While Ohio State’s 20-point win over Michigan State might have helped its chances of ultimately making the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes didn’t receive any help from any other teams on Saturday.
No teams in the top 10 of last week’s College Football Playoff rankings lost this past weekend, and as a result, there were no changes in one week’s playoff standings to the next for the first time ever since the playoff began in 2014.
Ohio State remains 10th in the playoff standings this week, and as a result, the Buckeyes now have just three weeks to climb six spots in order to make the field of four.
Heres the full #CFBPlayoff Top 25 rankings for games played through November 10.
Is your team in? pic.twitter.com/wBq7fDvI8Q
— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 14, 2018
That’s certainly not ideal for Ohio State’s playoff hopes. In the first four years of the playoff, no team that has ultimately made the four-team field has ever been lower than 9th in the third set of rankings.
Even though no team lost in front of the Buckeyes, the College Football Playoff committee could have moved them up if it wanted to. Ohio State beat an opponent that was ranked in last week’s top 25 on the road; the only other team that did that last week was No. 2 Clemson. The fact that the Buckeyes didn’t move up after doing that is an indicator of the ground they had to make up in comparison to the nine teams ranked above them.
College Football Playoff chairman Rob Mullens said Saturday that the committee still viewed Ohio State as being “not as sharp as they were in the middle of the year” even after Saturday’s 26-6 win in East Lansing.
Realistically, though, there was no reason for the committee to overthink things this week. Since every team ranked in the top 10 won games this past week, there was no reason for anything to change.
There’s still three weeks left for Ohio State to make up ground, and what the Buckeyes need to do to make the playoff – as well as what else might need to happen for them to make the playoff – remains unchanged.
“The committee left them at No. 10, but when you look at it, the teams ahead of them took care of business as well,” Mullens said. “We know they still have their quality wins over Penn State, Michigan State is certainly a quality win, they beat TCU in Texas when TCU was healthy. So those are all good wins, and they keep finding a way to win.”
The top five teams in the rankings – No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Michigan and No. 5 Georgia – are each all virtual locks to make the playoff if they win out. If Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan and Georgia all win out, that could complicate things – Alabama would be awfully difficult to leave out even with an SEC Championship Game loss. But if the Crimson Tide win out, the top four teams all have clear paths to the final four.
Ohio State, of course, plays Michigan in two Saturdays, which gives the Buckeyes the opportunity to not only knock Michigan out of the field, but also to bolster their own resume with a win over one of college football’s best teams.
Would that, along with a win over Maryland this week and a win over Northwestern (who is now 22nd in the CFP rankings) in the Big Ten Championship Game, be enough for the Buckeyes to earn a playoff berth? That remains the question.
At least one more team in front of the Buckeyes is guaranteed to lose, with No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 9 West Virginia playing each other on Nov. 23.
The winner of that game still looms as the most likely threat to keep Ohio State out of the playoff if it wins out, because that team will have another win over a team currently ranked in the top 10 to bolster its resume, plus an opportunity to win what will likely be another top-25 game in the Big 12 Championship Game if it wins out.
No. 8 Washington State looms as a real threat to Ohio State’s playoff hopes if it wins out, too, but its top remaining opponent is No. 18 Washington, while their currently projected opponent in the Pac-12 Championship Game is currently ranked 19th (Utah).
LSU is still ranked No. 7, but while it can’t be assumed how exactly the committee will operate, it’s still hard to imagine that a team that already has two losses and has no chance of playing in its conference championship game would finish ahead of any team that finishes the season as a one-loss conference champion.
There’s no sure-fire answer for how the committee might ultimately view Ohio State compared to Washington State, Oklahoma or West Virginia if three of those teams win out, but the Buckeyes still have enough in front of them that they could move their way up into the playoff.
Right now, the most important thing for the Buckeyes to do is take care of business this week at Maryland – a dominant win that makes a statement to the committee that they are the sharpest they’ve been all season would certainly help – before moving ahead to their season-defining game against Michigan next week.