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

Measuring the good, the bad and the ugly of Friday night's cancellation announcement.
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Ohio State is in an extremely unenviable position at the moment. I have to imagine there are folks sweating bullets in Columbus.

The good: The Buckeyes are 4-0 and the offense has looked spectacular this season. The defense has had it's moments of great play. They've done what they're supposed to do ... win each game and get a little better doing it each time. Justin Fields is legitimately one of the best players in college football and is absolutely living up to the Heisman-hype again this year.

The bad: The Buckeyes game against Maryland was cancelled when CoVID infiltrated the locker room in College Park. The Buckeyes had a clean bubble and were ready, willing and able to play, but things eroded quickly for the Terrapins and the game was declared a no-contest. With an 8-game schedule and a mandate of six games played to qualify for a Big Ten championship game appearance, the first cancellation of the season was noteworthy and worrisome, but it wasn't damning for them.

Ohio State's Best Path to the College Football Playoff

The ugly: After turning around and beating a Top 10 team last week in the Indiana Hoosiers (albeit not in quite as convincing fashion as some may have liked to see), the Buckeyes are now in trouble. Head coach Ryan Day and an unconfirmed number of players and additional team staff/support members have since tested positive within the last two days and Ohio State's game against Illinois has been cancelled

Considering what's happened with Wisconsin and Maryland this year, when the virus impacts the team at large the way it appears to have done to the Buckeyes, it's very likely the team would miss multiple games. While that hasn't been confirmed (and won't be for at least several more days), it's a very real possibility.

Can the Buckeyes still make the College Football Playoff?

The answer is unclear. It's not imminently "no" - a team is not required to win it's conference championship in order to play in the CFP. But will the Buckeyes have enough of a resume to impress the committee to earn a bid if they only play between four and seven games? What if they only play six games this year, including the "championship week" game in the ninth week of the season. Could a 6-0 Ohio State team be impressive enough to get in ahead of a team that might finish, lets say, 9-1 with a quality loss?

That's a very difficult question to answer and I'm not sure anyone outside of the selection committee really knows how impactful this setback will be. But one thing's for sure - this is a tough blow that puts the Buckeyes championship aspirations in legitimate jeopardy for the first time this year.

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

“It’s an ongoing deal,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said last month about the seriousness of the pandemic. “This is going to go on for a while, and we have to continue to be vigilant in that area, not get fatigued with following all the protocols, doing what we have to do and making the sacrifices that have been made. That’s been everybody. And that’s not easy to do. It’s an emphasis every single day. I’ve made it my vow to the players that I’ll bring it up every single day.

“We talk about it every single day because it’s that important.”

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