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Ohio State knows more College Football Playoff heartache than any team: Doug Lesmerises

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Another Selection Sunday in the College Football Playoff, another disappointment for Ohio State.

Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma were selected as the four best teams in the country by the 13-member playoff committee on Sunday. Ohio State was No. 6 and will play Washington in the Rose Bowl.

This is the third time the Buckeyes finished No. 5 through No. 7 in the five-year playoff era. No other team has finished in that “close but out” grouping more than once.

What teams have really been shocked on Selection Sunday in these five years? Which programs have waited for the final rankings believing they had a shot, and then were left out?

* In 2014, TCU and Baylor both won on the final weekend, thought they had a shot, and didn’t get in. Ohio State jumped from No. 6 to No. 4, while TCU went from No. 3 to No. 6 and Baylor moved up from No. 6 to No. 5.

Baylor was a little peeved. TCU was stunned, and angry.

* In 2015, Iowa was the No. 5 team with one loss, but the Hawkeyes lost the Big Ten Championship to Michigan State in what everyone knew was a play-in game. Stanford, No. 6 with two losses as the Pac-12 champ, was never a serious playoff threat. And Ohio State, with one loss, watched the Big Ten championship game from home.

The Buckeyes were one of the four “best” teams in the nation that year, but their resume was the third-best in the Big Ten. So they could be frustrated on selection day, but not surprised.

No team was shocked. The top four were clear.

* In 2016, the Buckeyes were in as the No. 3 team, despite not winning the Big Ten. Penn State, as the two-loss Big Ten champ, made a case. I thought the Nittany Lions should have made it ahead of the Buckeyes. But the debate in the end was No. 4 Washington, a one-loss Pac-12 champ, against Penn State.

The Nittany Lions had a case and a chance that day and had a disappointing Sunday.

* In 2017, the only decision was between one-loss Alabama and two-loss Big Ten champ Ohio State. On selection day, a lot of people were waiting for the Buckeyes to slide into that No. 4 spot. Instead, it was Alabama, and the Buckeyes were out again.

* Now 2018 brought another close shave, with the Buckeyes once again winning the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night and losing the playoff battle the next afternoon.

So who really had their hopes crushed in these five years of the playoff?

TCU in 2014. Penn State in 2016. Ohio State last year and this year. Because two-loss Georgia, without a conference title, really doesn’t have a case despite finishing No. 5.

Why did Ohio State wind up here again? Not enough chaos.

* The Buckeyes needed one top four team to lose along the way, and the Buckeyes didn’t get that loss. Ohio State lost to Purdue on Oct. 20.

Notre Dame was off that weekend but had beaten Pitt just 19-14 the week before. The Fighting Irish had five games left, and plenty of reasons to assume they’d trip up. They beat Northwestern by 10 and USC by 7, but they found their way through. Their closest calls were early. The first three weeks, Notre Dame beat Michigan by 7, Ball State by 8 and Vanderbilt by 5.

It wasn’t a bad idea to guess Notre Dame would lose somewhere. But they beat the highest-rated team they faced, Syracuse, 36-3.

* Clemson beat Texas A&M by 2 in week two and Syracuse by four in week five.

But once the Buckeyes lost, Clemson was rolling. In a weak ACC, over the final six weeks, the Tigers won every game by at least 20, with an average margin of victory of 35. No help for the Buckeyes there.

* Since Ohio State’s Purdue loss, Oklahoma has a 5-point, a 1-point win and a 3-point win. The Sooners beat Oklahoma State only because the Cowboys missed a two-point conversion with 1:03 to play.

That play … if Oklahoma State converts that … that play … and Ohio State might be in.

Instead, the chaos never came.

In 2007, Ohio State needed about five things to happen for the Buckeyes to make the BCS National Championship after losing to Illinois in their next-to-last game. They all happened.

This year, the Buckeyes needed one thing to happen with Clemson, Notre or Oklahoma over the second half of the season. And nothing happened.

That made for another Sunday with the Buckeyes left out.

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