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Could we get an OSU-Michigan 2023 National Championship?

We came so close last season. What are the odds it could happen for real this year?

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

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about Ohio State’s rival. We are talking all things TTUN. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”That Team Up North” articles here.

My friends, we came so close to The Game not even being the most important game against Michigan last season.

Many of us had mixed feelings about whether or not we wanted them to meet in the National Championship. The worst-case scenario would have been Michigan advancing and the Buckeyes losing, and because Michigan’s game was first, many people felt the safer option was rooting for them to lose.

And while I am generally an advocate for rooting against Michigan in all scenarios, can you imagine for one moment how electric a Big Ten Rivals National Championship Game would have been? With those heightened stakes, the trash talk would have been trashier, the emotions higher. That’s what it’s all about.

It felt a bit like lightning in a bottle. It seems unlikely both teams would make the playoffs again.

But it’s not impossible. After all, the selection committee has to know how much money is on the line with that kind of rivalry — it’s enough to make even the most unlikely dreams come true.

In fact, with the exception of the Buckeye quarterback, both OSU and Michigan look comparable to last season heading into the fall. Now, I’m no dummy — I know losing our Heisman finalist quarterback does throw a wrench in things for the Buckeyes. But as we have not yet played a single down of football yet this season, let’s remain optimistic since I’m already taking bold swings here.

The way I see it, there are two paths to both teams making the playoffs (one is certainly more preferable for us, though the less preferable one is probably more likely to actually yield the Rivalry Results in question). All of this is also assuming certain other outcomes completely out of the Big Ten’s control — I’ll break these down later.

Let’s assume the following: The Buckeyes have a competent starting quarterback and both teams remain relatively injury-free. It is not out of the realm of possibility for these teams to meet in the National Championship.

On the whole, the Big Ten is looking tough this year. Penn State in particular looks to be a force, and while I don’t think they’re good enough to bump either OSU or Michigan in a world in which two Big Ten teams get into the playoffs, I do think they could greatly impact the Committee’s view of the Big Ten strength of schedule.

Path No. 1

The dream path for Buckeye fans would be for Ohio State AND an SEC team to finish the regular season undefeated, with OSU then taking the No. 2 slot because we all know the SEC is holding that No. 1 slot in this case.

For this particular path, Michigan’s only loss would have to be the Buckeyes, and it would have to be a close enough game that the Committee felt they’d done enough. The Buckeyes’ wins over Penn State and Wisconsin would probably have to be really close, and Michigan’s road win over PSU would have to be a blowout. And of course, the SEC’s results would have to fall in Michigan’s favor (one undefeated conference champ/everyone else with two losses or something of that nature).

If an undefeated SEC winner took the No. 1 slot, with an undefeated OSU in the No. 2 slot, the winner of a third conference in the No. 3 slot, and Michigan as the most competitive remaining 1-loss team coming in at No. 4, we could see OSU and Michigan square off in the Championship if both teams won their first playoff game.

Path No. 2

This is, I’m sorry to say, the more likely scenario in which we’d get an OSU-UM matchup in the National Championship.

What OSU has working for it is strength of schedule. As if tough conference games against Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan (the latter two on the road) wasn’t enough, OSU’s pre-conference schedule includes a road game against Notre Dame. Assuming ND finishes in the Top 25 this season, OSU could reasonably afford a loss and still make the playoffs.

Neither Michigan nor Penn State (nor some of the SEC teams) have the same strength of schedule in their non-conference games as OSU does, so unfortunately what I’m about to suggest does seem to be the most likely “strength of schedule” path to a playoff with both OSU and Michigan in it.

If OSU beats Penn State, Penn State beats Michigan and Michigan beats OSU, there would be a three-way tie for the conference title. If Michigan can take the conference title and OSU can edge out Penn State in the tiebreaker with a road win over a Top-25 Notre Dame team, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think the committee might look favorably on the Buckeyes’ strength of schedule and allow them to eke in at No. 4 behind UM at No. 2 or No. 3.


Could you live with an OSU loss in The Game IF OSU got a rematch in the Championship?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Yes — The Championship is what matters at the end of the day
    (17 votes)
  • 46%
    No, you clown — Beat Michigan at all costs
    (15 votes)
32 votes total Vote Now

To be clear, for as much as I would love an OSU-Michigan National Championship game, I’m not rooting for a path that involves losing to Michigan or letting our destiny be controlled by other teams, both in and out of our conference. I could live with Option 2, but I don’t particularly want to.

I could, however, be very behind Option 1 as it would allow the Buckeyes to go undefeated AND beat Michigan twice in one season. What could be sweeter than that?