After wins by No. 1 Clemson, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 6 Georgia in their respective league championship games on Saturday, the last playoff spot likely will come down to No. 8 Ohio State or No. 5 Alabama. The Buckeyes (11-2) held on to beat No. 4 Wisconsin 27-21 in the Big Ten championship game, while Alabama (11-1) was idle but pointed to its profile as the nation’s top team for parts of the season.
“You want to get the four best teams in the playoff,” Saban told Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter. “You got to look at the total body of work that the team did for the entire season, and I would say that if we lost to a team in our conference that was not ranked by 30 points, that you wouldn’t be having this conversation. You wouldn’t be talking to me.”
Saban was referring to Ohio State’s 55-24 loss at unranked Iowa on Nov. 4, the Buckeyes’ second double-digit loss of the season after they fell 31-16 to Oklahoma in Week 2. But Ohio State rallied to win a conference title while adding a second win over a top-four opponent at the time they played (the Buckeyes beat then-No. 2 Penn State on Oct. 28).
Meyer’s case for Ohio State mirrored the one he made last year, even though the Buckeyes didn’t win the Big Ten last season. He argued that the quality of Ohio State’s wins — over Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State — merits the Buckeyes’ inclusion in the playoff.
“Two wins over top-four teams this year, another blowout win against a [No.] 12 team in America,” Meyer said. “And so we played three top-five teams, and we won two of them. It’s just amazing how important this playoff is and how the whole world revolves around it. I hope we get a shot.”
Saban, meanwhile, defended the quality and timing of Alabama’s lone loss, a 26-14 defeat last week at No. 2 Auburn, which then fell to Georgia in the SEC championship on Saturday. He told “SportsCenter” that the loss to Auburn didn’t represent Alabama’s body of work and that while teams can survive early-season defeats, ones later in the season are held against them.
“Georgia lost there by a whole bunch too — a lot more than we did,” Saban said. “So they’re in the playoff, they played their way into it. But I think if the four best teams get in this, we’ll get a lot of really strong consideration, and I think our team deserves to be in it.”
Ohio State found itself in Alabama’s position last season, and the Buckeyes became the first team selected for the playoff without winning a conference or division championship. The difference last season, Meyer noted Saturday, was that Ohio State had the wins profile — Oklahoma on the road, Wisconsin on the road and Michigan at home — to earn a berth. Alabama’s best wins this season came against No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Mississippi State.
Asked about the perception that Wisconsin might have been undeserving of a top-five ranking before Saturday, Meyer said of the Badgers: “We’ve had some experience against some top-five teams. That’s a top-five football team. Excellent team.”
Buckeyes players also pointed to their overall profile and the fact that they were able to finish strong after the Iowa loss with wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“If you look at our résumé, not too many teams can say that they beat the teams that we beat, fought through the things that we fought through, and we’re still peaking, man,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley said. “We have so much more to do. We’ve played some great teams, and we’ve come out victorious in just about all of them. That’s all you’ve got to say. We played a top-four team in the nation today, we beat ’em, so that should make us a top-four team in the nation. We played a top-two team in the nation at the time, Penn State, and beat them.
“I’ll leave that up to the committee, but I don’t know what else you want us to do. I just hope that they take all those things into account.”