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Don't Be Fooled, the Buckeyes Still Control Their Own Destiny
By Tony Gerdeman

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Since Ohio State's loss at Penn State, the Buckeyes have been in the uncomfortable position of having to root for Michigan in order to keep the Big Ten East's tiebreaker in their control. The thought was that as long as the Buckeyes control the East, they control their College Football Playoff fate.

And then chaos reappeared in a way that we haven't seen since maybe the end of the 2007 season when Ohio State and LSU went into the final week of the season ranked No. 3 and No. 7 respectively. No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia both lost, freeing up the kind of landslide you only see in disaster movies.

Nearly 10 years later, we had another one.

No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Washington, No. 8 Texas A&M, and No. 9 Auburn all lost this weekend, and the foundation that the CFP rankings had begun to build buckled under the weight of nerves and expectations.

Michigan's loss at Iowa now takes Ohio State out of the Big Ten East title picture unless Penn State loses, as the Nittany Lions hold the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes thanks to their 24-21 win over OSU a few weeks back in Happy Valley.

Despite what you might be hearing or feeling, however, that doesn't mean Ohio State doesn't still control their own playoff destiny.

When the next playoff rankings are released, the Buckeyes will be sitting at No. 2, and who the hell knows what it will look like behind them. And it doesn't really matter.

Clemson and Washington are both still in line to win their respective divisions, and possibly conference titles. Those two teams could still jump in front of Ohio State, as could Penn State if they were to go on and win at Rutgers next week, then home against Michigan State, and then in Indianapolis against the Wisconsin Badgers.

But I'm not so sure the Big Ten Championship Game matters all that much. If Wisconsin wins, I doubt the committee sends a two-loss Badger team -- with losses to Ohio State and Michigan -- ahead of either the Buckeyes or the Wolverines. They certainly wouldn't send Penn State ahead of Michigan, and I don't believe they'd send them ahead Ohio State either.

Why do I say that? Imagine in a little over three weeks if both Ohio State and Penn State were to make the playoff. It's not going to happen, but I'm using it as an example because I want you to seed the two teams. Which team would you seed higher? If you say Ohio State like I do, then you just made the argument that Ohio State should be in over Penn State. If the only spot available is No. 4, then that goes to the Buckeyes and Penn State ends up No. 5 at best.

Basically, if you wouldn't seed Penn State ahead of Ohio State, then you can't put them in over the Buckeyes.

As we saw in 2014 with Baylor and TCU, head-to-head isn't the end-all, be-all for the committee. (At least that committee.) And once a second loss is thrown into the mix -- as it is with the Nittany Lions, then all bets are off on the head-to-head.

Penn State could still possibly hold a conference championship over Ohio State's head, giving the Nittany Lions wins over a possibly Top 5 Wisconsin and a No. 2 Ohio State and...Iowa. And that's it.

The Buckeyes have the same win over Wisconsin, plus they'd have wins over Michigan, Nebraska, and an Oklahoma team that will be in the Top 10 in a couple of days. And the committee saw how that loss to Penn State happened, so there would be consideration there as well.

Even aside from this Ohio State - Penn State conjecture, there is also the fact that Clemson could lose the ACC Championship Game, which would then bring Louisville into the conversation, but they wouldn't have the résumé that Ohio State has. Also, Washington travels to Washington State the Friday after Thanksgiving, so if they lose that one, then the Pac 12's argument goes out the window completely.

Basically, there is a ton of variables and inconsistencies that will still be folded into the decision, but the one thing that the Buckeyes can do is continue doing what they've done in November. They control how well they play, which at this point is all they need.

If they simply continue playing like the No. 2 team in the nation, winning convincingly in their final two games, does Clemson getting a win over Virginia Tech, or Washington getting a win over Colorado, or Penn State giving Wisconsin their third loss really make Ohio State a lesser team than any of those three conference champs? Of course not.

We don't know how much weight this committee puts on a conference championship, but we know that it's a very effective tiebreaker. When you look at Tuesday's newest rankings, don't forget to take a look at Penn State and Ohio State, because you'll notice that the two of them are nowhere near a tie right now, and the Buckeyes would be adding a better win (Michigan) than anything the Nittany Lions can do the rest of the season.

There are still three weeks left in the season and we could still see more landslides ahead of us. If the Buckeyes keep on playing like they've done so far in November, no committee would keep them out, nor should they.

Ohio State still controls its own destiny, they just have to make that destiny a bit more convincing than they needed to before.

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