As calendars turn to November, the race to the College Football Playoff (CFP) is beginning to heat up as teams prepare for one final month of resume building. On Tuesday, teams received a first look at where they stand in the national picture with the release of the first CFP rankings of the season.
As expected, Ohio State found itself firmly inside the top four after an 8-0 start to the season, being slotted second in the initial rankings behind only Tennessee, which topped the poll.
Georgia and Clemson rounded at the top four, followed by Michigan and Alabama at fifth and sixth, respectively. Shakeup to the rankings is already imminent this week as Georgia and Tennessee will square off with heavy playoff implications on the line, as figures to be the case at the end of the month when Ohio State and Michigan meet with a likely CFP berth hanging in the balance.
While the rankings will generate significant debate leading up to Saturday’s slate of games, and beyond, they won’t receive any attention from Ohio State head coach Ryan Day or his team. During his Tuesday press conference, Day reiterated what he has stated each year since he took over the program in 2019, saying he would not tune in to see the rankings and would, instead, focus on preparing for what matters most.
“Do I think we deserve to be in the top four? Absolutely,” Day said. “Do I think it matters all that much right now? No. What matters is beating Northwestern.”
Ohio State travels to Evanston, Illinois on Saturday to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (1-7) in as big a mismatch as Ohio State sports on its schedule this season. But coming off an emotional win in one of the sport’s top venues a week ago, and with the showdown with Michigan now just four weeks away, Day said on Tuesday his team can’t change its approach to reflect the team on the schedule.
“I think the first thing is we’ve always said it’s about us, so why would that change this week?” Day asked. “Last week, going into Penn State, it was about us, it was about our preparation … If that’s the case, then let’s just focus on us and getting better. I think the second thing is you have to continue to do what you’re doing and get better every week. If you don’t, not only do you show weakness but you set yourself up for problems down the road.
“I think when you have a problem or you lose a game, maybe it’s something you did that week but maybe it’s something you did in the weeks leading up to it. For us, our goals are still our goals, and if we don’t maximize every single minute of the day this week, then it doesn’t matter.”
Day cautioned the game is still a Big Ten road game and that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald does “a great job” with his team despite the wins not being there this season. Regardless of the lack of wins, Day went on to say Ohio State is chasing its own elite standard, which will be the focus on Saturday.
“We gotta go play football, and we want to play at a high level,” Day said. “That’s the goal here. It really shouldn’t matter who we’re playing against. It’s the competitve stamina that we talked about at the beginning of the season, and we’ll continue to reiterate that this week.”