Although West Virginia — who was previously ranked ahead of the Ohio State Buckeyes — lost this past weekend, undefeated UCF jumped the Buckeyes, leaving the scarlet and gray to stay ranked at No. 10 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings.
The top-six teams remained the same, with Alabama once again No. 1, followed by Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma. Three Big Ten teams joined the Buckeyes in the rankings: No. 4 Michigan, No. 12 Penn State, and No. 19 Northwestern.
The committee has made it clear every week that Ohio State must prove that they are improving as the season goes on. Although they have continued to win, they have struggled overall as a team ever since the Playoff rankings debuted this season, hence the reason why they are still the 10th-ranked team in the rankings. In fact, they haven’t looked the same since being blown out at Purdue. After barely edging the Terrapins in overtime this past Saturday, they once again let another opportunity go by that they could have impressed the committee and dominated. Instead, their defense struggled from start to finish. The committee took notice of that, much like they have all season. They were jumped by a UCF team that has gotten no respect from the committee since the 2017 rankings were first revealed, even though the non-Power Five team hasn’t lost a game since the start of last season.
“While UCF may not have the depth of talent of Ohio State, the committee felt that right now … UCF has the more all-around complete team. We watched UCF have a strong performance against Cincinnati,” College Football Playoff chairman Rob Mullens said during Tuesday night’s show. “And then when you watched Ohio State, you saw a team that struggled a bit against Maryland, and in the end, again, the committee felt that UCF was the more complete team at this time.”
Even if they upset No. 4 Michigan in The Game on Saturday, therefore, winning the Big Ten East, then go on to beat No. 19 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, it still doesn’t guarantee that Ohio State will make the Playoff. Unless something drastic changes things, it seems as though Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame are all locks to make the Playoff, especially if they remain undefeated. That leaves just one spot left in the Final Four.
Among the five Power Five teams with one loss, the Buckeyes are the lowest ranked, behind Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Washington State. Obviously, if Ohio State beats the Wolverines on Saturday then that takes them out of the mix, but the scarlet and gray will still need plenty of help to make the Playoff, even if they do win out. Anything is possible and you should never count out Urban Meyer, but the road to the Final Four isn’t as clear as some think it is heading into the final week of the regular season and the Buckeyes are running out of time to possibly make it any clearer.
“When we look at their full body of resumes, with Oklahoma we see one of the top offenses in the country with a dynamic quarterback, understanding that their defense struggles and their only loss is to a ranked Texas team on a neutral site,” Mullens said when asked to compare the Buckeyes and the Sooners. “And we understand that Ohio State has a quality road win over Penn State, they keep finding the way to win, a close overtime win at Maryland, again with their offense carrying the weight.”
Since the College Football Playoff debuted in 2014-15, no team ranked lower than seventh in the final two weeks of the season made the Final Four.1 Ohio State will not only have to beat Michigan and Northwestern, but the Buckeyes will have to do so in a very impressive way that will catch the eyes of the committee. It’s unprecedented, but then again, no one thought Cardale Jones could lead the scarlet and gray to a national championship in the inaugural Playoff either. Nothing is impossible, but it sure does seem like the odds are against Ohio State, not only against Michigan but to make the Playoff even if they win out as well.
Key regular-season games remaining for teams currently ranked ahead of the Buckeyes:
- Alabama (11-0): vs. Auburn, SEC Championship
- Clemson (11-0): vs. South Carolina, ACC Championship
- Notre Dame (11-0): at USC
- Michigan (10-1): at No. 10 Ohio State
- Georgia (10-1): vs. Georgia Tech, SEC Championship
- Oklahoma (10-1): at No. 12 West Virginia, Big 12 Championship
- LSU (9-2): at No. 22 Texas A&M
- Washington State (10-1): vs. No. 18 Washington, Pac 12 Championship
- UCF (11-0): at South Florida
- No. 7 Georgia did so in 2017. [↩]