Ohio State’s fate rests with play­off com­mit­tee

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mitch Stacy

COLUM­BUS, OHIO >> Revel­ing in Satur­day’s thrilling win over Michi­gan and shut out of the Big Ten Cham­pi­onship game, Ohio State can only wait a week to see whether it will get a na­tional play­off spot.

The No. 2 Buck­eyes (111, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 2 CFP) lost con­trol of their des­tiny when they stum­bled at Penn State on Oct. 22. Their win over Michi­gan put into a play a tie-breaker sys­tem that gives No. 8 Penn State the Big Ten East Divi­sion ti­tle and a shot at No. 5 Wis­con­sin in the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game next S.

The sce­nario also puts the play­off com­mit­tee in the un­prece­dented po­si­tion of pos­si­bly putting a team among the top four that won’t have a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship on its re­sume. Will Ohio State’s strength of sched­ule, qual­ity wins and “body of work” be enough in the eyes of com­mit­tee mem­bers to put the Buck­eyes into the four-team New Year’s Eve play­off?

The an­swer will be re­vealed Dec. 4.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers are given the flex­i­bil­ity to “ex­am­ine what­ever data they be­lieve is rel­e­vant to in­form their de­ci­sions,” in­clud­ing the in­stant clas­sic 30-27 dou­ble-over­time win over No. 3 Michi­gan and the na­tion’s top de­fense last Satur­day.

“Our body of work stands for it­self,” Ohio State guard Billy Price said. “We beat a very good Wis­con­sin team, Ok­la­homa, the team up north (Michi­gan), Ne­braska. Those are very qual­ity wins. Yes, there might have been some strug­gles, but a win is a win. In the Big Ten you are not given wins. Our body of work shows that we be­long in this play­off pic­ture.”

Ohio State coach Ur­ban Meyer — who fell to the turf mo­ments af­ter Cur­tis Sa­muel ran for the win­ning touch­down Satur­day night — was ei­ther too flus­tered to think about it im­me­di­ately af­ter the game or didn’t want to get into it.

“I think we’re one of the top teams in the coun­try,” Meyer said.

Ohio State recorded three wins over AP top 10 teams : No. 8 Wis­con­sin, No. 10 Ne­braska and No. 3 Michi­gan. Plus, the Buck­eyes beat No. 14 Ok­la­homa back on Sept. 17.

“I mean it’s re­ally out of our hands,” quar­ter­back J.T. Barrett said. “At this time I think we are one of the top four teams in the coun­try, per­son­ally, but I think that, like I said, it’s up to the com­mit­tee to do their thing.”

Ohio State play­ers and coaches will watch the Big Ten Cham­pi­onship on TV like ev­ery­body else Satur­day night, know­ing that the com­mit­tee could choose to move the winner into the top four and bump the Buck­eyes out­side. A vic­tory by No. 5 Wis­con­sin (9-2, 7-2, No. 6 CFP) could be more ben­e­fi­cial to Ohio State, be­cause the Buck­eyes beat the Badgers 30-23 in over­time a week be­fore losing to Penn State (10-2, 8-1, No. 7 CFP) by three points in Oc­to­ber.

Re­gard­less of who wins that game, Ohio State cen­ter Pat Elflein — who played in his last game at Ohio Sta­dium and cel­e­brated on the field with thou­sands of scar­let-clad fans who poured from the seats — be­lieves the Buck­eyes be­long.

“How can you keep us out?” he said.

The other is­sue for the com­mit­tee is whether Michi­gan be­longs among the top four, de­spite hav­ing two losses. The Wolver­ines shut down Barrett and the Ohio State of­fense for much of the game and likely would have won if not for two dis­as­trous in­ter­cep­tions by quar­ter­back Wil­ton Speight. Coach Jim Har­baugh said his team lost only be­cause of poor of­fi­ci­at­ing, and af­ter­ward play­ers made a case for their in­clu­sion in play­off.

“Along with Alabama, we are ar­guably one of the best teams in the coun­try,” Speight said.

JAY LAPRETE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ohio State head coach Ur­ban Meyer shouts to his play­ers against Michi­gan dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NCAA col­lege foot­ball game Satur­day in Colum­bus, Ohio. Ohio State beat Michi­gan 30-27 in over­time.

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