These 3 games will determine if Ohio State backs into the College Football Playoff again

For fifth time in the College Football Playoff era and third year in a row, Ohio State is on the sidelines as conference championship weekend unfolds across college football.

Twice they have made the CFP final four anyway, including last year when the Buckeyes needed an upset and got it.

They also made the championship field in 2016 but did not need help. After being ranked No. 2 in the penultimate rankings that year, Ohio State was third a week later.

Last season, they were fifth entering this weekend, but they ended up No. 4 thanks to USC being bludgeoned by Utah in the Pac 12 Championship Game on Friday night.

While that is the only time Ohio State has gotten the help it needed on the final weekend since backing into the BCS National Championship Game in 2007, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes are hoping lightning strikes two years in a row.

This time around, Ohio State’s hopes could be extinguished by 4 p.m. Saturday or burn long into the night.

They will need more than one upset and to see one of the favorites win, too.

While the CFP selection committee remains staffed by humans and therefore is not entirely predictable, here is a look at the results that would seem to favor the Buckeyes on Saturday:

1. Big 12 Championship Game, noon, ABC

No. 7 Texas (11-1) plays No. 18 Oklahoma State (9-3) in Arlington, Texas (“Jerry World”).

The Longhorns seem very likely to jump Ohio State if they win, so the Buckeyes will be fans of another OSU pull an upset.

Like Ohio State, Texas already has two ranked wins and a ranked loss, so adding another ranked pelt and conference championship to its resume would create obvious advantages when the committee convenes for the last time.

2. SEC Championship Game, 4 p.m., CBS.

No. 1 Georgia (12-0) plays No. 8 Alabama (11-1) in Atlanta,

The two-time defending national champion Bulldogs hit their stride in November, and Alabama appears to be peaking at the right time, too, despite a near-upset last week at Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

The Crimson Tide have three ranked wins and a top 10 loss (Texas), so it remains to be seen how high they could rise if they knock off the Bulldogs — but it is safe to say they would pass Ohio State while Georgia isn’t likely to fall below the Buckeyes if the Bulldogs lose.

3. ACC Championship Game, 8 p.m., ABC.

No. 4 Florida State plays No. 11 Louisville in Charlotte, N.C.

The Seminoles survived last week without their star quarterback Jordan Travis. Can they do it again? Louisville coach Jeff Brohm prevented Ohio State from making the playoff in 2018 when his Purdue team upset the Buckeyes in late October. Can he return the favor now?

Whatever happens Saturday, Ohio State will learn its postseason fate on Sunday.

The final College Football Playoff rankings will be released on ESPN a little bit after noon, and the other major bowl matchups will be set by 3 o’clock.

The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will serve as national semifinals this season with the National Championship Game set for NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

This is the final season only four teams will make the CFP, which expands to 12 next season.

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