Ohio State not a lock for Rose Bowl if it misses College Football Playoff

The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch

One postseason possibility for Ohio State if it misses out on the College Football Playoff remains the Rose Bowl.

But it’s hardly a lock, especially as the Buckeyes made the trip to the “Granddaddy of them All” last January.

The potential path to Pasadena is similar to the one laid out 12 months ago. If Michigan wins the Big Ten and reaches the playoff, it leaves the Rose Bowl in a position to nab the highest remaining ranked team from the conference and pit it against a representative from the Pac-12.

Last season, it took the Buckeyes, who went on to win in a historic thriller over Utah .

A clause in the selection criteria for the oldest operating bowl, however, gives it discretion in replacing the Big Ten champion.

If teams from the conference fall within a “cluster” in the final playoff rankings, the bowl can go with its preferred choice, weighing a host of factors that include recent appearances and records, as well as staging the best-possible matchup.

“It’s nice to have the highest-ranked team,” said Laura Farber, the chair of the Rose Bowl’s management committee. “I’m not going to say it’s not. But those factors will definitely come into play, as will working in conjunction with our conference partners. We need to look at the best matchup and the best matchup for everybody, them and for us.”

In the penultimate playoff rankings released on Tuesday night, the Buckeyes were ranked fifth, a spot that would be the highest of any team not bound for the four-team bracket.

But it was not too far ahead of Penn State, a fellow Big Ten program that was slotted at No. 8.

Farber said there is no specific range in the rankings for determining what makes up a “cluster” of teams in the view of the bowl.

“Put it this way, it’s not going to be a number 5 and a number 25,” Farber said. “That’s not a cluster. It’s got to be closer. It’s got to be within several spots of each other.”

The final rankings are released on Sunday, and the Rose Bowl makes its selection later that day.

Recent appearances by teams are considered as a factor by the bowl due to the possibility of weariness for travel from fans or an interest from the teams themselves to head an alternative locale.

“If you’ve got teams that keep coming,” Farber said, “at some point they’re going to say, ‘We kind of want a difference experience, we don’t want to keep going to the same place. It’s not fun anymore.’ ”

The Rose Bowl has not had a repeat participant in a decade, last coming when Wisconsin made consecutive trips at the end of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

As Ohio State reached the bowl last season, it sold only two-thirds of its ticket allotment , a decline from its previous appearance three years earlier.

Farber said she was unsure how the Buckeyes felt about making another trip to Southern California.

“We don’t have any sense at this point,” she said. “But I imagine we will have a sense as everybody has a reality check when we know how the games (this weekend) are going. We’ll have a much better idea where we’re going Sunday morning.”

The Buckeyes have not appeared in the Rose Bowl in consecutive seasons since it went four years in a row in the early 1970s, a stretch that included three matchups with USC.

The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Rose Bowl is considering taking over Penn State over the Buckeyes, noting the frequency of their recent trips. Penn State has gone five seasons without an appearance.

If Ohio State misses out on the playoff and is passed over by the marquee bowl, it would end up in another New Year’s Six bowl game.

The Orange Bowl is seen as the likely landing spot in such a scenario . The Buckeyes last appeared in that game in 2013. It did go to South Florida for the CFP championship game at the end of the 2020 season.

For either Ohio State or Penn State to reach the Rose Bowl, Michigan must beat Purdue in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, leaving the bowl without an available league champion to choose from with the Wolverines headed to the playoff. An upset by the Boilermakers would send them to Pasadena as the winner of the conference.

“The bottom line is if Michigan does prevail,” Farber said, “I imagine Ohio State is going to be in an awesome game, whether it’s our game or another game.”

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman .

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio State not a lock for Rose Bowl if it misses College Football Playoff

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