Could Ohio State really do this again?
With two weeks to go until the College Football Playoff pairings are finalized, it might seem impossible for Ohio State to claim one of those coveted final four spots, given the Buckeyes are ranked No. 9 in the Week 13 rankings. But there's a plausible scenario that makes such an outcome possible.
"What Ohio State needs is Alabama to win out," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit told Sporting News on Tuesday. "Beyond that, Clemson and Miami are going to play each other. Then you need Oklahoma to win out. If all of those things happen, which by the way is not far-fetched, Auburn will be below Ohio State, Georgia will be below Ohio State. ... If (the Buckeyes) beat Michigan and Wisconsin, they'll go by Notre Dame."
Ohio State will also have a hell of a case for the playoff if that scenario pans out. Just look at the board and the top 12 teams — the teams most likely to reach the College Football Playoff.
|1 Alabama (11-0)|
|2 Miami (10-0)|
|3 Clemson (10-1)|
|4 Oklahoma (10-1)|
|5 Wisconsin (11-0)|
|6 Auburn (9-2)|
|7 Georgia (10-1)|
|8 Notre Dame (9-2)|
|9 Ohio State (9-2)|
|10 Penn State (9-2)|
|11 USC (10-2)|
|12 TCU (9-2)|
Break that scenario down piece by piece:
Ohio State wins the Big Ten
That would give the two-loss Buckeyes the drop on Wisconsin — who, despite the one loss, would have a less impressive resume. Ohio State would have victories against Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin at that point.
Alabama wins out
That would give Auburn three losses, eliminating it from contention. That would give Georgia two losses and no conference championship to hang its hat on. Ohio State would have the drop on the Bulldogs.
Oklahoma wins out
That knocks out TCU. So if that happens, No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma would be in, with two spots remaining. The head-to-head loss against Oklahoma on Sept. 9 wouldn't keep the Buckeyes out.
Notre Dame and USC don't have enough
That leaves three teams the Buckeyes have to leap to get in. How do we do that? Ohio State, in theory, would hop Notre Dame — no matter what it does against Stanford — and would have a two-spot advantage over USC. That leaves the board looking like this with one major question: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame or USC. it's a discussion the Buckeyes would seem to have the advantage of at that point, based on resume.
|1 Alabama (13-0)|
|2 Miami (?)|
|3 Clemson (?)|
|4 Oklahoma (12-1)|
|9 Ohio State (11-2)|
The ACC championship question
Would the committee take two ACC teams over one Big Ten champion? If Clemson wins, the Tigers would be in. Would the committee take a one-loss Miami team over a two-loss Ohio State team?
If Miami wins, then the Hurricanes would be in. Which two-loss team would go: a two-loss, Big Ten champion Ohio State, or a two-loss, defending national champion Clemson without a conference title?
"The debate will be the loser of the Clemson-Miami game and Ohio State," Herbstreit said. "That's a nasty debate because if Miami loses, Miami would be 11-1 and their only loss would be to Clemson in the ACC championship game. If Clemson loses, and their losses would be to Miami and that Syracuse game on the Friday night where they lost."
That would get nasty because it involves Ohio State, which seemed left for dead after a 55-24 loss to Iowa on Nov. 4. The Buckeyes, however, have defeated Michigan State and Illinois by a combined score of 100-17 the last two weeks and have two marquee victories remaining in Wisconsin and Michigan.
We've seen it before, too. Ohio State jumped from No. 5 to No. 4 and bumped TCU out in the final rankings of 2014. The Buckeyes also made the College Football Playoff in 2016 over Penn State, despite losing head-to-head and not making the Big Ten championship game.
If any team can leap from No. 9 to the top four in the final two weeks, then it's the Buckeyes. If that last spot comes down to two-loss Georgia, Notre Dame, USC and Ohio State teams, there's a good chance the Big Ten comes out of it.
Then you get the Clemson or Miami vs. Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and Ohio State vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
So, yes, the Buckeyes should root for the Tide to win out. The reward could be a rematch of that legendary 2015 semifinal game.
It's not as far-fetched as it seems.