Ohio State excluded from College Football Playoff

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Ohio State excluded from College Football Playoff

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Will M. '19, Writer

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Buckeye nation took a hard blow to the heart on Dec. 3 when the College Football Playoff (CFP) selections were made in Dallas.

Seeds one through three were already guaranteed, with no. 3 Oklahoma, no. 2 Georgia and no. 1 Clemson all winning their conference championships. However, the fourth and final spot was still a possibility for a selection of teams. Going into the weekend, the last team in the top four was undefeated Wisconsin. A win in the Big 10 championship would have sent Wisconsin into the College Football Playoff unbeaten and unrivaled by other teams. Things seemed uneasy for the Buckeyes since star quarterback J.T. Barrett underwent arthroscopic surgery just six days before. However, thanks to the perseverance and valiant efforts from Barrett and the game’s MVP, running back J.K. Dobbins, the Buckeyes handed Wisconsin their first loss of the season, winning the game 27-21.

It seemed Ohio State had punched their ticket to the playoffs, as they finished the season as Big 10 Champions with an 11-2 record. Also, the Buckeyes sported wins over multiple ranked opponents including no. 4 Wisconsin, no. 2 Penn State and more. However, fans of the Buckeyes were in for a rude awakening soon after, when the CFP committee selected Alabama over Ohio State for the final spot in the top four teams for the College Football Playoff.

This came as a shock to many, as it seemed the Alabama juggernaut had finally been shut down with their loss to Auburn during rivalry week. Alabama’s loss was their first of the season, but it prevented them from going to the South Eastern Conference Championship game against no. 3 Georgia. Instead, Auburn took their place and the Bulldogs defeated them 28-7. Due to Alabama’s choke in their big game, absence from the SEC Championship, and Auburn, who beat Alabama, proving to be overrated after their loss to Georgia, most people expected the Crimson Tide to come up at number five, leaving fourth spot for the Buckeyes. Nevertheless, the committee rolled with the Tide and the news of Alabama getting in to the CFP caused outrage through both Ohio State and non-Buckeye fans alike.

“We finished top 10 offense and top 10 defense. We had to replace six guys early. Do I think we’re national championship-caliber team? Absolutely.” Head Coach Urban Meyer said according to Buckeyesports in a press conference following the CFP committee’s selection.

Much of the anger stems from Ohio State’s impressive resume, one which had proven to rival those of Alabama and other playoff competitors. Ohio State took down big names such as no.4 Wisconsin, no. 2 Penn State and no. 12 Michigan State, not to mention beating rival Michigan in Ann Arbor. At the same time, Alabama’s best opponents consisted of no. 19 Louisiana State University, no. 16 Mississippi State and now unranked Fresno State. Ohio State took down two frontrunners for the playoffs, while Alabama has not won against even a top fifteen opponent, except when they played Florida State week one while FSU was ranked no. 3. However, this was an inaccurate preseason ranking and Florida State finished 6-6, proving to not be a challenging opponent for Alabama. The only other time Alabama played a top ten team was against no. 6 Auburn, when they lost 26-14.

“Alabama doesn’t have a loss to unranked Iowa, something Ohio State does have,” Jackson H. ‘18 said, “The team Alabama lost to was a no. 6 Auburn, who was a top competitor. They’re more fit for the playoffs when you compare those losses.”

Alabama had one critical game to focus on this entire season, and was unable to rise to the challenge to defeat Auburn. None of Alabama’s opponents besides Auburn proved to even begin to rival the Crimson Tide, such as Mercer, Colorado State,Vanderbilt and more.

This isn’t to say Ohio State only played elite teams, but the Buckeyes’ schedule included several more challenging teams than Alabama’s. Also, in a pivotal game which would decide the fate of the CFP and Big 10 Championship game, Ohio State battled and triumphed over no. 2 Penn State. Though Ohio State did lose to Iowa, in the games which had more at stake, the Buckeyes were able to execute.

“When you compare the schedules of the two teams, Alabama practically had a bye week when they played Mercer, and that’s not something Ohio State had.” Justin Rehklau ‘18 said

Anyone who has been following college football from the beginning of the season will remember ESPN’s analysts preaching about the skill level of the Big 10 conference at the beginning of the year. While the South Eastern Conference has been dominant, the Big 10 finally surged ahead with powerhouses such as Penn State, Wisconsin, and of course, The Ohio State University.

Fans of College Football may also remember the CFP committee putting emphasis on what they called, “overall improvement” in teams. It is this criteria which caused Auburn to jump to no. 2 right after their win against Alabama. Ohio State did take two losses this season, but the improvement of the team was evident in the their responses. After the loss to Iowa, Ohio State came back to beat no. 12 Michigan State 48-3, and Illinois 52-14. Alabama did not show drastic improvement this season, and seemed to regress with a final week’s loss to Auburn. Also, with no conference championship to play in, Alabama remained idle while the Buckeyes proved themselves against Wisconsin, meaning they did not show the improvement the CFP claimed they were looking for.

Flash forward to now, when the College Football Playoff is set. As expected, the winners of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 Conference, Clemson and Oklahoma respectively, were selected to be two of the four in the playoff. The last two remaining spots were predicted by almost everyone to be filled with the winner of the SEC and Big 10. Georgia wrestled their way in as the winner of the SEC, but yet another SEC team was selected. The conference seen by many experts as the best in all of College Football was completely excluded from the playoff.

The bottom line is because of Alabama’s inability to rise to the occasion against Auburn, their facile regular season schedule, and Ohio State’s impressive performance against several top teams, the committee’s judgement should be called into question. The exclusion of Ohio State and selection of Alabama in the CFP is poorly justified, and is an injustice to the players of Ohio State and to Buckeye fans. Ohio State will play the no. 8 University of Southern California in the Cotton Bowl this year instead of playing in the playoffs where they belong, with heavy hearts, and a constant wondering of, “what could have been?”