COLUMBUS, Ohio — There’s surely no such thing as too much chaos in this gloriously imperfect sport, and Ohio State isn’t going to complain if there’s a little more.
But it’s possible the Buckeyes may have already received all the outside help it needs to get back into the College Football Playoff based on the rankings released Tuesday night. And maybe what it should want now is some normalcy.
There is absolutely no guarantee at this point that Ohio State can simply win out and be assured of a spot in the four-team field. Even as it bounced back up to No. 9 after demolishing Michigan State on Saturday and moving well within striking distance of the top four slots, the blowout on the road at Iowa and the head-to-head tiebreaker it lost to Oklahoma obviously complicate matters for the Buckeyes.
But the latter is one reason why they may need chalk to prevail down the stretch. The Big 12 is likely going to claim one of those spots in the field, and it’s in Ohio State’s best interest for the Sooners to lock it up so there’s no need for a debate between those two programs.
Similarly, while Georgia losing in lopsided fashion at Auburn was important in dramatically decreasing the likelihood of the SEC getting two places on the dance card, the Buckeyes probably would be better off with Alabama finishing unbeaten to remove any possibility for good.
And, again along those same lines, the ACC is solidly in position to have another representative in the playoff this season. There may be some room to debate whether the preference should be given to Clemson or Miami, but either way, Ohio State probably would benefit from one of them rolling down the stretch and posting large margins of victory — especially in the league title game.
That would leave the coveted fourth and final spot up for grabs. And considering that there are a couple guaranteed losses by a couple teams ahead of them and the possibility of beating No. 5 Wisconsin, the Buckeyes are perhaps in even better shape than the rankings suggest. Ohio State, obviously, only needs there to be one available spot, and the overall body of work with a Big Ten Championship on the résumé is quite possibly going to be appealing enough to grab it.
In fact, it would qualify as a bigger shock if the selection committee left out the champion of the league it has evaluated to be the strongest in the country, according to its own poll, than any surprise over inviting a two-loss team. Don’t get caught up in the fact that it hasn’t happened yet with such a small sample size, because a conference champ with a couple losses earning a bid is an inevitability in the playoff era and the Buckeyes have all the relevant criteria needed for it to be them.
The alternative, of course, is that mass hysteria breaks out over the next couple weeks and what appears to be a relatively narrow path at the moment suddenly busts wide open. What if everybody ahead of Ohio State starts losing and the Buckeyes destroy Illinois, handles rival Michigan in The Game and then raises a Big Ten trophy the following week against Wisconsin? Sure, there wouldn’t be much debate about the Buckeyes heading to the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl.
Either way, the usual caveat for Urban Meyer’s team applies just like it has the last two weeks: None of this matters if it doesn’t win out.
But with that out of the way, the Buckeyes may have actually seen all the upsets they need just one week after their playoff hopes were dangling by a thread.
A little bit of calm settling in around the nation really might not be such a bad thing for Ohio State, after all.
Ohio State football returns to top 10 in College Football Playoff rankings