Playoff goal still attainable for Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin looks for running room after a catch against Penn State on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. David Jablonski/Staff

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Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin looks for running room after a catch against Penn State on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. David Jablonski/Staff

One loss does not doom teams in playoff age

The Ohio State Buckeyes know they didn’t lose a spot in the College Football Playoff with their 24-21 loss at Penn State on Saturday, but coach Urban Meyer doesn’t want that to be a topic.

“I’m actually trying not to go there,” Meyer said Tuesday. “Our focus is on a very good team coming in here.”

The Buckeyes (6-1, 3-1) play Northwestern (4-3, 3-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium. They fell to No. 6 in the Associated Press poll with their first loss. Of the one-loss teams in the top 25, they rank second behind No. 5 Louisville, which has lost only to No. 3 Clemson.

The first College Football Playoff rankings will be announced at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. Most experts agree if the Buckeyes win their last five regular-season games and make the Big Ten Championship game and win that, they’ll secure a spot in the playoff, but their hopes also hinge on what the other teams in contention do.

Here’s a quick glance at the remaining schedules of the top teams:

No. 1 Alabama (8-0): at No. 19 LSU; vs. Mississippi State; vs. Chattanooga; vs. No. 15 Auburn.

No. 2 Michigan (7-0): at Michigan State; vs. Maryland; at Iowa; vs. Indiana; at No. 6 Ohio State.

No. 3 Clemson (7-0): at No. 12 Florida State; vs. Syracuse; vs. Pittsburgh; at Wake Forest; vs. South Carolina.

No. 4 Washington: (7-0): at No. 17 Utah; at California; vs. Southern California; vs. Arizona State; at Washington State.

No. 5 Louisville (6-1): at Virginia; at Boston College; vs. Wake Forest; at Houston; vs. Kentucky.

No. 6 Ohio State: vs. Northwestern; vs. No. 7 Nebraska; at Maryland; at Michigan State; vs. No. 2 Michigan.

Ohio State made the playoff in 2014 despite losing to Virginia Tech. Oregon made the playoff that season with a loss to Arizona on its resume, and Alabama earned a berth despite a loss to Ole Miss.

Last season, Michigan State overcame a loss to Nebraska last season to win the Big Ten and advance to the playoff. Oklahoma lost to Texas but reached the playoff. Alabama won the national championship despite losing to Ole Miss again in the regular season.

In the age of the playoff, one loss does not doom teams. A second loss would spell the end of Ohio State’s hopes, of course. That’s why it’s trying not to think about the playoff.

“First and foremost, our goal is not to make the playoffs,” right guard Billy Price said. “That comes with the territory. Our goal is to go out and execute and win each every week and make sure we take care of the things up front. With that comes the Big Ten championship and the College Football Playoff and things later on down the road. But we can’t sit here and say our goal is to win the national championship every year. Let’s slow down a little bit. All of our goals are still attainable. We control our fate. We just have to take care of each week, and we’ll go from there.”

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