Ohio State's season isn't over yet.
However, the Buckeyes are guaranteed to prepare for no more than one game. The College Football Playoff selection committee chose Alabama as the No. 4 team in the nation, leaving Urban Meyer's club out of the four-team championship tournament.
Immediately after the revelation, everyone watching the drawn-out release nodded their heads in agreement.
Ha. Yeah, right.
Ohio State presented a formidable case, boasting an 11-2 record with a Big Ten championship and three victories against teams previously ranked higher than Alabama's best win. Despite a two-loss program never before reaching the CFP, 2017 was a reasonable time for that trend to end.
But now, the lasting question is clear: Should the Buckeyes have been included?
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
The #CFBPlayoff is set. Who ya got? https://t.co/6de4sJ0ygv2017-12-3 17:35:48
Alabama certainly didn't boast a flawless argument. That's why several analysts around the college football world, including ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, thought the Crimson Tide deserved a place, yet they anticipated Ohio State would appear in that No. 4 slot.
During the final three regular-season weeks, Alabama barely survived a trip to StarkVegas and clipped Mississippi State. Then in the Iron Bowl, Auburn unquestionably outplayed Saban's squad.
The wrecking crew that cruised through September and October retreated into the shadows, relegating Alabama to a couch for the SEC Championship Game. Without a conference crown and a marquee win, the 11-1 Tide were by no means a lock for the playoff.
Ohio State, on the other hand, rattled off two victories over opponents ranked at the time of the matchup, and another that had been ranked the week before, over the last four weeks. The Buckeyes convincingly smashed Michigan State, hung on at Michigan and mostly controlled the Big Ten title against Wisconsin.
This team was hot. The other was not.
But we cannot conveniently ignore what happened on the first weekend of November, either. Iowa demolished Ohio State, 55-24, and that result proved to be the Buckeyes' undoing.
Matt Brown on Sports on Earth passed along a comment from Kirby Hocutt, the Big 12 representative to the selection committee:
Matt Brown @MattBrownCFB
"More damaging was the 31-point loss to unranked Iowa" -- Hocutt. There you go2017-12-3 17:46:55
No matter the side you elect to defend, this much is inarguable: You cannot perform poorly while falling to a fellow national contender, lose to a conference opponent by 31 points and expect to make the playoff.
Being considered is one thing, and Ohio State certainly deserved a place in the conversation. But the Buckeyes could not reasonably expect to receive a pass.
In Week 2, Oklahoma went into Columbus and dominated the game. Though the final score only read 31-16, at no point in that contest did Ohio State ever appear the superior side. Meyer called the performance "awful."
"Offense was bad."
"We didn't play very well."
And that was several weeks before the Buckeyes traveled to Kinnick Stadium and flat-out stunk. Meyer reiterated those points that night. The 55-24 loss, beyond any doubt, was the worst shortcoming of any championship contender in 2017. B/R's Adam Kramer agreed:
Adam Kramer @KegsnEggs
Iowa might never end up on top in the end, but they're throwing a chair through someone's living room window no matter what.2017-12-3 17:43:16
The "controversy" will linger throughout the next month, leading into the New Year's Six bowl games and national semifinals. Disappointed fans—whether they support Ohio State, dislike Alabama or whatever—will remain disgruntled with the 13-member panel.
No, Alabama wasn't a perfect team. Nor was USC, Wisconsin or Auburn. Only UCF could tout that accomplishment, but the selection committee ignored the Knights all year. Of the flawed teams available, it was justifiable to consider one-loss Alabama the best of an unsatisfactory situation.
The simple truth is the Buckeyes have nobody but themselves to blame.
Want to make the playoff? Ideally, don't lose at all. (Sorry, UCF.) Don't whiff on a signature nonconference win. Should that happen, though, be sure to avoid a 31-point loss at Iowa.
But if a team must lose once, make sure it's a good one.
Like, say, Clemson's 27-24 L at Syracuse.