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Ohio State's Best Path to the College Football Playoff

Here is Ohio State's best path to a College Football Playoff bid, given the current circumstances.

Ohio State fans across the country woke up Saturday morning playing the what-if game. How could the Buckeyes still manage to play in the College Football Playoff if they can't get on the field in the next week or so?

Obviously, this week's game against Illinois was cancelled at roughly 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday night. That's hard to swallow, because it's Ohio State's second cancelled game over it's first six scheduled contests. If the Buckeyes can't play either one of the next two weeks for any reason (whether its their own issues with the virus or if either Michigan State or Michigan have similar outbreaks in their own locker rooms), they won't meet the minimum threshold of games to qualify to play in the Big Ten championship game.

Why Gene Smith and the Buckeyes Chose to Cancel Saturday's Game

According to Dave Revsine of Big Ten Network, assuming that the four remaining games across the league today are played, 12 of the 14 games scheduled the next two weeks would need to be cancelled for a team to qualify for Indianapolis with fewer than six games played.

It's not impossible, but that feels like quite the long shot.

So what is Ohio State's best path to making the College Football Playoff in the event that it doesn't win the Big Ten championship again this year?

Here are the scenarios that I think Buckeye fans should root for

Big Ten: No matter how many games the Buckeyes play, they need to go undefeated. In the scenario in which OSU doesn't qualify for a conference title game, it would very likely play Wisconsin or Iowa in the Week 9 contest. That's a chance for the Buckeyes to play a quality team, even though it isn't for a championship, and put another good win on their resume.

I think it would help OSU's case if Indiana beats Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. An undefeated Wildcats team with potentially two more games played than Ohio State AND a conference championship is the strongest argument against Ohio State from getting in the playoff. If Indiana wins the Big Ten and the Buckeyes beat them head-to-head, I think the committee would take that into consideration. 

SEC: Alabama to run the table and win the conference championship game; by finishing undefeated, it guarantees a second loss for Florida. The Gators are the only 1-loss team currently in the SEC East, with Georgia having already lost twice.

Texas A&M's only loss so far is to Alabama, but it wasn't a very competitive game. The Aggies have a pretty solid chance at winning the three remaining games on the schedule. It would certainly help Ohio State's chances if they lost one of those.

ACC: Notre Dame winning the rest of it's games, including an ACC championship, would be helpful at this point. That would mean Clemson lost a second game, whether it was before the ACC title game or in it. I have a very difficult time seeing a 2-loss Clemson team making the playoff, although depending on how things shake out, they could certainly be considered the best 2-loss team in the country.

Miami is also 7-1 right now, with an ugly loss to the Clemson Tigers. I think it would help Ohio State if Miami lost to North Carolina in a couple weeks. The Hurricanes games against Georgia Tech was postponed today and will be made up on Dec. 19. They also play Wake Forest and the Tar Heels. Miami picking up another loss would be great for the Buckeyes.

What Does Saturday's Canceled Game Mean for Ohio State's Playoff Chances?

Big 12: At this point, I'm not worried about a Big 12 team hurting Ohio State's chances of making the playoff. The top team in the league, Iowa State, already has two losses this year.

Pac-12: Same deal out west, but for a slightly different reason. A team in the Pac-12 is not going to finish 7-0, and I think that's the only way it could hurt Ohio State. Like the Big Ten, they don't have any bye weeks built into the schedule to accommodate rescheduled games. The three remaining unbeaten teams (Washington, USC and Colorado) have all had a game cancelled already, which means they will play a maximum of six games and Oregon lost to Oregon State on Friday night.

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Even if a Pac-12 team finished 6-0, I think the committee would take a 6-0 Ohio State team with a Heisman candidate at quarterback over a 6-0 USC/Washington/Colorado team. Colorado's game with USC was replaced on their schedule today by San Diego State, but the Buffaloes also had last week's game cancelled against Arizona State.

Other Challengers: I don't think Cincinnati and BYU can put together a strong enough resume to justify getting in the playoff ahead of the Buckeyes, even if they're unbeaten. BYU is 9-0 and only has one game remaining against San Diego State on Dec. 12 and they don't have a conference championship game they could play in. 

Cincinnati is slightly more worrisome for the Buckeyes, and a Bearcats' loss would unquestionably seal their fate, but I think with similar resumes, the committee isn't going to pick a Group of Five team ahead of a Power 5 team. Cincinnati's game Saturday against Temple was canceled and it finishes the season with No. 25 Tulsa—who it will probably turn around and play again the following Saturday in the conference championship game.

Biggest threat: Texas A&M ... the Aggies are the least likely team to lose a second game, in my opinion. They haven't played in three weeks because their games against Tennessee and Ole Miss were both postponed, but the Tennessee game has been rescheduled.

If it comes down to, let's say a 6-0 Ohio State team, against a 8-1 Texas A&M team with a loss to Alabama and quality wins over Florida and Auburn, who does the committee select?


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