They have been in this situation more than a half dozen times since the first year of the BCS (1998), and the odds are low it works out if history is any guide.
Here is a look at past years Ohio State went into the last weekend of the season hoping the cards come out in their favor to keep their national championship hopes going through the holidays:
Ohio State was the preseason No. 1, but the Buckeyes’ perfect record was ruined Nov. 7 when they lost 28-24 at home to Michigan State.
That dropped them to seventh in the polls, but they made up two spots while beating Iowa and Michigan to finish the regular season.
Ohio State needed three upsets on Championship Saturday — and nearly got them all.
Edgerrin James ran for 299 yards and the game-winning touchdown as Miami (Fla.) upset No. 2 UCLA 49-45 in a wild regular season make-up game, and No. 10 Texas A&M rallied from 15 down in the fourth quarter to down No. 3 Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game.
With the Bruins and the Aggies out of the way, Ohio State still needed No. 1 Tennessee to lose in the SEC Championship Game.
The Volunteers trailed No. 23 Mississippi State 14-10 in the fourth quarter, but Meadowdale grad Peerless Price caught a 41-yard touchdown pass to put the Volunteers on top for good. They won 24-14 to qualify for the first BCS Championship Game in the Fiesta Bowl, where they beat a Florida State team that had to hold off rival Florida in its finale or the Buckeyes might have gotten their spot.
Price also caught the game-clinching touchdown pass against Florida State when a Seminoles win might have allowed Ohio State to claim a split national title.
Ohio State was No. 1 for most of November before an upset loss to Illinois dropped the Buckeyes to No. 7.
The Buckeyes capped the regular season with a win over Michigan when The Game was still played before Thanksgiving and many teams still had two games left.
In those two weeks, everyone ahead of Ohio State lost, including a wild 50-48 Arkansas upset of then-No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Missouri beating No. 2 Kansas on Thanksgiving weekend.
On Championship Saturday, Missouri turned around and lost to Oklahoma while Dave Wannstedt’s 4-7 Pitt team shocked Rich Rodriguez’s 10-1, second-ranked West Virginia squad in the Backyard Brawl.
That cleared the way for Ohio State to move back up to No. 1 with LSU finishing No. 2 after winning the SEC Championship Game. Les Miles’ Tigers then beat the Buckeyes for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State was sixth in the next-to-last CFP rankings thanks to a mind-boggling home loss to Michigan State to close out the home slate.
After the Buckeyes routed Michigan in Ann Arbor, there was some thought chaos could have put the Buckeyes in the final top four, but it didn’t come.
Clemson and Alabama held serve in their conference championship contests, Michigan State and Iowa both remained ahead of the Buckeyes after playing a taut title game for the Big Ten, and Stanford actually jumped Ohio State after winning the Pac-12.
Oklahoma had secured a spot the previous week by trouncing Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game.
This year might seem similar to, well, THIS year, because the Buckeyes were not playing on Championship Saturday. But there is a key difference: Rather than hoping to move up with a loss or two above them, the Buckeyes were No. 2 entering the weekend.
Clemson passed Ohio State after winning the ACC Championship Game, but the committee ranked the No. 3 Buckeyes ahead of Pac-12 champ Washington.
Penn State was hoping to become the first two-loss team to make the final four, but the Nittany Lions finished fifth despite beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game and Ohio State in the regular season.
Nittany Lions fans fretted over having a conference title and a head-to-head victory against the Buckeyes, but the CFP committee chair explained the group never needed to consider those things because the debate for them was one-loss Washington or the two-loss Lions after deciding the Buckeyes were better than the Huskies.
Ohio State’s trip to the Fiesta Bowl to face Clemson was not memorable for the Buckeyes, though, as they were shut out 31-0. The fallout from that game included Ryan Day being hired as quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Credit: Christian Petersen
Credit: Christian Petersen
Ohio State was No. 8 in the next-to-last rankings, and the Buckeyes helped themselves by knocking out No. 4 Wisconsin.
They couldn’t get past Georgia and Alabama in the minds of the committee, though. The Bulldogs moved up from six to three after beating Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, and the Crimson Tide ended up benefiting most for Ohio State handling the Badgers.
As Ohio State is hoping to do this year, one-loss Alabama moved up from five to four without playing. The Buckeyes had a conference championship, but they also had two losses, one a blowout at Iowa.
Ohio State spent the last five weeks of the season trying to recover from a 49-20 loss at Purdue.
The Buckeyes were No. 6 entering Championship Saturday and beat Northwestern 45-24, but they picked the wrong year to be a one-loss conference champion.
No. 3 Notre Dame had already beaten USC to finish undefeated, and No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Oklahoma all won their championship games, leaving no room in the final four for Ohio State. To add insult to injury, Georgia only dropped from fourth to fifth after losing the SEC Championship Game to the Crimson Tide, but that was academic as far as the playoff field.
With two losses, No. 6 Ohio State’s hopes of sneaking into the top four at the end were faint at best.
Ninth-ranked Baylor knocking off No. 5 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game helped, but Cincinnati topped Houston to clinch the No. 4 spot, preventing a potentially controversial decision involving the Bearcats and Buckeyes.
No. 3 Alabama left no doubt it would be in the final four by handing No. 1 Georgia its first loss in the SEC Championship Game. Had the Bearcats and Crimson Tide lost, No. 5 Notre Dame probably would have had the first open spot, but Ohio State could have had an argument for the other.