Unlike the last four seasons when Ohio State was playing in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes are watching from home this weekend as Michigan and Iowa battle for the conference title.
That not only means Ohio State’s streak of four straight Big Ten championships will come to an end tonight, but also makes it highly unlikely the Buckeyes will make it back to the College Football Playoff for the third straight season.
After all, Ohio State came in at No. 7 in the latest playoff rankings, and with no additional opportunity to improve their resume, the Buckeyes would need pure chaos on Saturday to find themselves in the conversation for the four-team field.
Even then, it’s probably a stretch to say two-loss Ohio State would get in over one-loss Notre Dame or two-loss Baylor, which would have a win over No. 5 Oklahoma State in the Big XII title game.
So, with the College Football Playoff seemingly out of the question, where will the Buckeyes head this postseason? It all depends on what happens in a select few championship games on Saturday.
First and foremost, if the Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes to clinch their first conference title since 2004, Ohio State likely head to the Rose Bowl as the highest-ranked, non-playoff team from the Big Ten. In that case, the Buckeyes would play Utah, which won the Pac-12 with a resounding victory over Oregon on Friday night.
If Iowa beats Michigan, on the other hand, the Hawkeyes would probably earn a trip to Pasadena as the conference champion. They’re probably too far back at No. 13 in the latest rankings to jump into the conversation for the playoff, which would then push the Buckeyes to an at-large option for a New Year’s Six bowl.
Of course, the Cotton and Orange bowls are part of the College Football Playoff this year, while the Sugar Bowl is off the table as it will pit the highest-rated, non-playoff teams from the Big XII and SEC. That leaves either the Fiesta or Peach bowls for Ohio State.
If it’s the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes would probably take on Notre Dame, unless the Fighting Irish find their way into the playoff. It would be Ohio State’s 10th appearance in the game, more than any other school, and set up the first of two straight games between the programs, as Notre Dame comes to Columbus for the 2022 season opener.
If Houston beats Cincinnati in the AAC Championship on Saturday afternoon, meanwhile, it would open the door for the Fighting Irish to make the four-team field. The Buckeyes could then find themselves taking on the Bearcats or Cougars, depending on which team is higher in the final playoff rankings.
The Peach Bowl, meanwhile, has historically featured the winner of the ACC, which means Ohio State would likely take on the winner of Saturday night’s game between Pittsburgh and Wake Forest in Atlanta.
There’s a chance for it to be Ole Miss, though, if Georgia soundly beats Alabama in the SEC Championship on Saturday afternoon, knocking the Crimson Tide out of the top four and into the Sugar Bowl. Either way, it would be the Buckeyes’ first-ever trip to the Peach Bowl.
That said, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will announce the four-team playoff at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, with the rest of the top 25 and the pairings for the New Year’s Six bowls at 2:30 p.m. Ohio State will find out its postseason fate at that time.
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