My immediate superior Jason McIntyre doesn’t want to hear any Ohio State-related playoff chatter until the Buckeyes beat a quality opponent. While he is correct to point out Urban Meyer’s team has failed its only true test (at home against Oklahoma) and has been beating up on inferior opponents, he is ignoring some important elements in playoff prognostication.
Certainly, a team’s résumé to date is part of the calculation. But so too is a team’s potential ceiling, upcoming schedule, and ability to navigate to a conference title.
Ohio State has road wins over Indiana, Rutgers, and Nebraska and home wins against Army, UNLV and Maryland under its belt. Not entirely impressive. But the way the Buckeyes have destroyed opponents has to count for something.
All six of those victories have been by at least four touchdowns. J.T. Barrett’s offense has scored at least 54 points/game in the last four routs. The senior quarterback has thrown 21 touchdowns and one interception. Running back J.K. Dobbins leads a rushing attack averaging 250 yards/game on the ground. The Buckeyes are second in yards/game, third in scoring, and have amassed the most first downs in the nation. On defense, Ohio State’s been stout, allowing only 15.4 points/game. They are 11th in defensive efficiency.
Despite flunking their one true test, Ohio State has several more opportunities to make a statement. Again, we are talking about a team already at No. 6 in both polls, already knocking on the top four’s door.
The Buckeyes next host Penn State. Currently they are 9.5-point favorites. That number could come down if Penn State dominates Michigan, but probably not under 6. Then comes a trip to Iowa and a home date versus Michigan State before the traditional season finale against Michigan.
Ohio State will likely be favored in all these games. Of the four teams competing for the Big Ten East, they have the easiest road. Penn State must travel to Columbus and East Lansing. Michigan, already sadled with a loss, has road trips to Wisconsin and Happy Valley and find a way to beat their fiercest rivals for any hope. Michigan State, the surprise team of the division, must come to Columbus and likely won’t do better than 6-2 in conference play.
Why wouldn’t we discuss the team with the easiest route to Indianapolis and the championship game against Wisconsin?
Of course, we could wait until the Ohio State-Penn State game has a result to discuss the Buckeyes in the final four. We could, to be safe. Then again, if the Nittany Lions win, there will be no reason at all to speculate about OSU’s playoff potential.
May as well get on the forefront of that discussion, just in case it lasts until the end. My guess is that it will.