Last weekend's trio of losses by teams ranked in the top four in last weekend's College Football Playoff rankings figured to be great news for Ohio State when it came to the Buckeyes' own ranking.
The Buckeyes were ranked at No. 2 when the latest batch of the selection committee's rankings was released Tuesday night, jumping over Clemson, Michigan and Washington after those teams' losses last weekend.
Michigan, even with its loss, was also ranked in the top four, keeping its No. 3 ranking while Clemson fell two spots from No. 2 to No. 4. Alabama remained the No. 1 team in the country.
Wisconsin and Penn State rounded out a highly ranked quartet of Big Ten squads, the two-loss Badgers ranked at No. 7 and the two-loss Nittany Lions ranked at No. 8.
There's a lot to be decided still with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. Michigan and Wisconsin control their own destinies in terms of reaching the Big Ten Championship Game and will represent their respective divisions with wins in their final two regular-season games. But it might actually be Penn State with the most realistic path to Indianapolis. The Lions need to win their final two regular-season games — against Rutgers and Michigan State, two teams with a combined 1-13 record in conference play — and get one more loss from the Wolverines in order to claim the Big Ten East Division crown. Ohio State can only reach the Big Ten title game if it wins out and Penn State loses once, given that Penn State holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. So even if the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines — who could be without quarterback Wilton Speight for a significant amount of time — they still need help to get to Indy.
As of right now, Ohio State is rolling. The Buckeyes have a 9-1 record with back-to-back wins by identical 62-3 scores. The offense is cruising behind quarterback J.T. Barrett, and the defense has been terrific behind excellent secondary play. Ohio State visits Michigan State this weekend before that high-stakes rivalry game against Michigan in the regular-season finale. There's plenty of conversation, though, that even without the opportunity to play for a conference title, a one-loss Ohio State team would have a strong case for one of the final four Playoff slots.
Michigan is in trouble all of a sudden after suffering its first loss of the season, 14-13 to Iowa last weekend in Iowa City. The Wolverines' offense was uncharacteristically ineffective in that game, and there's worry going forward over the health status of Speight, who some reports say has a broken collarbone. Michigan has Indiana this weekend before The Game in Columbus.
Wisconsin is 8-2 and fresh off a beatdown of Illinois last weekend. The Badgers are still playing elite defense and will have a chance to rack up more style points in the next two weekends against Purdue and Minnesota. Wins in those games will punch Wisconsin's ticket to the conference championship game and keep the Playoff hopes alive.
Penn State is also 8-2 after scoring 24 fourth-quarter points for a comeback win over Indiana last weekend. The Lions have a suddenly fantastic chance to win the Big Ten East and play for a league title in Indy, and that will make it very possible for the Lions to reach the Playoff should they capture the conference championship. Regular-season wins over Rutgers and Michigan State are prerequisites, though.
Nebraska also earned a ranking, the No. 18 team in the top 25.
Here are the full top-25 rankings:
2. Ohio State
8. Penn State
11. Oklahoma State
14. West Virginia
17. Florida State
20. Boise State
21. Western Michigan
22. Washington State
25. Texas A&M