COLUMBUS — The math is so simple for Ohio State, the actual numbers don’t even matter.
Anywhere the Buckeyes checked in on Tuesday night during the initial release of the College Football Playoff rankings, there was never going to be any doubt about the task ahead of them.
The rest is almost certainly going to take care of itself for No. 10 Ohio State.
That might sound like a broken record, but it remains as true as ever for the Buckeyes, regardless of that margin of defeat in the upset loss at Purdue. If they go out and make a perfect run through November, cap it with a win over a Michigan team that currently sits at No. 5, then follow it up with another Big Ten championship, there will be no denying the overall resumé for Urban Meyer’s team.
Yes, the one loss will be ugly. But the key difference this year as compared to last is that it would be the only defeat for the Buckeyes. And while it’s important to note that it’s not a given that Ohio State will have solved all of the problems coming out of the off date to get back in championship form, it stands to reason that it won’t be able to run the table ahead of it without once again tapping into the kind of potential few teams in the country can match.
There are always doomsday scenarios at this point. But in college football, those really aren’t good for much more than spirited debates and rarely ever materialize as a valid concern. Just look at the upsets around the country last weekend while Ohio State had its feet on the couch in case a reminder is necessary.
The Buckeyes can safely tune out those conversations for a number of reasons. But the primary one also hasn’t really changed from any point in the playoff era: The only thing that matters for Ohio State is claiming five more victories to trump the one loss.
Sure, there are actual numbers to look at now. Yes, the selection committee has given an update on how it’s viewing the body of work so far, and clearly Ohio State hasn’t done enough to truly impress that panel quite yet. And maybe it’s fair to look at the league as a whole and believe right now that the Big Ten might not get the benefit of the doubt.
But that’s all about this particular moment. And in the end, the first rankings have typically proven to have only limited predictive value for the final invitations.
The last month of the regular season is where the heavy lifting is done. The week after that is where some hardware could be won. And from where Ohio State is sitting right now, everything remains in reach for a playoff spot.
All it has to do is win.
The full College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday night are below.
- Notre Dame
- Washington State
- Ohio State
- West Virginia
- Penn State
- Mississippi State
- Texas A&M
- North Carolina State
- Boston College
- Fresno State
- Iowa State