Ohio State football fans are excited about the possibility of a berth in the College Football Playoff, but that shouldn’t be the focus with Wisconsin waiting ahead.
The latest College Football Playoff rankings came out on Tuesday night and Ohio State remains withing shouting distance of making the top four, settling in at the eighth spot.
There’s plenty of opportunity to move up, with every team save for Alabama playing on championship weekend. The Buckeyes need a lot of help, and that’s precisely why you should all stop focusing on the playoffs.
Before you go nuts, let’s level set just a bit. I want Ohio State to make the playoffs and I want Ohio State to be able to take their shot at a National Championship. I think Ohio State could do well in the final four and I think that, Iowa loss aside, the Buckeyes are one of the nation’s best teams. Don’t confuse a lack of obsession on the playoffs for apathy towards the same rankings. I’m choosing to focus on the team immediately in front of the Buckeyes: The Wisconsin Badgers.
It’s important to remember a few things. Urban Meyer has exactly one lone Big Ten Championship to his credit at Ohio State. That is exactly one more than Jim Harbaugh, the target of much criticism from Ohio State fans for his own inability to win a conference championship. Ironically. the last time the Buckeyes won a Big Ten title was in 2014 when they blew out the Badgers.
There’s also a blemish on Urban Meyer’s record in the Big Ten title game. No. 2 Ohio State was beaten by No. 10 Michigan State in 2013 34-24.
Jeremy Langford ran for 128 yards and a touchdown and Connor Cook threw for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns to overcome a 24-20 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. That loss pushed Ohio State out of the playoffs only to then fall to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
History is not kind to Ohio State in “look ahead” games, where focus on an opponent a week or two away distracts from the one on the field. This season is a perfect example, where Ohio State was rolled by Iowa a week ahead of a big game against Michigan State.
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The 2016 campaign saw Ohio State escape against the Spartans by a single point ahead of The Game. 2015 saw a three point loss at home to Michigan State the week ahead of The Game and the first real chatter around the playoffs begun to dominate Columbus headlines.
To keep the playoffs in mind, how does winning a Big Ten title not help?
With the other games taking place on Saturday, Ohio State is best served by staying laser focused on winning their own conference championship game. A loss knocks out the Buckeyes, no matter who wins the Big 12, ACC, and SEC. If Ohio State fans want the argument of a Big Ten title to push the Buckeyes ahead of Alabama, Georgia, and Miami, that Big Ten title has to we earned first.
Wisconsin is not just another conference foe. Wisconsin is undefeated and criticize their schedule all you want, but there is still a zero in the loss column for the Badger.
The same Iowa team that torched Ohio State was rolled 38-14 by Wisconsin. The Badgers still have the third leading rusher in all of college football in Jonathan Taylor. They still have one of the best defenses statistically in the country, one that leads the Big Ten in every meaningful category.
Ohio State cannot afford to be thinking playoffs when there is a Big Ten game left to be played.
Ohio State fans cannot afford to be overwhelmed by all of the unlikely playoff scenarios when a conference championship is still up for grabs. So stop focusing on the playoffs and instead focus on the Big Ten Championship, the challenge ahead right now.