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Paul Finebaum Reveals Ohio State's Path To The College Football Playoff

Paul Finebaum

Paul Finebaum

Saturday was brutal for Ohio State fans, as the Buckeyes not only lost to arch rival Michigan, but got run off their home turf in a 45-23 loss.

But as demoralizing as the defeat may have been, the team's dream of a national championship might not be totally dead.

Ohio State fell to No. 5 in the updated College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday. As a result, the Buckeyes still have a chance to make the four-team postseason field. 

There has been quite a bit of debate about what needs to happen for them to sneak back into the playoff picture. Paul Finebaum said on ESPN's First Take Wednesday that the only way he believes Ohio State should make the playoff would be if USC loses to Utah in Friday's Pac-12 championship game.

While each of the top four teams will play in their respective championship games this weekend, Finebaum believes that Georgia, Michigan and TCU, each of which are currently undefeated, should still remain above the Buckeyes in the rankings with a loss, barring "complete annihilation."

For USC, however, a loss would be their second of the season to the Utes, opening the door for one-loss Ohio State.

“TCU, to me, should not lose a spot because they are in a championship game and Ohio State isn’t," Finebaum said. "And I think that’s really the rub here. It’s happened before. Alabama did that a couple years ago. Alabama got in when they did not play for the championship. But Southern Cal will drop out, because it would be the second straight loss. 

"But TCU has a good resume. I know we’ve had some fun with them this year, ... but they’re starting to impress me. I know I’m the last guy to the party, and I may not even get in the party, but I think they should stay in, should they lose. Unless it’s just a complete annihilation.”

Finebaum's statement prompted some debate from Stephen A. Smith and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo. Russo agreed with Finebaum that USC would fall out of the top four with a loss, but he believes Alabama would then be more deserving of the final spot than Ohio State.

Smith agreed. He insisted that both TCU and USC need to win this weekend in order to secure their spots in the playoff field. But if only one of the two loses, he would replace that team with the Crimson Tide rather than the Buckeyes.

Smith emphatically declared that the Buckeyes don't deserve a shot at redemption after the way they lost to Michigan. 

"When I look at Michigan and Ohio State, Ohio State doesn’t even deserve the opportunity to face Michigan again in the College Football Playoff when you get your behind whipped that bad," Smith said. "They got stomped. We gotta take the 'The' off of 'The Ohio State.' Just call them 'Ohio State.' That’s how bad they got beat.”

Of course, the playoff selection committee's opinion carries far more weight than Finebaum's or Smith's. And considering the Buckeyes are currently ranked one spot ahead of Alabama and neither team plays this week, it seems impossible for their positioning to flip.

A TCU loss Saturday would result in an intriguing resume battle between the 12-1 Horned Frogs and 11-1 Buckeyes. But at this point, a USC loss seems like the one sure way for Ohio State to get a shot at playing for a national title.