Should Ohio State football be worried about a Darkhorse playoff contender? Hey Nathan!

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Ohio State football sometimes claims to be overlooked or underappreciated, it never truly enters a season with Cinderella story potential.

It remains the only program that would have made a 12-team playoff if it had existed since 2014. Another top-five finish is likely, despite likely voter deference to Michigan’s two-game winning streak in The Game.

Could another team really come out of nowhere and ruin the Power 5 party in the Four Team Final Qualifiers?

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Hey, Nathan: “What’s the best long-term pick for a 2023 playoff spot?” Aside from the obvious Georgia/Ohio State/Alabama picks, I’m curious what you guys think of the next Cincinnati 2021 or Washington 2016 team… just a team like, ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming. “. If you had to bet $10 in order to maximize your return, who would you choose? —Scott, Charleston, SC

Hey, Scott: The spirit of this question takes us beyond the level of teams like Texas, Florida State and the Huskies now led by Michael Penix. Enough people are already raising them as Darkhorse playoff contenders.

The truth is, 2021 Cincinnati didn’t come completely out of nowhere. The Bearcats were a known commodity before the season. They had a talented quarterback in Desmond Ridder, NFL-bound cornerbacks in Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant and a key road game at Notre Dame to get looks and, if they won, respect.

This team also needed help. If Ohio State had beaten Michigan and won the Big Ten championship game, they would have made the playoffs as a one-loss team against undefeated Cincinnati.

If I had to pick a Five Five team to go on an undefeated run and give themselves a chance to crush the conversation, look at Boise State. The Broncos tick a lot of the same boxes as Cincinnati did two years ago.

Quarterback: Taylen Green was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year in 2022 after tallying 24 touchdowns with his dual-threat skills.

Another NFL talent: running back George Holani hasn’t always stayed healthy, but has two 1,000-yard seasons,

Timing Opportunity: Boise State opens at Washington, which could be a top-15 team and is generating its own playoff buzz. Immediately after that comes a home game against UCF, a generally respected Five-Eyes program. Those are the two wins the Broncos would indicate if they were leading the board and the Power 5 contenders cannibalized each other.

To be clear, I’m talking about a Boise State 13-0 compared to a Power 5 team two-game losing streak for fourth and final playoff spot. I don’t think that’s happening – although the same scenario is intriguing a year later when a Grouo of Five is guaranteed to qualify for the playoffs.

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