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Fantasy-booking Ohio State-Alabama showdown fun, not realistic

Ohio State-Alabama-Sugar Bowl-College Football Playoff
Ohio State last played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl during the inaugural College Football Playoff. (Chuck Cook/Imagn)

Question Of The Day

Fantasy-booking Ohio State-Alabama showdown fun, not realistic

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the possibility of a major schedule tweak? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Alabama is reportedly already looking at a backup plan if its marquee battle with USC is canceled.

Ohio State knows that if the setting can’t be modified, one of the potential outcomes for its highly-anticipated matchup with Oregon is that it also might get wiped off the schedule.

And while it’s certainly fun to link two of the most prestigious programs together and fantasy book a rematch of the incredible Sugar Bowl in the first College Football Playoff, there are way too many logistical hurdles to make it happen. Multiple sources at Ohio State described the chances of that switch happening at exactly zero.

Financially, it’s probably a guarantee that the television networks could make it worth the effort for the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide to stage what would be far and away the most competitive, highest-stakes nonconference game of the year. But that alone wouldn’t be enough to overcome all of the other issues that would arise from making that move so close to the scheduled start of the season.

If both of the original matchups were slated for the same week, it’s possible this might be a different story. But in this hypothetical scenario, Alabama and Ohio State would be turning around and forcing schedule changes for multiple other teams during an unprecedentedly-difficult time as the dominoes fell to try to get those programs together in either Week One or Two. Neither athletic director would be in a hurry to break the other existing contracts or force their peers to scramble to fill a spot on the schedule with such short notice, and that’s really where this potential backup plan unravels.

Ohio State-Oregon-Ohio State Buckeyes-College Football Playoff

A mural for Ohio State and Oregon ahead of their previous matchup in the national championship game. (Jerome Miron/Imagn)

There would be dozens of other details that would have to be worked out even if a date could be arranged, and it’s no small task right now to set up travel accommodations for an entire football program while also working with a venue to ensure it meets whatever safety requirements teams eventually require as part of the return-to-play blueprint. Certainly this season is going to require some flexibility, but if the schedule does wind up with different opponents on it, the possible matches for the Buckeyes wouldn’t include Alabama.

To play matchmaker from the outside, Ohio State would essentially only be looking at teams who also might have PAC-12 games cancelled in Week Two — or teams that share the same off date. So, from there, the Buckeyes would be looking at a pool of programs like Houston, Colorado State, UNLV or Wyoming. And while a road trip to Laramie would certainly be incredible, obviously any of those matchups would be a letdown compared to Oregon or the hopes of replacing it with Alabama.

To be clear: Right now Ohio State is operating under the belief that it will be playing at Oregon. There have been no public discussions about a cancellation, no indications that the series could be flipped with the Buckeyes playing host this year and no suggestion that other options are being pursued. To be completely honest, if the PAC-12 moves in a direction where it’s playing conference games only, the chances of Ohio State simply not playing in Week Two are probably higher than replacing the Ducks — and it’s certainly possible the Big Ten could wind up in a league-game-only situation as well depending on what happens over the next month or so.

It’s still too early for definitive decisions, and nobody knows exactly what the season is going to look like at this point. But if Ohio State is going to play Alabama, it will have to be in the College Football Playoff.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.