The Ohio State Buckeyes have three goals every season, and thanks to last weekend’s loss in the rivalry game, two of them are now off the table for Ryan Day’s team, but there is still an outside chance that they could still sneak their way into a shot at the national title.
While it would take a decent amount of help and luck, the Buckeyes do still have the opportunity to hear their name called on Sunday when the playoff field is officially unveiled. Will it happen? Probably not. Could it happen? Definitely. Do you want it to happen? Well, that’s a difficult question for many Buckeye fans to answer.
Where does Ohio State stand in the College Football Playoff rankings?
On Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff committee released its penultimate rankings of the 2023 season. Following their loss in The Game last weekend, the Ohio State Buckeyes fell from second to sixth. By my calculations, there are still eight teams in the hunt for CFP berths. The top two teams are essentially guaranteed spots at this point, with the No. 3 team very close to that status as well.
But, let’s take a look at the teams still capable of winning the national title.
What needs to happen for Ohio State to make the 2023-24 College Football Playoff?
As I mentioned above, I think it is pretty clear that UGA and TTUN are both firmly in the playoff field, even if they were to lose their respective conference championship games — some far less likely to happen to Michigan than it is Georgia.
So, if those two spots are secured, that means that there are two spots remaining for six teams to fight over. The Buckeyes are the one of that half dozen that does not play in Championship Weekend, so they will just have to sit and wait to see what happens.
So, let’s run through the scenarios:
Pac-12 Championship Game | No. 3 Washington vs. No. 5 Oregon
The winner of this game is obviously in with Washington currently at No. 3 and Oregon at No. 5. The real question becomes what happens to UW if it loses? That would mean that the two teams would have split their season series, but the Huskies have seemed to fade down the stretch, and their sure-fire Heisman Trophy contender Michael Penix Jr. has almost taken a backseat to the team’s running game.
Ohio State has been ranked higher than the Huskies all season, so all things being equal, I think it’s safe to say that the committee prefers the Buckeyes. So, I do think that it is possible that OSU gets in over Washington, especially if Oregon looks dominate, but it obviously would be better for Ohio State’s playoff chances if Washington just won and completely eliminated the Ducks.
Best outcome for the Buckeye: Washington wins
ACC Championship Game | No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 14 Lousiville
The Florida Gators almost made this one irrelevant last weekend, but the Florida State Seminoles were able to secure the victory. With starting quarterback Jordan Travis out for the season, FSU will not get any benefit of the doubt if they fall from the ranks of the unbeaten against Louisville this weekend. If that happens, the ACC will be shut out of the CFP picture altogether.
Best outcome for the Buckeye: Louisville wins
SEC Championship Game | No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 8 Alabama
As mentioned above, Georgia is in the playoff no matter what, so if the Dawgs were to lose to Bama, then both SEC schools would make it, nearly completely eliminating Ohio State’s chances to sneak in. Despite being down at No. 8, there is no question that the Tide would jump to at least the No. 4 spot (probably higher) win a win.
Best outcome for the Buckeye: Georgia wins
Big 12 Championship Game | No. 7 Texas vs. No. 18 Oklahoma State
This is one that I’m not really sure I have a great handle on. Obviously, it is best for the Buckeyes if Texas loses, which would eliminate the Horns’ ability to leapfrog them into a playoff spot by virtue of a conference title, but I’m not so sure that this would happen anyway. Clearly, the committee believes that the Buckeyes are a better team than Texas as it stands now, by virtue of their higher ranking.
And a win against a top-20 team in the Cowboyws would certainly bolster their resume, but would that be enough to get them ahead of OSU? I think so, but I’m not so sure. It is vaguely similar to the 2014 situation where Ohio State got in over the TCU Horned Frogs, despite not playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.
So, while I think an ugly win for Texas might not be enough to push them based the idle Buckeyes, if you are pulling for OSU to have a shot, it’s best to root for the Pokes.
Best outcome for the Buckeye: Oklahoma State wins
Do you really want Ohio State to make the College Football Playoff?
Five years ago, here on these very same pages of Land-Grant Holy Land, I argued that I didn’t want Ohio State to make the 2018 College Football Playoff, because 1) I didn’t want to see a team that I loved, but didn’t believe could legitimately compete for a national title, get embarrassed on yet another national stage, and 2) I thought that it could potentially damage recruiting if they got blowout by superior Alabama or Clemson teams.
However, things are different this year from where I sit. I think that Georgia and Michigan are clearly the top two teams in the country, but beyond that, I still think that Ohio State is the third-best squad in the country. And considering that the Buckeyes were within one score of beating the Wolverines in the Big House despite an extremely questionable touchdown review that went the home team’s way, two terribly timed interceptions by Kyle McCord, and yet another example of Day coaching scared in big games, I think that it is safe to say that given another shot, OSU would at least have a puncher’s chance against their rivals and potentially the two-time defending national champions.
Therefore, if there is even a shot that the Buckeyes could still win the title, I want them to have it. The college football landscape has changed tremendously since my 2018 column, and I think getting back to the playoff and having a strong showing — even if it ends in another loss — can help eliminate some of the bad taste from the mouths of OSU fans and recruits.
Now, I certainly understand the feelings of those in Buckeye Nation who would rather see the team play in a non-CFP New Year’s Six Bowl like facing the Louisville Cardinals in the Orange Bowl. I try to make it a point never to question how anyone else authentically manages their fandom, as long as they aren’t being complete and total asshats about it.
So, if it is better for your heart and psyche for the Buckeyes to avoid another backdoor entry into the College Football Playoff, I completely understand. But for me, I still think that this very flawed iteration of the Ohio State Buckeyes football program has enough talent to win a national title, especially during a season where even the cream of the crop don’t appear to be world beaters.