Absolutely nothing changed in the top seven of this week’s College Football Playoff rankings.
For Ohio State’s chances of making this year’s CFP, that’s perfectly fine. As the No. 4 team in the rankings, the Buckeyes are exactly where they need to be to make the playoff. As long as they win out, they’ll be no lower than fourth in the final playoff rankings – upcoming games against No. 7 Michigan State and No. 6 Michigan, plus a Big Ten Championship Game that will likely be against either No. 15 Wisconsin or No. 17 Iowa, will ensure the Buckeyes make the CFP if they can win three more games in a row.
The only question now, beyond the far more important question of whether the Buckeyes will actually win the three games they need to win to make the CFP, is how highly Ohio State will be seeded if it does win out.
As of now, Ohio State remains behind two other 9-1 teams in No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Oregon. But that could certainly change over the next three weeks – even if those two teams win out, too.
College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Gary Barta said Tuesday night “there was a lot of conversation” among the committee this week about whether the Crimson Tide should remain ahead of the Ducks and the Ducks should remain ahead of the Buckeyes after Ohio State earned a 59-31 win over Purdue, who was 19th in last week’s rankings, while Alabama and Oregon played unranked opponents on Saturday.
Ultimately, the committee came to the determination that it still considers Alabama to be the second-best team in the country while Oregon’s head-to-head win over Ohio State in the second week of the season remained enough to keep the Ducks ahead of the Buckeyes for at least one more week.
“The 2, 3, 4 positions, the committee had a lot of discussion about where Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State should all land,” Barta said. “Alabama, the committee still considered the way they've been playing offensively, defensively, Mississippi, Mississippi State wins, and we didn't learn a lot new about Alabama (last week), but they stayed at No. 2.
“So then you compare Ohio State has wins at Minnesota and then against Penn State and Purdue. Oregon has the win at Columbus, and that's a big one. They also won at UCLA and beat Fresno State … and the committee just felt that they were close enough that that head-to-head still ruled the day, so Oregon stayed at 3 and Ohio State is at 4.”
Even if both teams win their next three games, it seems likely Oregon’s head-to-head win won’t be enough to keep it ahead of Ohio State in the end. Oregon will play another ranked opponent this week when it plays No. 23 Utah on the road, but Ohio State has the chance to win back-to-back games against top-10 teams, which will give the Buckeyes the stronger overall résumé – especially considering Oregon lost to an unranked Stanford – at the end of the season even if their records remain identical.
Where the Buckeyes are currently ranked in comparison to Alabama might ultimately be a moot point. If the Crimson Tide can win out and beat No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, they’ll likely be the No. 1 seed in the playoff. If they lose to the Bulldogs or any of their remaining opponents, their second loss will likely knock them out of the CFP.
That said, Barta indicated Tuesday night that the committee has a lot of respect for the Buckeyes, especially on the offensive side of the ball – even though they’re still ranked behind Alabama and Oregon for the time being.
“The committee has continued to be impressed with the way Ohio State's defense has improved since the beginning of the season,” Barta said. “They might be playing the best offense in the country. They're not playing the best defense in the country, but their defense is playing impressively.”