College Football Playoff Rankings: Ohio State gets its shot at Georgia, glory

INDIANAPOLIS — As No. 2-ranked Michigan was closing in on its second Big Ten Championship in as many years, a gentleman working as event staff at Lucas Oil Stadium pulled my coat.

“RJ!” he said.

I turned around to meet him, slightly caught off-guard. After some pleasantries were exchanged, he showed me the Ohio State logo on the lock screen of his phone.

Then, as if uttering a secret, he asked: “Do you really think we got a shot?”

That’s all he wanted — a chance.

Can Ohio State beat Georgia?

Can Ohio State beat Georgia?

RJ Young dives into the College Football Playoff semifinal matchups.

I can only imagine the relief on his face — and on the faces of Ohio State fans across the country — when the College Football Playoff selection committee saw fit to rank the Buckeyes No. 4 and extend their invitation to the national semifinals.

It doesn’t matter to those fans that their Buckeyes lost embarrassingly to Michigan at home for the first time since 2000 just two weeks ago. (OK, yeah, it matters.) It doesn’t matter to them that the Buckeyes haven’t won the Big Ten title since 2020. (OK, that matters, too.)

But they knew their résumé was the strongest among the teams vying for the final playoff spot. They knew their only loss was to a 13-0 opponent — one of just two remaining — and that they’d managed to earn 11 wins before Thanksgiving.

Top four in final College Football Playoff rankings:

  • 1. Georgia (13-0)
  • 2. Michigan (13-0)
  • 3. TCU (12-1)
  • 4. Ohio State (11-1)

Playoff matchups:

  • Peach Bowl: No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 4 Ohio State
  • Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 TCU

They also knew they had a Heisman finalist at quarterback in CJ Stroud, and, when the defense plays well, their best matches up against the best the sport has to offer.

And most importantly, their chief rival for the fourth spot in the CFP — USC — lost to Utah in the Pac-12 title game, ensuring the conference would be shut out of the CFP for the sixth straight year.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham even thought to tell OSU coach Ryan Day, “You’re welcome” following the successful defense of the Utes’ league title.

Now, thanks to these factors, Ohio State has what every competitor in the world wants — a second chance. And this time I doubt they’ll be messing around.

All hands will be called to the deck, and every hand must do its job if the Buckeyes are going to win their first national title of the Ryan Day era — and their first since 2014. If the Buckeyes are fully healthy for the first time since Week 1, they match up well against defending national champion Georgia in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

But that means a healthy Jaxon Smith-Njigba, a healthy TreVeyon Henderson and a defense that has moved on from the ego-bruising defeat it was handed by Michigan in the latest edition of The Game.

If the Buckeyes can upset Georgia in what is essentially a home game for the Bulldogs, they could earn a shot at playing Michigan for the national championship.

And I’m sure the Wolverines wouldn’t have it any other way. But to do so, Michigan will have to hold up its end of the bargain. That will mean beating a TCU program that is infused with guts, and pride that harkens back to the 19th century when the state of Texas was a country unto itself.

TCU is in, while Alabama is left out

TCU is in, while Alabama is left out

RJ Young reacts to the final College Football Playoff rankings.

The Horned Frogs won’t be easy to defeat — just ask Kansas State — and they’re going to make you bleed to beat them. That’s just the kind of game Michigan wants, though.

With a dynamo at tailback in Donovan Edwards and a star quarterback in JJ McCarthy who looks more mature with every game he plays, the Wolverines looked poised to win their first national title of the century.

And if that championship needs to come via wins over TCU, plus either a Georgia team that embarrassed the Wolverines last season or their most-hated rival, then so be it.

Ohio State and Michigan are in the CFP at the same time for the first time, and the pageantry and regionality will tick up a bit with two teams north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line looking to prove whose brand of football is best.

This is what the sport is all about. And I can’t wait to watch the postseason play out.

The final College Football Playoff rankings:

  • 1. Georgia (13-0)
  • 2. Michigan (13-0)
  • 3. TCU (12-1)
  • 4. Ohio State (11-1)
  • 5. Alabama (10-2)
  • 6. Tennessee (10-2)
  • 7. Clemson (11-2)
  • 8. Utah (10-3)
  • 9. Kansas State (10-3)
  • 10. USC (11-2)
  • 11. Penn State (10-2)
  • 12. Washington (10-2)
  • 13. Florida State (9-3)
  • 14. Oregon State (9-3)
  • 15. Oregon (9-3)
  • 16. Tulane (11-2)
  • 17. LSU (9-4)
  • 18. UCLA (9-3)
  • 19. South Carolina (8-4)
  • 20. Texas (8-4)
  • 21. Notre Dame (8-4)
  • 22. Mississippi State (8-4)
  • 23. NC State (8-4)
  • 24. Troy (11-2)
  • 25. UTSA (11-2)

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RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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