Northwestern HC Says Ohio State Belongs in College Football Playoff After Big Ten Championship

by Suzanne Halliburton

Yes, Ohio State deserves one of the semifinal spots in the College Football Playoffs. That’s according to Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, the coach of the team that the Buckeyes beat Saturday for the Big Ten title.

So let the annual debate begin. The jockeying for the four spots started Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats lost to the favored Buckeyes 22-10. But Fitzgerald wanted to make the case for Ohio State making the semifinals.

“I think they’ve got as much talent as (anybody) to go compete for a national champion,” Fitzgerald told reporters in his post-game press conference. “And they’re Big Ten champs. If you’re an undefeated champion here, in my humble opinion, you deserve to compete for a national title.”

The CFP selection committee meets Sunday to pick the four teams that will compete for the national title. The selection process usually is a tough one. The committee has to debate conference strength and which wins and/or losses are good ones. They discuss styles of offense and toughness of defense. Everything is on the table.

How Will CFP Committee Deal With Ohio State, Others?

But this year is tougher because the Covid-19 pandemic was a major opponent for everyone. The Buckeyes finished the regular season at 6-0. They played half as many games as in a normal season. The pandemic forced the Big Ten to start later than the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12.

In addition, Ohio State needed a league rule change to make the Big Ten game. Before the season started, the conference said each team needed to play a minimum of six games to qualify for the championship in Indianapolis. But the Buckeyes had three games canceled because of Covid. That included its annual grudge game against Michigan after the Wolverines had at least 40 cases tied to the program.

The Big Ten athletic directors ruled that Ohio State would’ve clinched a spot in the Big Ten championship no matter the outcome against Michigan. They already owned the tie breaker against Indiana. So the ADs let Ohio State play.

The Buckeyes, ranked fourth, initially fell behind No. 14 Northwestern. They didn’t score their first touchdown until late in the third quarter. That’s when Ohio State took its first lead. The win gave Ohio State its fourth straight Big Ten title.

The Buckeyes’ victory could be classified as ugly. It also was a physical ground-and-pound kind of game in a league that loves to run. Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, a transfer from Oklahoma, rushed for 331 yards. That’s a new single-game school record and a standard for the title game.

So here’s a likely argument for the CFP committee? Should the Big Ten champion always be in the playoffs? Or, does a non-championship team from another Power Five league make the semifinals in Ohio State’s place?

The debate should be an intense one. The selection show starts at noon E.T.