On Dec. 3, Ohio State fans huddled around television sets, glued to ESPN, to watch the final College Football Playoff rankings. While Ohio State had been ranked eighth heading into the weekend, Buckeye fans believed that their team had done enough to vault into the top four to secure a playoff spot.
After Oklahoma defeated TCU in the Big 12 Championship Game, Georgia's convincing win over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, and Clemson's domination of Miami in the ACC Championship Game, Ohio State needed a win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game to even be in the discussion. The Buckeyes were pushed for four quarters by the previously undefeated Badgers, but came out on the winning end, 27-21. All Urban Meyer and company could do after that was wait and hope.
Those playoff hopes were vanquished at 12:30 p.m. ET, as ESPN unveiled that 12-1 Alabama had received the coveted fourth spot, edging Ohio State out of the playoff. Fans are obviously disappointed, wondering what might have been. So why did the selection committee leave out an 11-win, conference champion? Here are three reasons:
3 Reasons Why Ohio State Was Not Selected for the College Football Playoff
1. The blowout losses
Ohio State was outplayed badly in two significant losses, against Oklahoma and Iowa. The Oklahoma loss was way back in early September (31-16) but still left the Buckeyes with virtually no wiggle room for the remainder of the season. While Ohio State handled its business in weeks three through seven, with dominating wins over Army, UNLV, at Rutgers, Maryland, and at Nebraska, the college football world wanted to see how the Buckeyes would fare against then-undefeated and second-ranked Penn State. Ohio State was able to mount a furious comeback against the Nittany Lions to secure a one-point victory, 39-38. All the Buckeyes had to do to keep the momentum going was go on the road to face Iowa. The Hawkeyes routed Ohio State 55-24, making getting back into the playoff conversation an uphill climb with just three games remaining in the regular season.
2. The inconsistency
As stated previously, Ohio State needed a massive comeback against Penn State, which was followed up by the inexplicable blowout loss at Iowa. The inconsistent theme plagued the Buckeyes throughout, as they would often play poorly when it was least expected. On the road at Michigan, Ohio State fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, before coming alive to win 31-20 to clinch the Big Ten East Division. Then on Saturday in the conference title game, the Buckeyes had multiple opportunities to put Wisconsin away, but allowed the Badgers to hang around before claiming a 27-21 victory that wasn't secure until Damon Webb intercepted UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook with a little more than a minute remaining.
3. The speculation
Both the blowout losses and the inconsistency provided a narrative of speculation for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee during their final evaluations. While Alabama did not play for the SEC championship, Ohio State had one final opportunity to impress the committee on Saturday night, but did not exactly succeed. The close win over Wisconsin, combined with the inconsistency over the course of the season, convinced the committee that Alabama was the better team in 2017.
While Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer were both disappointed, both handled the news with tremendous class. Delany stated, "We put full faith and confidence in the CFP selection committee and recognize the difficult decision they had to make this year. We also want to congratulate the four teams that were selected to participate in this year's semifinals."
Meyer was equally magnanimous in his media appearances, emphasizing that his focus now would be on winning the Cotton Bowl, the Buckeyes' bowl destination, for his graduating seniors who have done so much for the program.
Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel used to state that, "We will get as our works deserve." The 2017 season for the Buckeyes, for all of its ups and downs, may reflect that sentiment when people remember this campaign years from now.