Hartman: Ohio State did all it could to make, break its playoff case

Billy Price is pretty much the best quote on this Ohio State team, but he wasn’t biting on the playoff talk.

"I just want to enjoy this win," he said with no exasperation or indignation in his voice.

A simple enough request, right?

Ohio State’s star center, Price had just won his second Big Ten championship the same week he was named the conference’s top offensive lineman.

He had just watched classmate J.T. Barrett gut out a winning performance less than a week after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

He had a lot to be happy about going on within the Lucas Oil Stadium walls without worrying about anything else.

But the talk was raging even before Ohio State had finished its 27-21 win over Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship game.

Even before it was scheduled.

Even before the whole season started, right?

Sometimes it seems like that’s all we talk about all year (no small thanks to ESPN ad campaigns).

Urban Meyer apparently has noticed this as well.

“Just amazing how important this playoff is and how the whole world revolves around it,” he said, and this time there was a little salt in the delivery. Maybe a slight eye roll, too.

But Meyer understands reality. He gets the game.

That’s why he spent another part of his postgame press conference stating the case for his team.

“I think our strength of schedule, quality wins is phenomenal — and we're conference champions,” Meyer said. “Once again, two wins over top four. I don't know if anyone's done that. Two wins over top four teams this year. Another blowout win against a 12 team in America. And so we played three top five teams and we won two of them.”

For Meyer and others anxious to talk about anything else, there’s some good news.

This debate mercifully has an expiration date, and it’s coming soon.

By the bottom of the noon hour, we’ll know who made college football’s final four for the 2017 season.

All indications are it will come down to Ohio State and Alabama (joining Clemson, Georgia and Oklahoma).

The choice is nothing less than an existential crisis for the playoff committee, which is guaranteed to get it wrong one way or another.

As Meyer alluded, Ohio State’s best wins are more impressive than those of the Crimson Tide.

A Buckeyes’ loss — to Big 12 champion Oklahoma — also is more respectable than Alabama’s, which came just last week to the same Auburn team that was beaten handily by Georgia in the SEC Championship game Saturday.

But there’s one more fly in the ointment, and it’s a big one.

Ohio State has another loss. Not only that, it was a 55-24 beatdown at Iowa, who ended up being no good.

We know how the committee treats teams that are not conference champions.

Have a strong enough resume and that’s OK.

We don’t really know what it takes for them to overlook a second loss, though, because that hasn’t happened.

And until a little bit after noon Sunday, we really can’t do anything but guess.

Fans of both teams can also share this sentiment from Meyer: “I hope we get a shot.”

Ohio State didn’t really look like a threat to knock off one of the top three as it struggled to hold off Wisconsin, but at least the Buckeyes were playing, right?

How is it going to look to have Alabama get in after losing its biggest game of the season — one that also happens to be the last one the Crimson Tide played?

All I really know now is Ohio State has done enough to get in by beating Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin and winning the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes also did enough to get left out by losing the way they did to Oklahoma and Iowa.

Although it won’t stop them, no one has anything to complain about no matter the committee’s decision.

If that’s disappointing, well, there’s always next year.

There’s also the very real possibility Ohio State —or Alabama — is simply waiting to be granted the right to lose to a better team on January 1.

Is it worth it in that case?

Was getting blown out by Clemson last year better than romping over Notre Dame in a meaningless game the year before?

I tend to think it was because it’s better to be part of the show than not.

Alabama hasn’t proven it can beat anyone elite this season.

Ohio State has reached higher heights but seen lower lows.

But four teams have to make the playoff — no more, no less — so someone is getting a shot.

And neither team might be the same after a month to regroup, anyway.

See the 2014 Buckeyes for an example of that phenomenon…. or the ’16 version for one that shows up in the postseason with all the same problems that were there in the first 12 or 13 weeks.

In the traditional measure, Ohio State had a better season than Alabama.

There’s no debate about that.

The Buckeyes are getting a championship banner. They beat their rival again, and those triumphs over Penn State and Michigan State were pretty memorable, too.

Iowa printed t-shirts to commemorate their win, but Ohio State has another year to add to the wall of champions in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Maybe that’s how the committee should look at it.

Will they?

Your guess is as good as mine.

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