Some Predictions Have Ohio State In College Football Playoff: ‘We Don’t Want To Settle For Less’

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Some predictions have Ohio State in College Football Playoff: ‘We don’t want to settle for less’

Staff Photographer
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer and wide receiver Terry McLaurin (83) hold the Stagg Championship Trophy after their 45 -24 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, Saturday, December 1, 2018. (Marvin Fong / The Plain Dealer) (Marvin Fong)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Urban Meyer wouldn’t make a case Saturday night, at least not a strong one. Following Ohio State’s 45-24 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship, he didn’t politic for the Ohio State Buckeyes to make the College Football Playoff.

But he did seem to empathize with the 13-member selection committee, which includes Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.

“I think those people, I think they’re in Dallas, wherever they are, and it’s a tough situation they’re in,” Meyer said. “There’s a lot of great football teams out there. And we’re one of those great football teams.”

That, of course, is never the point. Because five years into the playoff world, the committee in the first four seasons filled the field with teams that deserved to be there -- mostly. (Looking at you, 2015 Michigan State, 2016 Ohio State and 2016 Washington).

But in a limited four-team field, the committee is seldom looking for good teams to put in. It’s typically deciding which good teams to leave out.

Sunday at noon on ESPN, that decision will be announced, and once again, there are cases being made for more teams than there are spots. Six legitimate candidates are in play, with undefeated Alabama and Clemson in, and undefeated Notre Dame, one-loss Oklahoma and Ohio State, and two-loss Georgia batted around as candidates for the last two spots.

Both Meyer and captain and right tackle Isaiah Prince pointed out that the Buckeyes won their conference as a playoff check mark. So did Oklahoma. As the Buckeyes show off their conference title now, we have to remember that the last time Ohio State made in the playoff in 2016, it wasn’t as the Big Ten champ. Penn State beat Ohio State head-to-head and won the conference crown, but finished No. 5, while the one-loss Buckeyes took the No. 3 seed.

So ... like in life, you accentuate your best traits and hide your flaws.

“You look at the road wins we had -- at Penn State, at Michigan State, at TCU. And then obviously the way we played against the fourth-ranked team in America,” Meyer said of Ohio State’s 23-point win over Michigan. "And the way we played tonight.

“So I don’t know if we’re in a position to start making statements about where we belong. But I know they’ve got a tough decision to make, because we’re a heck of a football team.”

If you seek out positive playoff indicators for the Buckeyes, you can find them, most of them formula based.

The forward-thinking data analysis website uses a formula that factors in past committee behavior, as well as overall team strength analysis, to give year-long playoff percentages.

Right now, with Alabama and Clemson surely in, the site has Oklahoma at 72 percent, Ohio State at 66 percent and Notre Dame at 61 percent. That’s basically three teams with a two-thirds shot make it, with one of them forced into that one-third reality.

But it’s hard to imagine an undefeated Notre Dame falling out of the top four, even without a conference title.

ESPN’s College Football Playoff Predictor, which also takes past committee decisions into account, has Alabama and Clemson in, Notre Dame at 98 percent, Ohio State at 71 percent and Oklahoma at 26 percent.

So two computer formulas, engineered by humans, both have Ohio State at No. 4, but their Nos. 3 and 5 are reversed.

Playoff analyst Jerry Palm, a human, has Notre Dame at 3, Oklahoma at 4 and Ohio State at 5. And that certainly seems the most likely decision in the common sense formula employed by any unbiased observers looking at last week’s rankings and this weekend’s games. Ohio State’s biggest issue may simply be that last week, Georgia was No. 4, Oklahoma was No. 5 and Ohio State was No. 6, and what reason is there to jump the Buckeyes two spots?

Georgia lost 35-28 to No. 1 Alabama.

Oklahoma beat No. 14 Texas 39-27.

Ohio State beat No. 21 Northwestern 45-24.

That win, plus a trophy and a Rose Bowl trip, may have to be enough.

“It’s nothing short of amazing," senior receiver Johnnie Dixon said of how he was feeling in the victorious locker room. “At the end of the day, you want to be in the playoffs. But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. But to come back and a win a Big Ten Championship, that was big for us.”

Besides Smith, the 13-member committee also includes Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. Neither of them can be involved with playoff discussions about their own schools. So that means the actual decision that matters, this No. 4 spot, will boil down to 11 people: five former coaches, three other ADs, a former media member, a university president and former player Ronnie Lott.

“I feel like we should be in the playoff,” running back Mike Weber said. “We’ve got the best offense in the country. We’ve got better wins. Give us a a shot."

“How could you count the Buckeyes out?” right tackle Isaiah Prince asked. “Our team went through so much.”

Prince said if the Buckeyes are left out of the playoff again, after finishing one spot out at No. 5 last year, he’d be angry.

“I think this team would definitely be upset," Prince said. “We love each other and we don’t want to just end things now. We want to go win it all. That’s why we came to Ohio State, to win championships, so we don’t want to settle for less.”

Weber was more ready to accept whatever the Sunday decision is.

“We can’t control that," he said. “I feel great. I’m happy for my teammates that made plays, I’ve happy for myself, I’m happy for the coaches and for the interns and the GAs and the equipment managers. We all had a part in this win. And it feels great.”

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