defense and running the football — that sort of weather may actually be an advantage for their style of play.

Then comes the actual “home-field advantage” for Ohio State. Sure the Buckeyes win almost all of their home games, but almost the entirety of their home games are played against far inferior opponents. Obviously Michigan and Penn State come to Columbus every other year, but outside of them not many other teams in the Big Ten really stack up to Ohio State, and neither of those teams have even beaten the Buckeyes at home since 2011. In fact, OSU hasn’t lost to a B1G opponent at home since Michigan State in 2015. So then we look to the marquee non-conference opponents the Buckeyes have hosted in recent years — Oregon and Oklahoma. Both came to Ohio Stadium as top-12 opponents, and Ohio State lost to both.

The fact of the matter is that while attending Ohio State games is a lot of fun, it isn’t one of the better environments in college football. It holds a lot of people and Buckeye Nation as a whole really cares about their team, but the way seating is handled takes away from it all. The students aren’t allotted nearly enough seats in the stadium, and the ones that do are shoved into the end zones as far from the majority of the action as possible. The largest portion of seats closest to the field are reserved for alumni, a non-zero amount of which are older adults way past the stage in their lives where they are standing up and yelling throughout the duration of a football game. It’s always a packed house, but it doesn’t exactly create what I would call a home field advantage.

Having attended a pair of Big Ten Championship games at Lucas Oil Stadium, it really is a great place to watch a football game. It’s indoors away from the elements, and it’s a super easy drive from Columbus. Both games I attended — both against Wisconsin — felt like Ohio State home games anyway, with the crowd probably roughly an 85/15 split in favor of the Buckeyes — and that is with another team playing in the game from that region. If Ohio State was playing a team from the south in the CFP, as it usually does, they would be far closer to Indy and likely still have a large advantage in the crowd as if it were being played in Columbus anyway.

I think the positives could potentially outweigh the negatives here. Ohio State is a pass-heavy team. Putting your offense in the best position to succeed by taking away the elements of potential high winds, freezing temperatures and snow would give the Buckeyes the best chance to win a football game. Ohio State would still have the crowd heavily in their favor if the game were played in Indianapolis, and wouldn’t be missing much in terms of a home field advantage in that regard. Sure, you don’t get to subject a warm-weather team to a cold climate, but at the end of the day all of these top-tier schools are recruiting kids from warmer climates anyway. None of these athletes would prefer to play in the cold, even if they play their college ball in the Midwest.