Every year, it seems, the talk on the Sunday where the participants in the College Football Playoff are finally decided is all about the Ohio State Buckeyes. Should they go, or shouldn’t they?
This year is no different. With Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin last night, a game in which the Buckeyes were led by a gutty J.T. Barrett, only days after he’d had knee surgery, the Buckeyes are 11-2 and the official Big Ten champions. Normally, you’d think the Big Ten champs would be in easily — but in one of those losses the Buckeyes got waxed at Iowa, losing by 31 points in one of those games that shows you that anyone who thinks they can predict college athletics just doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The first three teams in to the College Football Playoff are easy decisions: Clemson, Georgia, and Oklahoma, which handed the Buckeyes their other loss. And now the chatter is whether the fourth team should be Ohio State, the Big Ten champ with that one big matzo ball of a bad loss, or Alabama, which has only one loss but didn’t play in its conference championship game, lost its only game of the season against an elite team, and played a schedule that wasn’t very difficult.
It’s a tough question, and as an Ohio State fan I’m king of torn. Last year’s blowout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff rattled a lot of us. We love our Buckeyes, but that defeat — and then the Iowa debacle this year — has introduced an element of doubt for many. We don’t want to see the Men of the Scarlet and Gray get in, and then get creamed. And since the Buckeyes would be the fourth seed if they were to make it, they’d play Clemson again. Would another humiliating spanking be in the offing?
On the other hand, you’ve got to give Ohio State credit for playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. They’ve beaten a number of very good teams, including Penn State in an epic comeback, and they bounced back after the Iowa loss to thrash Michigan State, win their great rivalry game against Michigan on the road, and then beat a tough Wisconsin team on a neutral field. And, while Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin was only by six points, I think the Buckeyes clearly were the superior team by a larger margin than the score indicated.
So, should it be the Buckeyes, or the Crimson Tide? Call me a homer, but I think a conference championship should count for something, and I think fans can’t let their fears stand in the way of the dreams of young men who’ve played hard and had a fine season. I hope the Buckeyes make it.