This article was written in early November for a Ohio State based outlet but ended up not being published
College football fans and experts are always concerned about teams controlling their own destiny. The phrase is illogical, but everyone knows what it means. It refers to a team's ability to win its own games and reach its goal without relying on outside help or other teams to fall from above it. The Ohio State Buckeyes, despite losing three weeks ago, control their own destiny.
When the first edition of the College Football Playoff committee rankings was released on November 1, two things stuck out in the Buckeyes' favor more so than their own ranking. Obviously it was pretty positive to see Ohio State ranked sixth, behind just one other one-loss squad. However, more important than that were the placements of Washington and Penn State.
The committee placed the Washington Huskies fifth, behind then one-loss Texas A&M, meaning it hated Washington's out-of-conference schedule enough to disregard its undefeated record. That out-of-conference schedule is set in stone and will not change. Beyond that, the Huskies have already faced their two toughest opponents in Stanford and Utah, and that still wasn't enough for a spot in the top four. Essentially, Washington is screwed.
That meant a one-loss squad can certainly finish ahead of the Huskies. Enter Ohio State, whose only loss this year came on the road against what the committee deemed the 12th-best team in the country, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Twelfth! For a team that has no other good wins all season! It is nonsensical that OSU somehow benefited from its own loss, but in a way, that's exactly what happened with this initial Penn State ranking.
In the final month of the regular season, OSU has another edge going for it; namely, a batch of very good opponents beginning with what was number 10 Nebraska, demolishing them 62-3 last weekend. The committee seems to love the Big Ten this season, all to the benefit of the Buckeyes. If they win out (controlling their own destiny), that would mean wins over two top 10 schools, including a matchup against their rival number 3 Michigan on November 26th, as well as two other conference road wins. It seems impossible to imagine that batch of four wins not vaulting them into the top four of the playoff standings.
That added value of two top 10 wins should be enough to propel OSU over its one-loss counterpart. Not to mention the Buckeyes would be at least tied for the Big Ten regular-season title in this outcome and now is slotted in the number 5 spot in the college football playoff rankings, one spot behind 9-0 Washington.
There would also be the obvious benefit of what Ohio State winning out would mean: a Michigan loss, probably dropping the Wolverines out of the top four and opening up a spot. There are a lot of moving parts as the season winds down, but OSU has as much control as it needs.