Ohio State won’t play Michigan this weekend. And despite being four-touchdown-or-more favorites two weeks in a row, the Buckeyes will finish the regular season with a 5-0 record.
So is that enough to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff? Technically the CFP Selection Committee can pick any team they’d like, and there are no rules preventing a team with less than half a normal season of games from playing in the final four.
But if they’re not allowed to play in the Big Ten Championship Game, that would mean the winner of the Indiana Hoosiers and Northwestern Wildcats would lock up a spot in at least the New Year’s Six. You could technically see the Big Ten Champion left out of the Playoff, but a team with just five wins get in. Which is as 2020 as anything we can consider.
Will the Big Ten move to let Ohio State play for the title anyway? Probably. Because that’s what college athletics does: Making up rules and then changing them as necessary is a tradition that goes back generations.
So which teams could benefit from OSU being cast aside? There would seem to be three teams waiting to jump in the grave of the befallen Buckeyes: Florida, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M.
The No. 6 Florida Gators could impress against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship. and make the case they’re one of the best four teams in America. A close loss might be enough to get them over the hump and into the playoff. The No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies beat Florida at home in a close one, but also lost to Alabama 52-24 in Tuscaloosa. They’d seem to be on the outside looking in, but if the Tide rolls over the Gators A&M could sneak in the backdoor despite no title game, or even a beating of Ole Miss to finish the season
That leaves the No. 7 Cincinnati Bearcats, who canceled their regular season finale with No. 24 Tulsa earlier today. They’ll get to play them anyway, but instead of twice just once in the AAC Championship Game at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. If Bama rolls Florida, and Ohio State can’t play, there’s an outside chance a UC team that’s been pretty dominant by the computers this season could play for the championship.
But we’ll believe the Selection Committee will put a Group of Five team in the Playoff when we see it.
The big winner here might be the loser of the ACC Championship Game between Clemson and Notre Dame. If OSU indeed drops out, it might ensure that the loser of that contest could still find their way to the semifinals. That case might be harder to make if Clemson gets steamrolled after losing a double OT thriller in South Bend earlier this season, but two losses to the No. 2 team isn’t a bad resume.
But this is up to the committee of 13 people that are mostly athletic directors. And we won’t learn much from tonight’s new rankings as that factors in last week’s action. Or even next week’s as that’s before the title games that should determine everything.