You can say Ohio State won twice on Saturday.
First, the Buckeyes beat Michigan 30-27 in overtime, practically stealing a game that seemed lost in the third quarter when they fell behind by 10 points. Second, they watched Penn State wrap up the Big Ten’s East division, which means Ohio State’s body of work is complete at 11-1 — and is still almost certainly good enough to get them back into the College Football Playoff.
In other words, Ohio State is probably in the final four without having to risk anything in a conference championship game against Wisconsin (a team that took the Buckeyes to overtime in October), where there would be only be risk and downside with a loss and nothing to gain with a win. Don’t you think Alabama would sign up for that deal if they could?
Though Urban Meyer probably will be a little bit nervous until Dec. 4 because Ohio State doesn’t technically control its own destiny and the CFP selection committee has never included a team that didn’t win its conference, the Buckeyes should feel pretty safe.
After all, they were No. 2 this week, just added a win against another top-five team and own earlier top-25 victories over Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Regardless of what else happens, it would be shocking if the committee left Ohio State out.
That makes Ohio State the biggest winner of all Saturday. Here are the other winners and losers from the college football weekend:
Penn State: In the era of Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, getting Penn State to the Big Ten championship game ranks as the most impressive and unexpected accomplishment for any team this season. We can debate whether the Nittany Lions deserve to go to the Playoff or whether they’re really one of the best teams in the country, but they absolutely earned their way to Indianapolis with an 8-1 conference record and a head-to-head win against Ohio State.
With so much on the line, give James Franklin and crew a lot of credit for taking care of business against Michigan State in a 45-12 win. They’ll have an opportunity against Wisconsin to prove just how good they are, but given all the ugliness around the program and roster issues Franklin inherited due to NCAA sanctions, he’s done an incredible job to get Penn State to this point in just his third season.
Virginia Tech: Don’t sleep on the Hokies. That’s some free advice for Clemson, which will have to face Virginia Tech next weekend in the ACC championship game trying to nail down a playoff berth. Though they’ve had their problems this season with turnovers — which accounts for why Virginia Tech finished 9-3 rather than 11-1 — this is a very good team with dangerous skill players.
First-year coach Justin Fuente has done a marvelous job installing his system, and it looks like the Hokies are clicking again at the right time. Virginia Tech followed up a 34-31 win at Notre Dame with a nearly flawless 52-10 beatdown of Virginia, racking up 289 rushing yards. All in all, it’s hard to find much to complain about as the Hokies return to the ACC title game for the first time since 2011.
Washington: The Huskies needed to win and look impressive doing it in the Apple Cup on Friday. They checked both boxes in a 45-17 win against Washington State, and now they’re very much in the race for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Since losing to Southern California in an uncharacteristically lethargic performance, the Huskies outscored Arizona State and the Cougars by a combined 89-35 and look like they’re back to being their dominant selves.
The biggest knock is still strength of schedule, and Washington will absolutely need to do it again in the Pac 12 championship game as they try to win their first conference title since 2000 .
Western Michigan: Regardless of how much more talent you have than your opposition, it’s hard to go undefeated in college football. So give the Broncos full credit for pulling off a special 12-0 season, capped by a 55-35 win against Toledo. If they can win one more against Ohio in the Mid-American Conference championship game, Western Michigan will probably head to the Cotton Bowl, an accomplishment only firebrand coach P.J. Fleck could have dreamed up when he took over a 1-11 team four years ago.
Indiana: There was a stretch in the late 1980s and early 1990s under Bill Mallory when Indiana football was regularly making bowl games. Apart from that, sustained success has basically been nonexistent in the history of the program, which tells you what a good job Kevin Wilson has done there. Indiana scored with 4:59 remaining Saturday to grab a 26-24 victory against Purdue and finish 6-6 for a second consecutive year and will play in back-to-back postseasons for the first time since 1990-91.