COLUMBUS, OH (WTOL) - Like a roller coaster, the story of the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes is that of inconsistent hills and valleys. Through all the triumph and and struggles facing the Buckeyes, they still have an outside chance to make the playoffs.
From the beginning of their 2017 campaign, Ohio State was set for a big year with the return of dynamic quarterback J.T. Barrett and a defense stacked with highly touted recruits. The Buckeyes were ranked number 2 in the AP preseason poll. But there were growing pains to start the season.
The first sign of trouble was in the Thursday night game that opened the season against conference foe Indiana. For two quarters, Ohio State struggled against a fast-paced Indiana offense while the Buckeye's offense appeared sluggish. By halftime, the Hoosiers led 14-13.
In the second half however, Ohio State scored 36 points while giving up only seven to seal a 49-21 victory heading into a massive second-week showdown against Oklahoma.
Again, Ohio State's offense struggled to only three first-half points, but their defense also held Oklahoma to a field goal as well going into the half. In the second half, Oklahoma, led by their star quarterback Baker Mayfield, put up 28 points to Ohio State's 13 second half points.
Following the loss, Ohio State rolled past their next five opponents by an average score of 53 to 11 heading into a bout with division rival Penn State.
Penn State, who had climbed to number 2 in the polls, dominated the first three quarters of the game, outscoring Ohio State 35-20 heading into the final quarter.
Ohio State responded by scoring 19 points to Penn State's three. The Nittany Lions attempted one final drive that ended with a four-and-out, sealing a 39-38 victory for the Buckeyes.
After the stunning comeback to score their marquee win of the season, Ohio State seemed like they would cruise into the playoffs. But the very next week, un-ranked Iowa blew out the Buckeyes 55-24, the worst loss of the Urban Meyer tenure.
Ohio State again returned to dominance the following two weeks by beating Michigan State and Illinois by a combined score of 100 to 17.
Next week's bout against Michigan does little for the conference championship picture, as both Ohio State and Wisconsin clinched their respective divisions. But if Ohio State wants to make the playoffs for a third time, they must look strong against the Wolverines and beat undefeated Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship.
The Buckeyes do not control their own destiny when it comes to the post-season, but they most certainly can make convincing pitch to the committee.
Ohio State is currently ranked #8 with Wisconsin, three SEC teams (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia), two ACC teams (Miami, Clemson) and Oklahoma ranked ahead.
With Notre Dame and the PAC 12 both out of the playoff picture, if Ohio State beats both Michigan and Wisconsin convincingly, the playoff committee will likely debate if a two-loss Buckeye team or a second SEC or ACC team deserves to be in the playoffs.
But that debate is for later.
This week is Rivalry Week. Ask any player, coach or fan and they will tell you there is one focus for the Buckeyes this week: Michigan.