You might not know this but Ohio State did not do enough during the regular season to earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game.
The College Football Playoff selection committee ranked the Buckeyes at No. 2 on Tuesday night. Urban Meyer's team is 11-1 but the one team they lost to, No. 7 Penn State, is set to be the Big Ten East's representative in Indianapolis on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions kick off against No. 6 Wisconsin at 8 p.m. to decide conference supremacy.
Yet the Buckeyes are still in excellent shape to earn a Playoff berth, as evident by both their résumé and No. 2 ranking. But because Ohio State will be sitting at home watching teams compete for conference titles all weekend, they have one fewer opportunity to impress the committee before the final slate of rankings is released on Sunday at noon.
There are four Power 5 conference championship games this weekend. The Big 12 does not have a conference title game but has its final set of matchups of the regular season in an effort to keep interest. Ohio State's body of work appears worthy of a Playoff spot but the committee will have a difficult decision on its hands come Sunday because it will not have a conference trophy next to it.
What scenarios hurt Ohio State's Playoff chances? Which ones help? Let's take a look.
Best Case Scenarios
Penn State, Washington and Clemson All Lose; Oklahoma Wins
It is extremely unlikely all three teams lose their respective conference championship games—Washington plays Colorado for the Pac-12 title while Clemson takes on 9-3 Virginia Tech for the ACC title.
Clemson is the best team in the ACC. Washington is the best team in the Pac-12, with its lone loss to USC three weeks ago. Wisconsin is a two-point favorite over Penn State and it would not be a surprise if the Badgers took care of business at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That would help the Buckeyes immensely—if they could say they beat the Big Ten Champion on the road and at night, it would be another fine point to add to their body of work. Plus, it would give Penn State three losses and effectively knock it out of the Playoff discussion.
A Clemson loss to Virginia Tech or Washington to Colorado would give both of those teams two losses and the ACC and Pac-12 conference champions two and three losses. Same goes for the Big Ten should the Badgers win.
All good news for a 1-loss Ohio State.
Oklahoma is set to host Oklahoma State on Saturday in its regular season finale. A victory in that game will mean the 2-loss Sooners are outright Big 12 champions, which is great news for the Buckeyes. It is never a bad thing to be able to say you beat a conference champion at their place and under the lights, or two in Ohio State's case.
Penn State Loses to Wisconsin
This was already hit on above but Ohio State really needs Wisconsin to beat Penn State on Saturday night. That takes James Franklin's crew out of the picture.
Because Ohio State beat Wisconsin in Camp Randall Stadium, it would likely make the Playoff along with Alabama, Clemson and Washington provided those teams win. Alabama's destiny this season appears to end in the College Football Playoff. Again.
But if you're an Ohio State fan, root for Wisconsin on Saturday night.
Worst Case Scenarios
Penn State Rolls Over Wisconsin
If the Nittany Lions are a convincing Big Ten champion—say, they beat Wisconsin by three or more something—it would be hard for the committee to keep them out of the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State could still get into the Playoff if Penn State also goes but it is still a little far-fetched for two teams to make it because we've never seen that come to fruition. Should Penn State beat Wisconsin to win the Big Ten Championship, it will make for a very interesting conversation in the selection committee room before the final four teams are announced on Sunday.
The committee made it loud and clear on Tuesday night it thinks very highly of Ohio State, particularly when it compares the résumés between the Buckeyes and Penn State. But if the Nittany Lions come out and drop a 59-0 performance on the Badgers like Ohio State did two years ago, that is going to stick firmly in the committee's head.
Clemson, Washington and the Big Ten Champion All Look Far Superior
Ohio State's body of work is excellent. That is not a question.
But the fact of the matter is that Clemson, Washington, Wisconsin and Penn State all get one final chance to impress the committee this weekend. Ohio State does not. We witnessed two years ago how much a convincing win 12 hours before the final rankings are released affects them when Ohio State destroyed Wisconsin.
Alabama is going to be in the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide could lose to Florida and still make it. If Clemson runs over Virginia Tech, Washington does the same to Colorado and the Big Ten Championship Game is lopsided (especially in Penn State's favor) the committee could see those three teams being comparable to the Buckeyes. Then, conference championships are used as a determining factor per the committee's criterion.
The odds of this happening are astronomical but crazier things have happened in college football.