Buckeyes Check In At No. 10 In CFP Rankings

By Jeff Rapp, October 31st, 2018

What kind of odds do you suppose someone would have gotten if he had proposed prior to the season that Kentucky would be slotted ahead of Ohio State when the initial College Football Playoff rankings were released the final week of October?

Remember, we are talking about football here.

That notion would have been laughable, right?

Well, that’s where the Buckeyes find themselves now that the CFP rankings have been unveiled. OSU (7-1), still reeling from a 49-20 loss at Purdue on Oct. 20, is behind the surprising Wildcats – and eight other teams – at No. 10.

Not at all surprising, of course, is that Alabama (8-0) is No. 1 in the only rankings that matter to those who aspire to make the College Football Playoff and fellow unbeatens Clemson (8-0) and Notre Dame (8-0) also are in the coveted top four at Nos. 2 and 4, respectively.

LSU (7-1), which hosts the Crimson Tide on Saturday night, checks in at No. 3.

The first two out at this point are No. 5 Michigan (7-1) and No. 6 Georgia (7-1). They are followed by No. 7 Oklahoma (7-1), No. 8 Washington State (7-1) and, as mentioned, No. 9 Kentucky (7-1).

Along with Michigan and Ohio State – who, of course, clash on Nov. 24 – the Big Ten also has Penn State (6-2) lurking at No. 14 and Iowa (6-2) at No. 16.

However, it’s pretty safe to assume that two-loss teams are on the outside looking in as far as the CFP top four is concerned unless there are drastic developments.

The Buckeyes don’t need Armegeddon but they certainly require some help as things stand currently. Urban Meyer’s maligned squad is staring at a November slate with home games against league rivals Nebraska and Michigan sandwiched around road trips to Michigan State and Maryland.

OSU very likely would need to keep its undefeated Meyer-era run going against UM and win the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis just to receive serious consideration.

The setback at Purdue was just the fifth in regular-season Big Ten play for Meyer in seven seasons as OSU coach but was eerily similar to the meltdown at Iowa last season. The Buckeyes overcame that defeat by winning the conference title in 2017 but the 31-point loss at Iowa combined with a 15-point home loss to Oklahoma was too much for the CFP selection committee to forgive.

Clearly, this year’s team knows another loss would be season-wrecking. The Buckeyes also know they are going to have to climb up in the rankings without any help from All-American defensive end Nick Bosa and talented wide receiver Austin Mack, who also appears to be lost for the season because of injury.

Even with all of those challenges, the OSU coaches can sell their players on the idea that a 12-1 record can get them where they want to go – which is not a return trip to the Cotton Bowl, by the way.

There hasn’t been a bevy of unexplainable upsets this season but we’ve got all of November ahead. OSU has to vault six spots but a win in The Game obviously takes care of one of those rungs. LSU losing to ‘Bama probably handles another.

Similarly, Georgia faces Kentucky this weekend and the winner might have a daunting date in the SEC title game. Plus, we’ve seen well-rated Notre Dame teams falter in November in the past.

Oklahoma, by the way, has to play at West Virginia the day after Thanksgiving and still has its annual tussle with Oklahoma State. Washington State appears to be for real but we’re still not sure.

There are scenarios. There are plenty of possibilities.

On the flip side, OSU isn’t getting a lot of help with its strength of schedule, which will be even more heavily scrutinized following the regular season.

The win over TCU in Dallas is losing steam – the Horned Frogs just lost to Kansas, for goodness sake – and the only real noteworthy victory the Buckeyes have over a Power 5 team at the moment is a one-point win over Penn State.

Any march to glory has to begin with an eye-opening push in November. The Buckeyes (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) will try to ignite such a run when they host Nebraska (2-6, 1-4) on Saturday (noon Eastern, FOX).