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Ohio State’s Playoff Chances: Can the No. 5 Buckeyes still make the CFP?

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USC head coach Lincoln Riley looks toward the video board during the first half of their game against Notre Dame on Saturday night at the Coliseum. With back-to-back wins against UCLA and Notre Dame, USC has moved into position to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time if it can beat Utah in the Pac-12 title game later this week. Credit: Keith Birmingham | Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

Even after a 45-23 loss to No. 2 Michigan Saturday, the Buckeyes might still have the opportunity to make a national championship run.

No. 5 Ohio State (11-1) fell to the undefeated Wolverines — the defending Big Ten champions — and many felt the Buckeyes’ playoff dreams were crushed. But, after Tuesday evening’s most recent College Football Playoff Top 25, and with the upcoming conference championship games this weekend, there’s still hope for the Buckeyes.

After dropping three spots in the CFP rankings Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes sit on the outside looking in. Ohio State is ranked behind the remaining three undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision — No. 1 Georgia, Michigan and No. 3 TCU.

No. 4 USC moved one place ahead of the Buckeyes and into the four-team playoff field. The Trojans (11-1) will play in the Pac-12 Championship game Friday against No. 11 Utah, which handed USC its only loss this season 43-42 on a last-minute two-point conversion in Week 7.

CFP Selection Committee Chair Boo Corrigan said there was a lot of debate when deciding the rankings this week.

“There’s a lot of respect for Ohio State in this room,” Corrigan said. “Ohio State’s got good wins against Penn State and Notre Dame, but we’ve gotta take into account how USC is playing right now. Full body of work, we came out with USC in the No. 4 spot.”

USC closed its regular season on a five-game winning streak after a crucial win against then-No. 13 Notre Dame last weekend.

Trojan sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams made his Heisman Trophy campaign throughout the season. The sophomore tallied 3,712 passing yards on the season along with a 168.55 passing efficiency rating, which is No. 6 in FBS.

For Utah, the 9-3 Utes have an edge with the Week 7 win under their belt. Their defense also bests the Trojans in 317.5 yards per game allowed to USC’s 405.3.

It isn’t certain what would occur if USC were to fall short in its conference championship, and the Buckeyes will keep an eye on the Big 12 Championship, too.

TCU matches up with No. 13 Kansas State for the second time this season after  defeating the Wildcats 38-28 in Week 8.

Both TCU and USC likely control their destinies Saturday, but potential losses may shake up the CFP rankings — and possibly Ohio State’s playoff positioning.

“That is going to be the excitement we’re going to see this weekend,” Corrigan said. “We’re going to see how it all plays out and make our decisions next week.”

Ohio State’s season will not end even if it doesn’t qualify for the CFP.

The Buckeyes qualified for a bowl game and could be in line for a second-straight Rose Bowl appearance.

Ohio State’s near-term future will become clearer following championship games taking place this weekend. Although the Buckeyes stand presently on the outside looking in, Day said they’d be a threat with a CFP berth.

“We’ve got a lot of good pieces on this team even though we came up short,” Day said. “I think if we were to get a shot in the top four, we’d be a dangerous team.”

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