The selection committee for the inaugural College Football Playoff released its first top 25 rankings on Tuesday night, and the highest team from the Big Ten conference was Michigan State at No. 8. Nebraska was ranked 15th and Ohio State 16th - a bit of a surprise to many pundits after the rankings were announced.
On the ESPN telecast where the top 25 was released, ABC/ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Ohio State's ranking was one that stood out to him.
"Where Ohio State is now, they have a long way to go to even be in the discussion," Herbstreit said. "Where as Michigan State, (the Buckeyes and Spartans play) on Nov. 8, if they were to continue to win I think they obviously have a much, much better chance of getting into the discussion and get up into the top four. For Ohio State, that is a long way to go sitting at No. 16."
While Herbstreit acknowledged Ohio State has a tough road, it is not an impossible one. One thing that would obviously help the Buckeyes or Nebraska is winning the conference championship. "There are a lot of people that believe that if Ohio State were to beat Michigan State and win out they would have a decent argument because, again, they are a conference champion," Herbstreit said. "One of the first things in the criteria of the committee is to recognize, if you are splitting hairs with a bunch of one-loss teams, 'Oh – this team happens to be a conference champion.' So that might be enough to get them over."
There are still a lot of games to be played - and a lot of winners and losers will emerge each week prior to the final four playoff teams being announced on Dec. 7.
"We’re not even to Halloween yet," Herbstreit said. "What I would say is rather than panicking about where your team might be or may not be, I would make an argument - let’s see how many of these four in early December are actually still on the bracket. ... Let your team keep playing, and if they are as good as you think they are, then they’ll be in a nice position to get into that top four and they’ll be recognized and honored."