It is officially the season of giving, but it's also the season of projecting college football bowl games.
We've made it to the final month of 2015, which means conference championship games are right around the corner. Ohio State fans don't get to watch their team compete for the Big Ten crown for the first time since 2012 on Saturday, with a home loss to Michigan State and a Spartan win at Michigan earning them the Big East Division title.
So where does that leave the Buckeyes? We spoke Monday about their very slim chances to make the College Football Playoff for the second consecutive season, but in order for that to happen craziness would need to ensue and the selection committee would have to see Ohio State as one of the best four teams in the country even it won't have a conference championship.
Saturday, Ohio State must root for Florida to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship, North Carolina to top Clemson in the ACC Championship and USC to down Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. That will effectively create the chaos we were talking about Monday.
If things fall into place, the Buckeyes have a shot at the No. 4 spot in the rankings. If they don't, where could Urban Meyer's club end up this bowl season?
Realistically, it looks like the Rose, Peach and Fiesta Bowls are the options.
Those three matchups (and the Sugar Bowl) are determined by the College Football Playoff selection committee — the New Year's Six bowls, as they're known in addition to the Playoff. Plus, the Big Ten has a tie to the Rose Bowl, though its changed some from the BCS era.
However, it's up to the Rose Bowl to determine which Big Ten school it wants playing in Pasadena. The winner of the Big Ten Championship is sure to make the Playoff, so then the question becomes which is the better team — the one who lost that game or Ohio State?
It makes the most sense for the Rose Bowl to take the second-highest ranked Big Ten school, since the Playoff's changed things a bit away from the BCS model. Big Ten and Pac-12 teams were the main participants in the Rose Bowl in that era, but last season Florida State played Oregon because it was a national semifinal game.
So if Iowa gets blasted by Michigan State Saturday — or the other way around — in Indianapolis, would either team fall below Ohio State in the rankings? That's the million dollar question.
The last time the Buckeyes went to the Rose Bowl was after the 2009 season. Michigan State went two years ago. Iowa hasn't been since 1991.
The argument for which fanbase would bring the Rose Bowl the most money will be made once the games are completed Saturday night, a discussion that would help Ohio State. But, the Playoff was supposed to adjust those ideas and bowl relationships just a tad and instead rank the teams based on their merits for that specific season.
Still, though, this is only the second year of the Playoff so we have a small sample size to work with. If the Spartans lose to Iowa, they'll have two losses, but the one big win over Ohio State. Would that be enough to stay ahead of the Buckeyes in the rankings?
If Iowa loses Saturday it will be its first lost in 2015 and have come in a game they earned their way to play in, which Ohio State did not.
The margin of victory in Saturday's Big Ten title game matters as well, as it is sure to play into the committee's final rankings. Doug Lesmerises from cleveland.com broke down the possibilities for each outcome of the Big Ten Championship further and are worth a look.
If Ohio State doesn't get an invitation to the Rose Bowl, however, its best shot is a trip to Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl or Georgia in the Peach Bowl against another at-large team. That team could be Tom Herman's Houston Cougars, who play Temple Saturday for the AAC Championship. If Houston wins, they'll be the highest ranked Group of 5 team, earning the Cougars the at-large bid to a New Year's Six Bowl as a non-power conference.
The Herman-Meyer coaching matchup is intriguing and would sell tickets, as interest would be high for the student versus pupil matchup.
How it all shakes out, though, depends on what happens on conference championship Saturday.