Playoff Digest: Big Game Week

This week's College Football Playoff rankings included good news and bad for Ohio State. BuckeyeSports.com breaks it down what it all means with the pre-MSU edition of Playoff Digest.

At 7-1 through eight games, Ohio State is in the thick of the playoff race as it heads into Saturday's marquee matchup at No. 8 Michigan State

And with the College Football Playoff committee releasing its newest batch of rankings Tuesday night, the road to the four-team bracket is becoming ever clearer.

So as long as the Buckeyes are in the playoff race, BuckeyeSports.com has decided to put together our Playoff Digest. What does the Buckeyes ranking mean? What other games matter? What college football team is what fictional character?

These are the big questions of the day our panel of BSB editor Jeff Svoboda, writers Blake Williams and Ryan Ginn and intern Kane Anderson will attempt to answer each week. So sit back and enjoy the #hotsportstakes.

Is Ohio State’s ranking (14h) fair?
Ryan: I’m a little more uncertain about this week’s slot than last week’s, but I think it’s still more fair than unfair. It’s not Ohio State’s fault that the Michigan State game was scheduled for Nov. 8, but that’s the way it is. As such, the Buckeyes have had to wait until then for the chance to get a marquee win. There’s really nothing OSU can do about the fact that it doesn’t have an impressive win, but when you don’t have the aspect that the committee values most in the rankings, this is how it’s going to be. Luckily for OSU, that changes on Saturday.

Blake: The biggest potential gripe with the Buckeyes ranking is being slotted behind a two-loss Ole Miss team, but I still think No. 14 is a fair evaluation of this team. The loss to Virginia Tech, now 4-5, is the most significant blemish of any one-loss team, so the fact that all one-loss teams (aside from Duke) come in ahead of the Ohio State makes sense to me. Mississippi has lost two straight games, though falling by a combined seven points at LSU and home against Auburn isn’t as bad as losing one to the Hokies. The Rebels win over Alabama clearly carries a lot of weight, and it should.

Kane: Compared to last week, Ohio State’s ranking is definitely fair. Three of the teams placed ahead of the Buckeyes in last week’s rankings lost this past weekend, but Ole Miss stayed ahead of them still because, well, they’re in the SEC West. Ohio State rising two spots in a week is about what they could expect after beating the tar out of Illinois. The win didn’t prove much because of the Illini’s poor reputation, so the result of this weekend’s game will be the real test for the playoff committee to look over. Next week is when things get interesting in Columbus.

Jeff: Honestly, no. I guess I can see why Ole Miss is ahead of Ohio State at 11th -- the Rebels have played a much tougher schedule than OSU to this point and probably would have beaten Auburn on Saturday night were it not for that horrible freak injury to LaQuan Treadwell in the final minutes -- but if a two-loss SEC team is gonna be above Ohio State, then the Big Ten really is just about done here. This is an interesting and damning data point right now, though it'll be really interesting to see what happens if OSU wins Saturday. Will the MSU win jump the Buckeyes over the Rebels? And would the Rebels jump right back if they win the Egg Bowl? The Big Ten and Ohio State have to be worried, now.

A #hotsportstake on the CFP rankings…
Ryan: There’s no overall SEC bias among the committee, but it’s pretty clear that Alabama is given the benefit of the doubt for its past success (which conveniently enables future success). Under the committee’s stated reasoning for its rankings, there’s absolutely no case for the Crimson Tide to be ranked above TCU in this week’s poll. Committee chairman Jeff Long put on a pretty embarrassing defense of that choice, mumbling something about Alabama looking better on film. (Must’ve skipped the Arkansas game!) Both teams beat West Virginia, but TCU’s came on the road AND the Horned Frogs beat Oklahoma. If that’s the reward Alabama gets for beating nobody, it’s not hard to imagine where they’ll end up with wins against LSU and/or Auburn.

Blake: Two Big Ten teams will be ranked in the top 10 in the next poll. There will be chaos in the rankings this weekend. With Oregon at Utah, Alabama at LSU, Kansas State at TCU, Notre Dame at Arizona State and Baylor at Oklahoma, there will be a handful of big losses on Nov. 8. That will clear the way for the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan State game to remain/leap in to the top 10. If No. 13 Nebraska takes care of business at Wisconsin then their best win of the year will get them in the top 10 too.

Kane: The committee (and everyone else with a microphone in their hands) loves Oregon. I can never hear enough about how they are the best non-SEC team. The loss to Arizona reminds me of Stanford’s to Utah last year. Everyone is so quick to throw it under the table and saying they’re a different team now. Will that loss continue to be forgotten if Arizona loses some more games? That’s totally possible too. Basically, if Oregon wins at Utah this week then I don’t see the Ducks losing again and they’re for sure “in” no matter what.

Jeff: It really is the SEC's world and we're just living in it. The SEC has teams 1, 3, 5, 11, 16 and 20 in the rankings and it has a two-loss team ahead of one-loss teams from the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC. The SEC dominates the recruiting rankings, the NFL draft and even "College GameDay" locations. Its partnership with ESPN isn't gonna hurt business either. This isn't going to change anytime soon, and it's probably fair, but it's time people just went with it.

Compare one team to ... a fictional character
Ryan: As a football peasant who has used a fortuitous event to make its way to the first class group on a maiden voyage, Mississippi State is Jack Dawson from Titanic. Dawson saved Rose DeWitt Bukater from jumping off a ship, and MSU saved star QB Dak Prescott from flipping to LSU. Now he’s a Heisman candidate on an unbeaten team. Hopefully the Bulldogs find someone to share the floating door with so they don’t get left out in the cold come playoff selection time.

Blake: Mississippi State, the No. 1 team in the country by this and every ranking system, is very clearly Aladdin. I don’t know where they found their genie, but wishes are coming true for the Bulldogs. The problem is, like Aladdin, I don’t think Mississippi State is really a prince. At some point soon they will be turned back into a street rat with my money on Nov. 15 at Alabama. It will be tough for the Bulldogs to bounce back from that loss. Aladdin did get the girl in the end, so maybe MSU can pull off a playoff berth despite the looming exposure against the Tide. Beating Ole Miss the last week of the season and winning the SEC title game, akin to defeating Jafar, would get the street rats (I mean Bulldogs) into the final four.

Kane: LSU reminds me of Derek Zoolander. It seemed like they were into a decline the first half of the season, especially after a loss to up and coming Mississippi State (aka Hansel). But when they took down Ole Miss it seemed the comeback started and Mugatu is picking them to beat Alabama. Plus half the stuff Les Miles says sounds like a line that Derek would say.

Jeff: Arizona State is Doug from "The Hangover." They're a main character in this whole thing, being ranked ninth, but are they really truly even here?

This weekend’s upset alert
Ryan: Oregon. I’ve been a big critic of the Ducks’ softness over the years, and it pains me ever so slightly to make this pick in a year when I happen to think they’re actually the real deal. With that being said, the offensive line has serious injury problems. I think Utah gets the job done.

Blake: With a lot of matchups between highly ranked teams, few losses would actually qualify as an upset, so falling pretty far down the poll to find mine. I’ll go with Kentucky over Georgia. I think the Bulldogs are reeling after that horrific loss to Florida and it will show against the Wildcats in Lexington.

Kane: You’re going down this week, Duke. I have no idea how you became good all of a sudden, but this is football not basketball. A loss is coming your way after barely getting by multiple times this year. Syracuse is taking you down in the Carrier Dome this Saturday and we won’t have to hear of you again.

Jeff: Last week, I said Oregon wasn't that good, so I'll stick with that and say the Ducks better watch out as they trip to Utah. The Utes showed in the Michigan game earlier this year they have a solid defense and some playmakers on offense. I still think Oregon gets upset once more this year and this is as good a week as any.

Elimination Games
There are currently six regular-season games left that match up two teams above Ohio State in the rankings. These are those games.

Nov. 8: (7) Kansas State at (6) TCU
Nov. 8: (10) Notre Dame at (9) Arizona State
Nov. 15: (1) Mississippi State at (5) Alabama
Nov. 29: (1) Mississippi State at (11) Ole Miss
Nov. 29: (3) Auburn at (5) Alabama
Dec. 6: (7) Kansas State at (12) Baylor


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