Without playing, Buckeyes move into CFB against No. 1 Bulldogs

COLUMBUS – Eight days after having a very bad day, Ohio State had a very good day on Sunday when, as expected, it was one of four teams selected for the College Football Playoff.

The fourth-seeded Buckeyes (11-1) will play No. 1-seeded defending national champion Georgia (13-0) in the Peach Bowl at 8 p.m. Dec. 31 in a playoff semifinal. No. 2-seeded Michigan (13-0) will play No. 3 Texas Christian University (12-1) in the Fiesta Bowl at 4 p.m. Dec. 31 in the other semifinal.

“The goal was to be in the College Football Playoff. That was the goal at the beginning of the season and here we are. It’s a strange way to get here but at the end of the day that’s it,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said at a press conference on Sunday.

“Now it is just what we do going forward. Certainly the game at the end of the year is going to be in the backs of our minds as motivation but now it’s just all about maximizing this month,” he said.

Ohio State was No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings when it was beaten 45-23 by Michigan on Nov. 26.

The Buckeyes appeared to face long odds of reaching the playoff after that loss. But it got some help the same day when Clemson and LSU both lost. But the biggest assist came from Utah, which rocked USC 47-24 in the Pac-12 championship game last Friday and opened the door for the Buckeyes to climb into the No. 4 spot in the final playoff rankings.

If Ohio State beats Georgia and Michigan wins its game against TCU, it would give OSU a chance to make up for its disappointing performance in the regular-season game against its biggest rival in the national championship game on Jan. 9.

“You don’t want to get ahead of yourself but that would be unbelievable. It would be historic to have that opportunity. We’ve thought about that, everybody has thought about that,” Day said. “But the draw we have is that we have to go down to Georgia and play the defending national champions in Atlanta. If someone had said that at the beginning of the year that you get to go play the defending champs in Georgia, we’d have said, ‘Let’s go do it.’ ”

“It all kind of happened the way we thought it would. Now we just have to go run with it and do it,” he said.

During an interview on ESPN’s coverage of the announcement of the CFP match-ups, Day said, “It’s hard to explain the range of emotions that have gone on here over the last seven days. I’ve said it before, it’s like a second lease on life. Now there is a two-game season ahead of us. There is unbelievable excitement. Guys are just bouncing around the facility.”

Ohio State practiced twice last week, knowing that it would at worst play in a big-time bowl game, but was hoping for more.

“We wanted to be playing the Big Ten championship game. That hurt. It was not a good week, it was an awful week,” Day said. “The minute you see your name pop up on that screen now you’ve got something to work towards. That was invigorating and exciting for the whole program.

“Georgia is a very good team. They’re the defending national champion, they just put 50 on LSU (in the SEC championship game). They’re going to have our guys’ attention in a big way and our guys know how they’re going to have to play to win this game,” he said.