Ohio State Did Not Make a Convincing Case For Playoff Spot in Big Ten Championship Game

Justin FIelds
Justin FIelds / Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ohio State played in today's Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern after the conference changed the prerequisites so that the Buckeyes were eligible to participate despite only playing five games. They emerged victorious over the Wildcats by the score of 22-10. But it was not the dominant victory the scoreboard suggests.

Justin Fields had one of his worst overall games in a Buckeyes uniform. He threw two picks. The first was an amazing play made by redshirt Wildcats freshman Brandon Joseph, but it came with less than 30 seconds remaining in the half with Ohio State down by four with the ball in the red zone. Good quarterbacks don't put the ball in a place where it could be caught by the opposing team in those situations no matter what. Most corners couldn't have caught that ball like Joseph did, but the fact that he even had a chance is on Fields. The second interception was nothing less than egregious; a miscommunication between Fields and his receiver led to the easiest pick for Northwestern of the year.

The defense was decent, especially considering how often Northwestern was given a short field with the Buckeyes' offense struggling. Ohio State ultimately dominated on the ground after taking three quarters to figure out they can run all over Northwestern's defense. It just wasn't the kind of win that suggests Ohio State is a shoe-in for the college football playoff.

Quality of win is a stupid and subjective measure by which to judge potential CFP teams, but like it or not, it's part of the equation. This was not a quality win. Ohio State looked like they were trying to lose half the game. If they showed up like that against Alabama in the first round of the playoff, they'd get run off the field.

This is all admittedly a bit harsh because Ohio State was missing so many key contributors due to a COVID-19 breakout. But every team across the country has dealt with that problem throughout this season. That isn't and shouldn't be taken into account when it comes to CFP rankings, even if none of it makes any damn sense anyway.

Someone has to be that fourth team into the playoffs. Ohio State is undefeated. But more goes into it than simply record. The Buckeyes could be the last team in and it would be a fine choice. Today, though, did nothing to convince anybody that it would be the right choice.