Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 2, 2014

We are in the homestretch of the playoff chase, and the question nags: Can Ohio State make the four-team playoff?

?I would say it?s less than 50-50,? said Jerry Palm of, the foremost analyst of College Football Playoff and NCAA tourney metrics.


?I think the Big 12 champ will end up ahead of Ohio State. But it?s not that clear. Reasonable people could disagree and make a case for Ohio State.?

So, there's your window of hope, Brutus.

The Big 12 champ could be Baylor or TCU. Each is 10-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big 12. In last week?s College Football Playoff Poll, TCU was No. 5 and Baylor was No. 7. Ohio State, which is 11-1, was sandwiched in between at No. 6.

The Top Four was Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State, respectively. When this week?s poll is released on Tuesday, most think the top three will remain the same and TCU will replace Mississippi State, which lost to Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.

What does Ohio State have to do to get into the Top Four? Especially now that star quarterback J.T. Barrett has been lost for the season with a broken right ankle?

?First, Ohio State has to beat Wisconsin,? says Palm. ?It starts with that. If they do that, it will prove they can beat a very good football team with this guy at quarterback.?

?This guy? is sophomore Cardale Jones, who never has started a game in Columbus.

If everyone above Ohio State wins this weekend, it?s moot, right? OSU has no shot?

?Not necessarily,? said Palm. ?If Baylor and TCU both win this week, Baylor has to be ahead of TCU. They have to be. There is no other way around it, or the committee can take its criteria and wad it up into a ball and throw it out.

?As for now, Ohio State is sandwiched between the two of them. If Baylor ends up ahead of TCU, does that mean it jumps both (TCU and Ohio State)? Or does TCU fall back? My guess is that Baylor jumps ahead of both of them.?

But know this, Buckeyes fans: The better Ohio State looks beating 10-2 Wisconsin, the better it is for them. Yes, Injuries are taken into account by the committee when it comes to selecting playoff teams. But the good thing is Ohio State gets to play a game with Jones at quarterback. If it can show the playoff committee it?s still a smooth running juggernaut with a win vs. Wisconsin, all the better.

?A lot of people are comparing this to what happened when Cincinnati hoops lost Kenyon Martin to injury (in 1999-2000 right before the NCAA tourney). But it?s not the same situation because he got hurt in their conference tournament and Cincinnati never got to play a game without him (prior to the NCAA tourney).

Bottom line: If Ohio State doesn?t play playoff-quality football vs. Wisconsin, it won?t win.

?They are either a playoff-quality team; or they are going to get beat," said Palm. "I don?t think they can play a bad game and beat Wisconsin.?

So, the teams for Buckeye fans to keep an eye are TCU and Baylor, squads OSU could jump if all three win over the weekend-or not. TCU plays host to 2-9 Iowa State. Baylor welcomes No. 12 Kansas State, which is 9-2. The Horned Frogs? loss was at Baylor (61-58). The Bears? loss was at 7-5 West Virginia (41-27). Ohio State?s loss was at home to 6-6 Virginia Tech (35-21).

?(Ohio State) could get in if they all win,? says Palm. ?But I think Ohio State is the weakest one-loss team. If Florida State loses, it will be the weakest one-loss team.

?Baylor and TCU are basically the same. You won?t find two teams with more similar resumes than TCU and Baylor. I think Ohio State will be ahead of both of them or neither (after this weekend). I don?t think OSU is a sandwich team. It may be now. But not after this weekend.?

Alabama plays Missouri in the SEC title game; Oregon takes on Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game; Florida State battles Georgia Tech in the ACC title tilt.

Stay tuned. This could be very interesting.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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