College Football Playoff Race Heating Up

Daniel Dalenberg

Staff Writer

On Saturday afternoon, one of the best rivalries in American sports was set for one of the most important games in rivalry history. Third ranked Michigan Wolverines traveled to Columbus to take on the second ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. This matchup essentially set up who would go on to the College Football Playoff, on top of the massive rivalry. Add in that both schools are led by big name coaches, Michigan’s John Harbaugh, and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, this game had all the ingredients for an all-time classic.  An all-time classic it was.

Photo from

Photo from

The whole game was a defensive bloodbath, which was controlled by Michigan throughout.  At the end of regulation, down 17-14, Ohio State forced overtime on a 23 yard field goal by Kicker Tyler Durbin.  Ohio State got the ball for overtime and made quick work, scoring a touchdown on a Quarterback J.T. Barret seven yard run.  Michigan needed to respond with a touchdown or their playoff hopes would be over.  Fittingly, it came down to 4th and goal from the five yard line when Quarterback Wilton Speight found Receiver Amara Darboh in the back of the endzone.

In the second overtime period, Michigan had the first chance to score, but Ohio State’s defense came up big forcing a 37 yard field goal by Kicker Kenny Allen. Now, all Ohio State needed was a touchdown to win, and essentially clinch a spot in the college football playoff. Michigan’s defense was as strong as it had been all year and stopped Ohio State on 3rd down, making it 4th and one on the 16 yard line.

Instead of electing to tie the game on a field goal, Urban Meyer kept his offense on the field. J.T. Barret ran the ball on a QB keeper, plunging towards the first down marker.  The referees gave him a favorable spot and called the play a first down.  The play was reviewed but the ruling on the field stood, although the camera angle made the call debatable.

In postgame comments, Meyer said of his decision to go for it on 4th and 1, “If you can’t get that far, you’re not a championship team.”

On the ensuing play, Curtis Samuel took a handoff and scampered into the endzone untouched to win the game for Ohio State, 30-27.

While Ohio State won the game, neither team will appear in the Big Ten championship game, as Penn State won the Big Ten East division. Therefore, Penn State will face off with Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship this Saturday. Whichever team wins, will likely be in the discussion to make the college football playoff along with many of the other power five conference winners.  Here are the matchups (outside of the Big Ten) this weekend you need to know, and what each scenario could lead to.

SEC Championship game: Alabama vs. Florida

Out of all the games this upcoming weekend, this game will have the least impact on the playoff landscape.  Alabama has essentially already clinched a spot, and Florida is out of contention.

ACC Championship game: Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

This game is a play-in game for Clemson. Currently ranked 3rd in the playoff rankings, a loss in this game would most likely eliminate the Tigers from playoff contention because it would give them two losses in their last four, too opponents outside of the top ten. Virginia Tech is not in contention.

Pac 12 Championship Game: Washington vs. Colorado

Currently ranked 4th in the playoff rankings, Washington needs this win to make a strong case to be included in the College Playoff discussion.  A weak non-conference schedule makes the chances of Washington making the playoff as a two loss team, unlikely.  On the other hand, Colorado has been a great story this year, but unfortunately even a win against Washington would not put them in the playoff.

Rivalry game, Big 12: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

A win for either team puts them in the conversation for the fourth playoff spot. But, it seems that both two loss teams would need some help to get in.

What each team needs to happen: In order of current AP rankings

  1. Alabama: already in
  2. Ohio State: already in
  3. Clemson: win and in
  4. Washington: win and solid chance of being in
  5. Michigan: Washington or Clemson loss and Wisconsin win puts them in conversation. Michigan beat Wisconsin head to head earlier in the season.  So, if this scenario occurs the debate on who should be the fourth playoff team will be intense.  Clemson and Washington losses open the door for both the Big Ten champion and Michigan to make it.
  6. Wisconsin: win gives them a chance as stated above.
  7. Oklahoma: win gives them a chance as well, would probably need at least Clemson or Washington to lose to give them a legitimate shot. Both Clemson and Washington losing would make the conversation between Oklahoma, Big Ten champion and Michigan for the last two spots
  8. Penn State: same as Wisconsin, but better odds of making it with win, because of their marquee win against Ohio State.
  9. Colorado: Win and Oklahoma, Clemson losses puts them in the conversation with the Big 10 champion and Michigan, but has little chance.