While Ohio State didn't make this year's College Football Playoff, the two teams that played for a national championship on Monday night were the only teams that finished ahead of the Buckeyes in the season's final rankings.
Ohio State checked in at No. 3 in the final AP Top 25 of the season, released early Tuesday morning, behind only Clemson and Alabama after the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide, 44-16, in the final game of the season on Monday night.
After finishing the season with a Big Ten championship win over Northwestern and a Rose Bowl win over Washington, Ohio State was one of only three Power 5 teams – along with 15-0 Clemson and 14-1 Alabama – to finish the season with at least 13 wins. This past season was just the third time in Ohio State history, along with the 2002 and 2014 national championship seasons, that the Buckeyes won 13 games or more.
As a result, the 13-1 Buckeyes leaped ahead of Notre Dame, who suffered a 30-3 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, and Oklahoma, who suffered a 45-34 loss to Alabama in the other playoff semifinal, in the final AP poll of the year. The Sooners checked in at No. 4 while the Fighting Irish finished at No. 5.
LSU, led by Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow at quarterback, finished the season ranked sixth, while Georgia – which was ranked fifth, ahead of Ohio State, in the rankings that determined the College Football Playoff field – tied for seventh, with Florida, after the Bulldogs lost their final game of the season to Texas (which finished ninth) in the Sugar Bowl.
In total, the Big Ten placed five teams in the end-of-season rankings, with Michigan finishing 14th, Penn State finishing 17th, Northwestern finishing 21st and Iowa finishing 25th.
The Buckeyes' No. 3 final ranking is their highest final ranking since they finished the year atop the poll after winning the 2014 national championship. It marks the 14th time in school history that Ohio State has finished the season ranked in the top three of the AP poll.
Clemson and Alabama have been the two dominant teams in college football for the past four years, each winning two of the last four national championships, so the Buckeyes find themselves looking up at them as Ryan Day takes over for Urban Meyer as the new head coach of the program. Yet even after a season in which Ohio State suffered a 49-20 loss to Purdue and had a shaky defense throughout, the Buckeyes still finished the season regarded as better than everyone but the top two.