Six teams are still alive for the four spots in the initial College Football Playoff. The 12-person committee will unveil its rankings in the early afternoon, and while many people have a gut feeling as to what might happen, the truth is that no one knows for sure.
The lone power-conference unbeaten, Florida State, seems to be assured a spot in the playoff despite entering the weekend fourth in the CFP rankings. Top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Oregon also seem to be in, leaving one spot for No. 3 TCU (11-1) and No. 6 Baylor (11-1), the Big 12 co-champs, and No. 5 Ohio State (12-1).
All have similar résumés, and two of the three will be out come Sunday afternoon. In the Buckeyes’ favor is a fan base that travels, 11 consecutive wins including a pair of road wins against ranked teams, and a 59-0 thumping of No. 13 Wisconsin in Saturday night’s Big Ten Championship Game.
It was the last bit of action the committee will see before it makes its final four, and the Buckeyes left Indianapolis secure in the knowledge that it put its best possible foot forward.
“To be honest, I don’t know what will happen, but we made a statement tonight that showed that we want to get in that final four,” linebacker Curtis Grant said.
“I feel like we made a statement, but that’s out of my hands,” linebacker Darron Lee added.
The victory was as comprehensive as they come, the program’s best-ever shutout win vs. a ranked program and one of the largest in college football history.
“We just beat the No. 13 ranked team in the country 59-0,” senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said. “They have a Heisman Trophy quarterback that was held to 76 yards and a 2.9 average. They have the no. 1 defense I think in the Big Ten and how many yards did we put up? 550 (yards), 59-0. Just look at the stat sheet, I think that will speak for itself. I guess there’s a way, but it’d be tough not to put us in the playoff.”
Senior lineman Michael Bennett made a similar pitch for an OSU team that has jumped 11 spots since the initial playoff rankings were introduced in late October. The Buckeyes won on the road vs. ranked Michigan State and Minnesota teams to start November then ran away from the 13th-ranked Badgers.
“Watch the film,” Bennett said. “Watch the film of what we just did. I think they’re going to say, ‘Well, Wisconsin wasn’t that good of a team,’ and I think that’s bullcrap. I think Wisconsin was a great team. They didn’t get to the Big Ten Championship Game without being a great team and do what they did.
“We functioned on all cylinders tonight and when you see something like that happen you have to take a step back and wonder, ‘Who can’t they beat when they are functioning on all cylinders?’ I personally think we can beat anybody.”
While inconsistencies and turnovers had hurt Ohio State in their previous big wins, everything went right for the Buckeyes and multiple players had their best performances vs. the Badgers.
“I’m just going to say no,” Bennett said when asked if anyone could beat OSU when it played at that level. “When everybody steps up the way they did and respond to adverse situations this week. This is a tough team and now it’s a fundamentally sound team and that’s hard to beat. It’s a team with passion and a vision.”