Ohio State needs one final thing to make playoff case complete

0
44

The College Football Playoff has much-needed drama. Debate will rage over the next week. Next Saturday’s Big Ten and Big 12 conference title games now have major ramifications, potentially determining the last spot in the final four.

Ohio State’s stunning blowout of Michigan created that intrigue, setting up an Ohio State or Oklahoma argument barring Georgia upsetting Alabama in the SEC Championship game. But I believe there is an easy answer — if, and only if, the Buckeyes rout Northwestern, ranked 19th by the playoff committee, next Saturday in Indianapolis, and prove that performance was no fluke.

They proved, with that 62-39 shellacking of the fourth-ranked Wolverines, their “A” game is worthy of a playoff berth, a bludgeoning few saw coming. It was a performance the defensive-optional Sooners have not shown capable of delivering, needing remarkable offensive power virtually every week to stay in contention.

The résumés are similar. Both have wins over two ranked opponents, both have one loss, both have six victories over .500 teams or better, and both have a number of ugly victories. Neither has a significant non-conference game to speak of. Oklahoma’s loss, 48-45 to No. 14 Texas, is a better defeat than Ohio State’s, an embarrassing 49-20 setback at six-win Purdue. But Michigan is a far better win than anything Oklahoma can boast, which at the moment is Friday’s 59-56 victory over No. 13 West Virginia.

The idea of the playoff is to take the four best teams. That’s Ohio State, which comes from a better conference and seems to be getting better as the year goes on. Remember, the Buckeyes manhandled a good Michigan State team, 27-7, on the road before last weekend’s shaky overtime win at mediocre Maryland.

Oklahoma has given up at least 40 points in each of its past four games, allowing a whopping 524 yards of offense to three-win Kansas. The unit is allowing 32.8 points per game. Alabama could hang 70 on the Sooners.

That’s not to say Ohio State’s defense is some juggernaut. The loss of star lineman Nick Bosa (core muscle surgery) lowered its ceiling, and the Buckeyes were exposed by Maryland and Purdue. But they showed their capabilities against Michigan. The 39 points allowed were not indicative of the performance. A fumble set up one score and the Wolverines scored a pair of touchdowns in garbage time.

This situation is reminiscent of 2014-15, when Ohio State came all the way back from No. 16 midway through the season to snag the last playoff spot and win the national championship. That team had a bad loss early, to unranked Virginia Tech, and swayed the committee with blowouts of Michigan and Wisconsin.

This team can follow that model. Blow out Northwestern, show the Michigan rout was a sign of a developing power instead of a blip, and Ohio State should be the choice. The Buckeyes would be mine, if that were to take place.

Harb’ day’s night

Once the game got out of hand and it was clear Michigan was going to lose yet again to Ohio State, I began thinking what the future will hold for Jim Harbaugh.

The favorite son is not getting fired at Michigan, especially after elevating the program with three double-digit win seasons in four years. But he has also fallen short of expectations, particularly in big games, now without a win against Urban Meyer in four tries. The Wolverines have yet to claim a Big Ten East crown or reach the playoff.

He could always return to the NFL — the Jets will almost certainly be in the market for an offensive-minded coach — but he doesn’t seem to be the kind of offensive innovator that has become so popular in the league. It’s no secret Harbaugh’s intense style is known to wear on people. He rarely stays in one place for long.

In many ways, this game was a referendum on Harbaugh. Michigan had won 10 straight games, featured the top-ranked defense in the country, and Ohio State appeared diminished. Instead, the favored Wolverines allowed a program-worst point total in regulation, bringing into question Harbaugh’s entire tenure. He’s in a strange spot, being good but not good enough.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh
Michigan head coach Jim HarbaughAP

Wait & USC

The easy move was to move on, look for another head coach, but USC athletic director Lynn Swann didn’t take the easy way out. He decided to keep Clay Helton, a move that took guts. When Helton replaced Steve Sarkisian in October of 2015, he became the Trojans’ fifth different coach in less than five years. That’s no way to run a winning program. Helton may not turn out to be the right guy — USC isn’t bowl eligible this year after winning 11 games a season ago — but he needs more time to prove if he is or isn’t.

Top 10

1. Alabama (12-0) (Last week: 1)
The whispers of slippage seem silly now, after Alabama treated Iron Bowl-rival Auburn like an ill-equipped sparring partner, hammering the Tigers, 52-21.

2. Clemson (12-0) (2)
Dabo Swinney can rest his starters and still win the ACC Championship game going away. Facing Pittsburgh, the ACC Coastal champion with five losses, will be as stressful as a scrimmage for Clemson.

3. Notre Dame (12-0) (3)
Notre Dame was very unimpressive in Saturday’s narrow victory over USC. It also absolutely belongs in the playoff. Both can be true.

4. Georgia (11-1) (5)
The running game is starting to hum, notching four straight games of at least 285 yards on the ground, and it will need to remain lethal for Georgia to have a shot against Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship game.

5. Ohio State (11-1) (8)
Where was this team all year? In emasculating Michigan, 62-39, and beating their bitter rivals for the seventh straight time, the Buckeyes looked like one of the premier teams in the country.

6. Oklahoma (10-1) (7)
There is better tackling in two-hand touch than what we’ve seen lately from Oklahoma’s defense, which is allowing an average of 47.2 points and 585.2 yards per game over the past month.

7. Central Florida (11-0) (6)
McKenzie Milton and Central Florida deserve better. They should have a shot to play for a title and they shouldn’t have to finish this season without their leader, who suffered a gruesome knee injury in a blowout of South Florida.

8. Michigan (10-2) (4)
Blame Jim Harbaugh. Blame the top-ranked defense. Blame whomever you want. Michigan’s loss to Ohio State was a failure by everyone in maize and blue.

9. LSU (9-3) (9)
Ed Orgeron criticizing the officials for adding a second on the clock is sour grapes. LSU had seven overtimes to prevail. It didn’t.

10. Florida (9-3) (NR)
There were some hiccups, notably that ugly loss to Missouri, but Dan Mullen’s first season has to be considered a success. He won his last three games, and is a bowl victory away from guiding the Gators to their first 10-win season since 2015.

Dropped: Washington State (10-2)

Heisman Watch

(in order of expected finish)

QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Tagovailoa should be working on his speech. If there was any debate, it’s over now, after he set an Alabama record with six touchdowns — five through the air — and produced 350 total yards in the rout of Auburn.

QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
His second 300-yards-passing, 100-yards-rushing performance came at a perfect time: It led Oklahoma past West Virginia for its best win of the season.

QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Pack your bags, Dwayne. A trip to New York City should be in your future after setting a Big Ten record for most touchdown passes in a season with 41, six coming Saturday against Michigan.

QB Will Grier, West Virginia
Another spectacular performance, another loss. Grier threw for 539 yards and produced five touchdowns, and it didn’t matter, because his defenseless defense remained inept in a gut-wrenching 59-56 loss to Oklahoma.

QB Gardner Minshew, Washington State
The senior’s Heisman hopes are all but over after he flopped in his biggest game, throwing for a season-low 152 yards and two interceptions in an ugly loss to Washington.

Source : https://nypost.com/2018/11/26/ohio-state-needs-one-final-thing-to-make-playoff-case-complete/