COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Ohio State football and Michigan, winning in tight fashion last week was the exception to their 2022 norms.
TCU, which needed a field goal as time expired to win 29-28 at Baylor, another nail-biter merely threw another nail-biter on the pile. According to College Football Playoff committee chair Boo Corrigan, the difference between controlling a win and snatching one from the jaws of defeat is the prime reason why OSU, Michigan and TCU were ranked in that order behind Georgia in Tuesday’s reveal.
“Every week we go through it and make sure that the first things we do is look at 1-4 and make sure we’re comparing it and the games from the previous week, as well as offense and defense,” Corrigan said.
“The balance of Ohio State, the balance of Michigan, TCU is 8-0 against teams above .500 and has been impressive to the committee. As we look at their ability to come back in games, where to a large degree OSU and Michigan have not (needed to).”
The winner of The Game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday all but locks up a playoff spot (all apologies to whoever stumbles out of the Big Ten West and into Lucas Oil Stadium). The loser may join them, as previous lurkers such as Tennessee keep falling by the wayside.
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Ohio State obviously cannot concern itself with contingency plans. it controls a destiny it has pursued for almost a full calendar year, since Michigan upended last season’s playoff rankings with a 42-27 victory in The Game in Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes want to avenge that game on its own merits, sure, but a win also secures the Big Ten East and sends them to Indianapolis to be the heavy favorite in the conference championship game.
Yet while no rankings but the last ones truly matter, the progression of the past four weeks suggests an OSU win might carry an added benefit. If the Wolverines win, OSU’s better nonconference schedule gives it a better chance to absorb a loss Saturday and make the playoff.
If the Buckeyes win, Michigan’s lack of nonconference respect may leave it vulnerable to ending up on the wrong side of the Selection Sunday reveal.
The committee placed LSU at No. 5. This is the doomsday scenario for the loser of The Game, because if two-loss LSU beats an undefeated Georgia in the SEC championship game, both will make the playoff.
The committee has concerns about USC’s defense, for good reason. Even with only one loss by a single point on the road at No. 14 Utah, the committee still left the Trojans behind two-loss LSU. However, with Saturday’s game against Notre Dame and a Pac-12 championship game against Oregon or Washington (probably), USC could soon have four ranked wins. That would leave a one-loss Michigan team that has only beaten Penn State at home in the dust.
Clemson is probably salty about being left at No. 8, behind two-loss Alabama. Yet the Tigers could still emerge as the one-loss ACC champion. The list of victories already includes No. 16 Florida State and No. 25 Louisville, and ACC championship game opponent North Carolina is ranked No. 17.
Ohio State would be vulnerable in some of these comparisons, too, had Notre Dame not engaged so urgently in resume repair over the past few weeks. The Irish were up to No. 15 Tuesday night, which gives OSU two top-15 wins after their road win at Penn State.
Again, the Buckeyes don’t schadenfreude as a motivator. After missing out last season, they’ll gladly take the win-and-you’re-in route. With The Game only days away, though, it is clear which team is better position to sneak in if things don’t go their way on Saturday.
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