For the second consecutive year the Ohio State Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship, and for the second consecutive year they will not be participating in the College Football Playoff. But at the end of the day the Buckeyes once again have no one to blame except for themselves. Last year it was a 31-point loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes that prevented Ohio State from making the College Football Playoff, while this time around it was 29-point loss to the Purdue Boilermakers as well as a close victory over the Maryland Terrapins that prevented them from getting into the field of four.
It took a failed two conversion by Maryland on November 17th to secure in a 52-51 win for Ohio State, but in the process they were exposed. In the contest the Buckeyes surrendered 535 yards of total offense to Maryland which included 339 on the ground as Ohio State’s once proud defense now looked suspect.
The Buckeyes would rebound to destroy the Michigan Wolverines 62-39 in their regular season finale as they torched the nation’s top ranked defense. The win over Michigan would allow Ohio State to move up from tenth to sixth in the College Football Playoff Rankings. And as the victory over the Wolverines meant that the Buckeyes would win the Big Ten East, the deck was still stacked against them heading into the conference title game.
One position in the College Football Playoff had already been clinched ahead of championship Saturday since the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are not members of any conference for football as their 12-0 regular season record solidified their status. The Buckeyes not only needed to defeat the Northwestern Wildcats in the Big Ten Championship Game, but they also needed some serious help. This help needed to see either the Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, and Oklahoma Sooners lose in their respective conference title games which didn’t happen. And when things ended this past Saturday night, Ohio State’s 45-24 over a five-loss Northwestern squad meant that they would Pasadena bound for the Rose Bowl, but not booking a flight to the playoff.
There are those out there who will see Ohio State having had the playoff door slammed in their faces for a second consecutive year as “SEC bias”, or “anti-Big Ten”, but make no mistake about it that the committee got it right.
This year’s College Football Playoff will feature three undefeated teams as Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame have yet to taste defeat. The playoff was established to ensure an undisputed champion of college football as for years the top teams sometimes didn’t face each other in the postseason due to conference tie-in to specific bowl games which is no longer the case. Even the Bowl Championship Series could not escape controversy as in 2004, Oklahoma, along with the USC Trojans and Auburn Tigers all finished the regular season undefeated, but it was Auburn that was left out in the cold.
Yes Ohio State did their part to schedule a non-conference game versus an opponent from a Power Five Conference this season, but their 40-28 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs didn’t carry that much weight since they finished the regular season with a record of 6-6. It was also a down year for the Big Ten Conference as Northwestern was able to win the Big Ten West in spite of finishing 8-5 as that along with the fact that Ohio State lost to a Purdue squad that lost at home to the Eastern Michigan Eagles of the Mid-American Conference is not a good look.
With Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame all being undefeated, the final spot in the College Football Playoff came down to Ohio State, Oklahoma, and the Georgia Bulldogs. Oklahoma’s win over the Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship Game enhanced their chances, and although that Georgia lost to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game to give them two defeats on the year, the committee still liked them more than Ohio State.
So once again it has been spelled out in clear black and white for all to see, and that you need to take care of your business and not rely on someone else. The Buckeyes were hoping for a repeat of 2014 when they were able to sneak in the back door to the College Football Playoff to get past TCU and the Baylor Bears. But this time around as well as last year, Ohio State had to deal with the blue bloods of the sport. Unlike TCU and Baylor, Oklahoma football carries a ton of weight, and the same can be said for Notre Dame who didn’t play this past Saturday. Clemson and Alabama are mainstays in the playoff, and winning their respective conferences, while also going undefeated meant that they were heading back again.
There will be those who will once again bring up the notion of expansion to the playoff which in itself should not be acknowledged. Expanding the playoff will water down the tournament, cheapen championship Saturday, make “student-athletes” extend themselves more than they already need to be, and open the door for teams who shouldn’t be there to have a chance. Expanding the field from four to eight would give a conference such as the Pac-12 inclusion into the field in spite of the fact that they clearly didn’t deserve it, and when it is all said and done, there would then be a ninth school that’d be claiming “why not us”.
Yes it stinks if you’re the Big Ten that your conference does not have a seat at the table for a second consecutive year, but we knew this going in that this could be a possibility. The committee talked about two teams getting in from the Southeastern Conference which is what happened last year, while the Notre Dame factor kicked in this year. This is a system that the top powers in the sports agreed upon, and whether you like it or not, it’s hear to stay.