COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s one of the biggest weekends in college football with conference championship games Friday and Saturday. But for the second year in a row, Ohio State will be on the sideline.
With the Buckeyes ranked No. 5 in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings, they are within reach of qualifying for the program’s fifth playoff in nine seasons. Despite the final rankings not arriving until Sunday afternoon, Ohio State could essentially know its fate as soon as Friday.
Here is a timeline on what Ohio State needs to happen to make the playoff, and when it will learn its postseason spot officially.
Friday, 8 p.m.: No. 11 Utah vs. No. 4 USC
A loss by the fourth-ranked Trojans is the Buckeyes’ easiest path to the playoff. Although USC made the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas, its opponent is No. 11 Utah (9-3), the only team to beat USC this season. Two losses to the same team should easily boost the Buckeyes in.
In the first Pac-12 title game decided without division winners, the Trojans have an opportunity to make their first playoff if they can get revenge on the Utes, whom they lost to 43-42 on Oct. 15 on the road.
A Trojans win, however, would lower the Buckeyes’ playoff chances significantly and leave them waiting, hoping for results Saturday to go their way.
Saturday, noon: No. 10 Kansas State vs. No. 3 TCU
If USC does beat Utah, Ohio State fans will trade their temporary Utes hats for Wildcats hats in the Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas.
The Wildcats (9-3) have a chance to end TCU’s (12-0) undefeated season. Whether they can end its playoff hopes and give Ohio State a place is not as certain.
The Horned Frogs beat the Wildcats 38-28 in the regular season, one of seven games TCU won by double digits. A win could certainly cement a playoff spot for them, but a loss could mean the committee makes way for the Buckeyes.
Still, this scenario means Ohio State would feel the nerves until Sunday afternoon.
Saturday, 4 p.m.: No. 14 LSU vs. No. 1 Georgia
Although the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta won’t impact Ohio State’s playoff place, it could impact who it might play if it makes a semifinal.
Oddsmakers have undefeated Georgia as an 18-point favorite over LSU, the most lopsided odds in any of the Power 5 title games this weekend.
If Georgia wins the SEC for the first time since 2017, expect the Bulldogs to be the top seed. Should USC lose and Ohio State get into the top four, the Buckeyes would be the No. 4 seed most likely and would play Georgia for the first time since 1992, probably back in Atlanta at the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
But if LSU comes away with an impressive upset, that could open the door for a playoff semifinal rematch for Ohio State.
Saturday, 8 p.m.: Purdue vs. No. 2 Michigan
Michigan, which beat Ohio State 45-23 last week to knock the Buckeyes out of the top four, has a chance not only to finish 13-0 and win the Big Ten but even take the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.
The Wolverines will meet Purdue (8-4) in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship. With a Michigan win and Georgia loss, the Wolverines could hop the Bulldogs for the No. 1 spot. That would make them the first Big Ten team to enter the playoff ranked No. 1. And it could mean a rematch against Ohio State in a semifinal.
With upsets by Purdue and LSU, Michigan would have no chance at the top spot, which could be opened to TCU if it is the only unbeaten team, creating a chaotic shuffle for the announcement on Sunday.
Sunday, noon: College Football Playoff selection show
At noon, the announcement will be made for the playoff semifinals. The bowl games serving as the semifinals will be the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, both on Dec. 31. Also announced will be matchups for the other New Years Six bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Cotton).
If the top four teams entering this weekend all win, the Buckeyes can shift their focus to the Rose Bowl as the traditional home for the top available Big Ten team. The game is on Jan. 2 with a likely opponent of Utah or Washington from the Pac-12.