On October 24, one of the highest-ranked college football teams finally steps onto the football field. The Ohio State Buckeyes, fifth on the AP Poll, host the Nebraska Cornhuskers in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the NCAAF Season. Welcome back to college football Big Ten Conference.
Unlike the October 17 game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs. College football fans and sports bettors won’t watch the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers clash because they’re interested in who might win. Almost everyone agrees that Ohio State will win the game. Most want to know if the Buckeyes are good enough to impress the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, where Clemson and Notre Dame reside, and the Southeastern Conference, home to the Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs, started their seasons in September. Clemson already has five wins.
Alabama has beaten Georgia as well, but to give us a sense of how CFP voters are waiting to see what the Buckeyes may bring to the table, we must only check the rankings. Even though Georgia lost 24-41 to Alabama, they still rank ahead of Ohio State on the AP Poll at fourth.
How good are the Ohio State Buckeyes? If not the Columbus team, could Penn State or some other Big Ten squad break up the current top four and secure a spot in the College Football Playoff after just eight games?
Those are huge questions. Let’s go through the scenarios for a Big Ten team to make it into the College Football Playoff.
Scenario 1 – Ohio State runs the table, Clemson dominates Notre Dame
The first scenario makes the most sense. Notre Dame must play Clemson on November 7. If the best team in the nation dominates the Fighting Irish, Ohio State, should they go undefeated, are almost a lock.
Notre Dame could lose to Clemson on November 7 and then upset Clemson in the ACC Championship. That would hurt Ohio State’s chances for sure because the CFP must accept both Clemson and Notre Dame, grabbing two of the four spots.
Scenario 2 – Notre Dame and Clemson finish with one loss, Georgia loses the SEC Championship to Alabama
If both the Irish and the Tigers finish with a single loss, and right now, it doesn’t look like Clemson will lose any game this season, Ohio State must hope that Alabama puts another beating onto the Bulldogs.
A Georgia upset over Alabama, along with a Notre Dame loss to Clemson and a Clemson loss to Notre Dame, means the current four ranked teams have just a single loss on their schedules. In a typical Big Ten Season, Ohio State would enter the CFP ranked first.
But the Buckeyes play four fewer games due to the COVID-19 late start than squads in the ACC and SEC. Fewer games, and fewer games versus the top competition, puts Ohio State’s backs against the wall to make the CFP.
Scenario 3 – Ohio State goes undefeated, Clemson goes undefeated, and Alabama goes undefeated
If all three current favorites to win the 2021 College Football National Championship go undefeated, the Buckeyes should grab a spot. Starting late means something, but the CFP selection committee will create a playoff for the nation’s four best teams.
If Clemson dominates Notre Dame twice and Alabama beats Georgia twice while Ohio State beats Penn State on October 31, the committee can’t leave out the Buckeyes. Two losses would disqualify any team even if those teams played more games.
Scenario for the Penn State Nittany Lions to make the CFP
A scenario does exist for the Nittany Lions to make the College Football Playoff. It won’t be easy for the Lions to get into the playoff even if they beat the Buckeyes on Halloween, but there’s a way for them to grab a spot.
First, Penn State must upset Ohio State on October 31. No scenario exists if the Nittany Lions lose that gargantuan gridiron contest. Suppose the Lions somehow do upset the Buckeyes. In that case, they must then run the table, including beating, hopefully, an undefeated or one-loss Minnesota or Wisconsin squad in the Big Ten Championship.
Then, Penn State must hope that Alabama and Clemson go undefeated. If that happens, Penn State should grab a spot. If, though, Notre Dame upsets Clemson either on November 7 or in the ACC Championship, the committee might reward both the Fighting Irish and the Tigers.
The same goes for Alabama and Georgia. If Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship, it may not matter what Penn State does. Those who decide will vote to include both Georgia and Alabama. That takes two spots away from Penn State.
Oklahoma State is a wildcard for Penn State but not for Ohio State
There’s a chance Oklahoma State goes undefeated this season. The Cowboys are the class of the Big 12. If Oklahoma State doesn’t lose a game, Alabama and Georgia each lose, and Clemson goes undefeated. Even if Penn State wins all their games, the Nittany Lions are out.
The playoff committee will not reward the Lions over the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Penn State plays fewer games than Oklahoma State this season. That’s a strike against the Nittany Lions. But, this is where it gets unfair. It won’t mean anything for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Even after Alabama blasted Georgia in their head-to-head, the Ohio State Buckeyes are the second choice to win next year’s national title game. Clemson hovers around even money. The Buckeyes are between 2-to-1 to 3-to-1 while Alabama is an above 3-to-1 third choice. The respect that sports bettors have for Ohio State knows no bounds.
Even bookies that set their lines and offer free betting software, we call bookmakers who pay per head agents, have the Buckeyes more a favorite than the Crimson Tide. That tells us that most don’t just want Ohio State to make the College Football Playoff. They expect the Buckeyes to play in a semifinal.
Big Ten teams Ohio State and Penn State start their quest for the NCAAF Championship on Saturday, October 24. The scenarios favor the Buckeyes making it to the College Football Playoff. Penn State’s chances to play for a championship aren’t as good.