’Bama Over Buckeyes? Committee Got It Right

  • FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, in Auburn, Ala. The Associated Press voters prefer Alabama over Ohio State. In the final Top 25 of the regular season, the Crimson Tide was No. 4 and the Buckeyes were No. 5. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

  • Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Chicago Tribune
Monday, December 04, 2017

Ohio State won the battle but lost the war.

The Buckeyes beat Wisconsin to win the Big Ten title on Saturday night in Indianapolis, prompting coach Urban Meyer to declare that his team deserved “a shot” to win the national title.

The College Football Playoff selection committee came back Sunday and replied: No shot.

And you know what?

The committee got it right.

Ohio State lost its argument Nov. 4, when it got crushed by Iowa, 55-24, at Kinnick Stadium. The stench from that loss, termed “damaging” on Sunday by CFP committee chairman Kirby Hocutt, never went away.

Iowa made it worse by losing its next two games, including a home defeat to 6-6 Purdue.

In previous years, the committee made it clear that impressive victories could trump ugly defeats. In 2014, Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech at home by 14 but got the No. 4 seed after throttling Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten title game.

But this Buckeyes team had two losses and didn’t look all that impressive in beating Wisconsin, 27-21, on Saturday. J.T. Barrett missed open receivers. The Buckeyes scored just six points in the second half. The victory was not in hand until 69 seconds remained.

The committee believed Alabama, with its only loss on the road to Auburn, was both better and more deserving than Ohio State.

Agreed ... and agreed.

Fourth-seeded Alabama will take on No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl in one semifinal. Oklahoma and Georgia will square off in the Rose Bowl.

The committee ranked Ohio State fifth, one spot ahead of Wisconsin. So the Buckeyes will head to the Cotton Bowl to face No. 8 USC, and the Badgers are off to the Orange Bowl to face No. 10 Miami.

Penn State also made a New Year’s Six bowl. The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions will face No. 11 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.

Ohio State won the national title in 2014, riding quarterback Cardale Jones’ hot hand in the first year of the CFP. But the Big Ten got blanked in 2015 (Alabama 38, Michigan State 0) and 2016 (Clemson 31, Ohio State 0).

After getting shut out twice, the Big Ten got shut out of the playoff entirely. No points for three straight seasons.

Those who played in the Saturday night tussle at Lucas Oil Stadium thought Ohio State was worthy of the top four.

“They’re athletic, big, physical, well-coached ... a great football team,” Wisconsin left tackle Michael Deiter said.

Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard said: “I think we played exceptional. Kept (Wisconsin) under 60 yards rushing; that’s unheard of.”

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was among those lobbying for Ohio State, telling the Chicago Tribune before kickoff on Saturday: “I feel we can make an argument that we’re the strongest conference. We had the most FBS wins; we had the fewest FCS games. We challenged ourselves in every way. I think our efforts to play more conference games, to schedule up to a reasonable degree, to reduce the number of mismatches should serve us well.”

Delany also hoped that Ohio State, as a conference champion, would get the nod.

The only strange part of the decision is that Hocutt had said Tuesday there was “very little separation between teams (Nos.) 5 through 8.”

Alabama was No. 5. Ohio State was eighth.

The Buckeyes beat undefeated Wisconsin four days later while Alabama was idle. Yet Hocutt said Sunday the committee determined Alabama was “unequivocally better” than Ohio State.

Perhaps Alabama’s advocates on the committee simply asked: Do you really think the Crimson Tide would give up 55 points to anyone?