Ohio State’s College Football Playoff chances just got a huge boost.
The Buckeyes got the help they needed on Friday night when USC suffered its second loss of the season to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, opening the door for Ohio State to take its place in the top four of Sunday’s final CFP rankings.
After a 17-3 start to the game for USC, Utah scored 44 of the game’s final 51 points to beat the Trojans and win their second straight Pac-12 title.
With the Trojans’ loss to the Utes – the only team who beat USC in the regular season – Ohio State is now one of only four remaining FBS teams with one loss or fewer. The Buckeyes are currently the only team in the country with exactly one loss, as Georgia, Michigan and TCU are all undefeated entering their conference championship games Saturday.
Given that a two-loss team has never made the CFP, that makes it likely the Bulldogs, Wolverines, Horned Frogs and Buckeyes will be the four teams in this year’s playoff.
Assuming Georgia, Michigan and TCU all win Saturday, the Buckeyes project to be the No. 4 seed in the playoff and face Georgia in its own backyard in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl. Should Georgia or TCU lose, it’s possible Ohio State could face Michigan in a rematch of The Game in either a 1 vs. 4 or 2 vs. 3 matchup in the playoff semifinals.
Ohio State won’t be able to fully celebrate a return to the playoff until the final rankings are revealed at 12:15 p.m. Sunday. Some will argue that Ohio State shouldn‘t be rewarded for another team losing while not playing this weekend, and CFP selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan didn’t completely rule out the possibility that a team behind Ohio State in this week’s rankings could still move up in the final rankings.
Based on how the CFP committee has treated two-loss teams historically, though, the Buckeyes can go into the weekend feeling very confident about their chances of making the playoff no matter what happens on Saturday.