Young or Not, 2016 is still a playoffs or bust season for Ohio State

Urban Meyer is putting together a major offensive line haul in the 2017 class. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Urban Meyer is putting together a major offensive line haul in the 2017 class. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Expectations will once again be high for Ohio State.

Is it fair that Ohio State is getting a lot of preseason respect for a team that has just six returning starters?

Sure it is.  Several of the projected starters this year have played significantly and Urban Meyer has recruited top classes over the last four years.

While it may seem reasonable that the program is likely a year away from seriously contending for a championship, expectations remain the same.  Earning a playoff bid and winning it all defines success.

Like it or not, we’re in the age of playoffs or bust.  Capturing the Big Ten is still an impressive accomplishment, but it rings hallow unless it brings a chance to play for a championship.

The odds are low that the College Football Playoff Committee will select a 10-2 team so finishing with just one loss seems mandatory.

What is the path for Ohio State to make it to the 2016 college football playoffs?

Is it better to lose an early road game against Oklahoma and then run the table in the Big 10 or beat the Sooners and drop a game in conference?

Tough call.  The 2014 team earned a pass after losing the second game to Virginia Tech.  Not sure it can lose a game to the Sooners and still find its way back to the playoffs.

The Hokies never factored into the ACC race in 2014 after stealing a win against a young Buckeyes team in Columbus.  Oklahoma is favored to win the Big 12 and should stay in the hunt all season barring a collapse.

Should the Buckeyes fail to beat the Sooners in Norman on Sept 17, going undefeated in the Big 10 is necessary if they want to return to playoffs.

Here is a breakdown of the Non-Big Ten 2016 CFP Contenders:

The winner of the Florida State and Clemson game is a lock.  Of course the Tigers have to beat Auburn on the road in week one and the Seminoles need to beat Ol Miss to start the season and the Gators at the end of the season, but both should take care of business against mid-tier SEC programs.

Unless there is compete meltdown, Green party candidate Jill Stein has a better chance of winning in November than the SEC winner being left out of the playoffs.  Don’t be shocked if two SEC teams stay in the Top 4 until late November.

Top to bottom, the Pac-12 is the deepest Power Five conference with at least four teams that could win the conference and the middle of the pack littered with good teams that can hang with just about anyone.

With Christian McCaffrey leading the way, Stanford is the favorite, but the Cardinal’s schedule is loaded so going undefeated seems unlikely.

UCLA and USC have the talent to stay in the race, but all of them have major obstacles in and out of conference.  The Bruins open at Texas A&M and the Trojans USC start with Alabama. These are must win games if either team has eyes on making the playoffs.

Washington Utah are getting preseason attention, but history suggests both teams will stumble multiple times along the way.

Notre Dame is primed to make a run this year, but a schedule that includes Michigan State, Stanford, USC and Texas is hard to navigate without a loss.  Brian Kelly is also flirting with using multiple quarterbacks again which is bound to torpedo the season somewhere along the way.

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Tom Herman has Houston positioned to sneak into the playoffs should the Cougars beat Oklahoma, Louisville and go undefeated in the American Conference. All agree that he is a great coach, but the odds of this happening seem pretty low.

The Sooners should win the Big 12 as the competition is not quite on the same level this year.  Baylor is hindered by the off-the-field issues, Texas and TCU lack quarterbacks and Oklahoma State’s defense could not stop a pee wee football team, let alone a Big 12 offense.

In the end, I predict that Stanford and the ACC and SEC champions will be three of the four teams selected by the CFP Committee this season.

Since going undefeated seems unrealistic, the Buckeyes chances of making the playoffs seem better if they beat Oklahoma and eliminate any debate with a likely Power Five conference champion.

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Obviously they still need to take care of business in the Big Ten as that is the only way the Buckeyes will get in, but there is no chance the CFP committee selects Ohio State over the Oklahoma should it come down to these two teams.