COLUMBUS – After Saturday night's 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, the last thing those involved with Ohio State should be thinking about is the College Football Playoff. But that doesn't mean we can't look ahead.
Since the CFP began in 2014, at least three teams with one loss have qualified for the four-team tournament each year and they say if you're going to lose, lose early. The Buckeyes obviously would have preferred to go undefeated and have no concern about making the CFP or not, but that's no longer in the cards.
So what will it take to achieve the team's stated goal this year and get back to the Playoff despite the upset loss?
This is first and foremost. If Ohio State doesn't develop a passing game and improve in pass coverage, we won't have to have this conversation much longer because other losses will come.
Against Oklahoma, the Scarlet and Gray did not look like a team that belongs in the Playoff conversation. But in 2014, OSU didn't seem like a CFP team after a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech at home either. That year, the Buckeyes improved each game and by the completion of the 13-week season, was a team that belonged in the top four.
If Ohio State can again work on its issues -- and there are several -- and reach its potential, this team will deserve a shot at the Playoff. But other things will need to happen as well.
The Buckeyes got some good news on Sunday afternoon when the team remained inside the top 10 in both the Coaches and AP polls. While these aren't a direct reflection of how the CFP committee will rank teams when the first rankings are announced in Week 10, it does give some indication of how OSU is perceived.
Each week there will be upsets in College Football and it's almost a certainty that multiple teams currently ranked ahead of the Scarlet and Gray will slip up by the year's end.
No longer does OSU control its path to the Playoff, but you can bet that Ohio State will have an opportunity thanks to other teams falling off throughout the season.
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Had Oklahoma lost the game on Saturday night, any Playoff hopes the Sooners had would have been all but gone. For Ohio State, the opportunity is still present to climb back into the conversation due to the remaining schedule.
Although the Buckeyes should coast over the next few games -- which ideally will allow the team to work on its problems -- the Big Ten provides the type of big matchups that, if won, can get OSU back into the CFP picture.
The two most obvious are Oct. 28 at home against No. 5 Penn State and Nov. 25 at No. 7 Michigan. While these teams won't necessarily be as highly ranked, the two meet the week before the Scarlet and Gray face the Nittany Lions, each should still be a top-25 team and therefore a good win for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State also will travel to Nebraska and Iowa this season. Although neither is currently in the top 25, and quite possibly won't be come Oct. 14 and Nov. 4, both are respectable opponents at home and OSU wins there will be thought of as such.
Beyond that, there's also a potential Big Ten Championship game, assuming the Buckeyes win the remainder of their games, which should be another ranked vs. ranked matchup.
As mentioned above, at least three teams with one loss have made the Playoff in each of its first three years. But there's more history on the Buckeyes' side.
Just looking at last season, Penn State, who lost to Pitt and Michigan but beat OSU, Michigan, who lost to Iowa and the Buckeyes, and Oklahoma, who not only lost to the Scarlet and Gray but also Houston, all had two losses while USC had three defeats and all of these programs got back in the CFP conversation by the year's end.
Ultimately, as bad as Saturday night was for the Buckeyes, Ohio State is not out of anything by a long shot. The Scarlet and Gray will need to improve in multiple areas over the next several weeks in order to get the victories needed to win the Big Ten and prove to the CFP committee that this is a different group from the one that lost to the Sooners and is ready to make a serious Playoff run.
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Source : http://ohiostate.247sports.com/Article/What-will-it-take-for-the-Ohio-State-Buckeyes-to-make-the-Colleg-107269200