Remember October 22, when unranked Penn State beat AP No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21, thanks to this blocked kick runback by Grant Haley?
“We watched the video on Sunday, and Haley’s one of the fastest guys on our team. But he almost got walked down by their kicker and holder at the end of the run. I think he knew he would’ve never heard the end of it in the locker room if that happened,” head coach James Franklin said the next day.
It felt big at the time, but we had no idea how big it’d become.
Ohio State beat Michigan in double overtime, 30-27, on Saturday, and would’ve won the Big Ten East and advanced to the conference title game against Wisconsin ... if not for that loss to PSU. Because of that upset, the Nittany Lions’ 45-12 Saturday afternoon win over Michigan State clinched the division for PSU.
So now we’re looking at Penn State-Wisconsin in Indianapolis for the conference title next weekend.
Meanwhile, OSU’s hoping to become the first-ever team to not win a conference championship and still make the Playoff. That’d probably also make the Big Ten the first conference to ever place two into the four-team field. The Buckeyes started the day ranked No. 2 and then knocked off No. 3 in a nailbiter, so you’d think they’d be in, right?
Well, we have no idea how important conference titles really are. The committee’s never had to make a call like this involving a team that didn’t win at least a share of a Power 5 conference title. The Buckeyes didn’t even win their division.
So no matter how certain it might seem that OSU’s in the Playoff anyway, and no matter where the Buckeyes rank on the Tuesday before conference title weekend, we can only guess how highly they’ll rank on Selection Sunday.
A little chaos in the ACC, Big 12, or Pac-12 could make OSU all but a sure thing, though. The Buckeyes have, at the very least, the best resume of any team that didn’t win a conference, including a dominant road win over potential Big 12 champion Oklahoma.
(And no, that blocked kick shouldn’t have been called a leaping penalty. Totally legal.)