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Texas A&M jumps into top five of Amway Coaches Poll
USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
Under normal circumstances, Ohio State would be in a comfortable position in the College Football Playoff discussion. But this is 2020 — nothing is normal.
The committee clearly has a favorable impression of the Buckeyes, who are expected to remain at No. 4 after the latest set of rankings are announced Tuesday night. But COVID-19 issues have caused three cancellations for Ohio State, the latest this Saturday’s scheduled matchup with Michigan.
It’s the first time in more than 100 years the rivals won’t play.
That leaves Ohio State with just five regular-season games, short of the six required by the Big Ten to be eligible for the conference championship. That’s according to rules put in place when the league voted to restart its season.
On its face, the lack of an official conference title wouldn’t be a disqualifier from playoff consideration, but in past years the committee has emphasized conference championships as a major criterion for selection to the four-team field.
So where do matters stand for the Buckeyes now that Michigan is unavailable? There are several possibilities.
►The Big Ten could find the Buckeyes another league opponent if there are other games canceled, a strong possibility given the number of teams hit by COVID-19 outbreaks on a weekly basis. A likely candidate is Maryland.
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►The league could amend the six-game minimum policy. Wisconsin athletics director and former football coach Barry Alvarez, who chaired the Big Ten’s return to play committee, said that might be a possibility in an interview with the Detroit News last week.
“I would think that if something would happen to Ohio State and they’d have to cancel another game that that’s something that we’ve got to revisit,” Alvarez said. “They’re sitting up there still ranked No. 4. Our league can’t keep them from having the opportunity if they have a chance to be in the finals.”
►There might be a cleaner option available for conference championship weekend, even if the Buckeyes aren’t in the title game. In setting up its eight-week schedule, the Big Ten had planned for all of its members to play a ninth game on Dec. 19 based on their order of finish in their respective divisions. The Buckeyes figure to be assigned a strong opponent from the West for that week, most likely Wisconsin, which can only get in a maximum of five of its regular-season games at this point. In this unusual season, a win against the Badgers would likely carry just as much weight with the committee as a Big Ten championship.
Follow USA TODAY Sports colleges reporter Eddie Timanus on Twitter @EddieTimanus