Many Ohio State fans will be watching on Tuesday night to find out where the Buckeyes are ranked in this year’s initial College Football Playoff rankings.
Inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, however, the Buckeyes won’t be paying much attention.
To Ohio State coach Ryan Day, where the Buckeyes are ranked tonight really doesn’t matter. There are still five weeks to go until the rankings that actually set the four-team playoff field are released, and whether his currently undefeated team can keep on winning is what will ultimately determine where Ohio State lands in the final rankings on Dec. 8.
“I think it's for the fans. Doesn't mean anything to us because if we lose this weekend, we're not going to be in the top four, that's for sure,” Day said of Tuesday night’s rankings release. “What matters is where we're at once we're done with the season, the regular season.”
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields said he has “zero interest” in where the Buckeyes are ranked this week.
“It doesn’t matter ‘til we’re done with the, hopefully we make it to the Big Ten Championship Game but after that game, that’s when it matters, so we’re just trying to take it week by week, because we know no matter where they rank us today, that won’t affect us where we’re ranked toward the end of the season,” Fields said. “So I’m not really worried about the rankings right now.
“I don’t care if they put us 25, to be honest. I really don’t care.”
It would be naive to think that no one on the Ohio State football team will be watching on Tuesday night, or that it won’t at least be a topic of conversation among players. After all, the Buckeyes’ goal is to make the playoff and compete for a national championship, and Tuesday night’s rankings will be the first glimpse at how the selection committee views Ohio State’s resume right now.
Going into Tuesday night’s rankings release, there’s unquestionably more intrigue surrounding where the Buckeyes will be ranked than whether they will beat Maryland on Saturday, considering that Ohio State opened as a 44-point favorite against the Terrapins and are fully expected to improve to 9-0 this weekend.
Ohio State’s coaches and players themselves, though, can’t afford to think that way. Staying focused on the task at hand is what has put the Buckeyes in a position to potentially be ranked as high as No. 1 in the opening rankings, and Day believes it is crucial for his team to maintain that same level of focus.
“In the team meeting I said, ‘Congratulations, you're relevant in November,’” Day said Tuesday. “There's something to be said for that, absolutely. That's where you want to be right now in November, is be relevant. And we are. So that's good. But the rankings and all that stuff really shouldn't be any of our focus.”
“If we lose this weekend, we're not going to be in the top four, that's for sure.” – Ryan Day on why he doesn't care about Tuesday's College Football Playoff rankings
The Buckeyes really don’t have any need to worry about the rankings right now, because they’re a virtual lock to start in the top four. Regardless of what spot they land on Tuesday night, they have a clear path to the playoff: Win and they’re in. If Ohio State can win its final four regular-season games and the Big Ten Championship Game, the only questions on Selection Sunday will be what it’s seeded, who it’s playing and whether its semifinal game will be in Atlanta or Arizona.
Right now, though, the Buckeyes know they still have to win five more games on each of the next five Saturdays in order to lock up their place in the playoff. The challenges they’ll face later this month against Penn State and Michigan are likely to be substantially tougher than the challenges they’ll face this week against Maryland and next week against Rutgers, but Day doesn’t want his team to take any game for granted.
“When you're undefeated at this point in the season, they're all big,” Day said. “If you don't think they're big, try losing one. See how that goes. They're all big. So we got to stay locked in on today's practice, we got to stay locked in on this week, and then we go from there.”
That’s why Day doesn’t want to talk at all about the College Football Playoff right now. Even when he was asked about a survey compiled by ESPN this offseason and released on Tuesday that listed Day as one of 30 Power 5 coaches who believe the CFP should expand, he expressed that he did not believe now is an appropriate time to have that conversation.
“I do believe if you win your conference, then you should get into some sort of playoff,” Day said. “But I’d rather not get into all that. I think that's a conversation for the offseason.”