If Ohio State has any hope of making the four-team College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes will need some help.
In the latest rankings released Tuesday night, the playoff selection committee slotted Ohio State No. 8. This week’s rankings are the second-to-last, with the final list set to be released on Sunday after this weekend’s conference championship games.
The current top four include Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes can make a big case for themselves by beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game Saturday in Indianapolis.
Even if they can beat the Badgers, Ohio State still needs some other dominoes to fall their way. The biggest obstacle might be Alabama, which is No. 5 in the latest rankings and the most likely to ascend into the top four if any of the current teams lose.
Alabama has one loss, which came against their rival and current No. 2 Auburn last weekend. Ohio State has two losses, including an embarrassing 55-24 drubbing by Iowa.
Since it lost to Auburn last weekend, Alabama will not play in the SEC title game and will not have another chance to lose before the final playoff rankings.
Another major problem for the Buckeyes is this weekend’s slate of conference championship games pit top teams against each other, so even if top four teams lose, they could be replaced by teams other than Ohio State. Clemson takes on the No. 7 Miami Hurricanes in the ACC title game, Auburn plays No. 6 Georgia in the SEC championship game, and Oklahoma plays No. 10 TCU in the Big 12 conference championship.
"It's close separation from team No. 5 Alabama, six Georgia, seven Miami, eight Ohio State. Those teams are close," said selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, the athletic director at Texas Tech. "Very little separation in the committee's eyes between teams five through eight."
If the top four win out, the semifinals likely would fall into place: Clemson would face Wisconsin in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl semifinal on New Year's Day by virtue of giving the top seed a regional advantage, and Auburn and Oklahoma would play in the Rose Bowl semifinal.
Rounding out the top 10 are Penn State and Southern California.