Ohio State's Inferior College Football Playoff Ranking is Not Because Of Oklahoma's Offense

By Jake Anderson on December 1, 2018 at 9:25 am
Kyler Murray throws against West Virginia.

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

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Ohio State's and Oklahoma's seasons have followed a similar path. It is only right that they are on a collision course for controversy.

In Tuesday's CFP rankings, both the Sooners and the Buckeyes moved up. The two now sit at No. 5 and No. 6, patiently waiting for Alabama to open up the final seat. 

The two programs have great arguments to earn the final spot and the early edge has been given to Oklahoma. When Rob Mullens attempted to give an explanation for why the Sooners were ahead of the Buckeyes, however, his statement fell short. 

The CFP Chairman suggesting that Ohio State's defense is the reason for its ranking behind Oklahoma is hilarious. For reference, the Silver Bullets come in at no. 62 in total defense (not great) while the Sooners are in the triple-digits (definitely worse). 

Mullens says that the offenses of both Ohio State and Oklahoma can carry their respective defenses, which is correct; both Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray have been forced to will their team to victory on multiple occasions.

But Mullens uses this argument as justification for why the Sooners are ranked ahead of the Buckeyes, meaning the offensive versus defensive production of Oklahoma is greater than Ohio State. There is little evidence to back this up. 

The Buckeyes' Offensive-Defensive Production Surpasses Oklahoma's 

Throughout the season, opponents have been able to gain more yards than their season average when playing the Buckeyes. The same holds true for the Sooners, giving the both of them truly terrible defenses. Both teams have found their success on the other side of the ball, riding the offense to 11-1 records.

When comparing Ohio State's and Oklahoma's outputs against their opponents' averages, there is no significant difference between the two playoff contenders.  

Ohio State and Oklahoma often engage in wars of yards.

Ohio State gains 150.3 yards above its opponents average and allows 8.8 yards above its opponents average, making the Bucks 141.5 yards "better" than their opponents. Oklahoma's differential of 182 and 33 put the Sooners at 149 yards "better" than their opponents.

Less than 10 yards separate the two schools, yet there is an idea that states Oklahoma has a superior offense that can make up for its defense's mistakes while the Buckeyes' struggling defense is too much for the offense to overcome. 

The narrative crumbles further as Ohio State and Oklahoma are compared against themselves. The scarlet and gray have a better defense and only slightly worse offense than the Sooners, giving them the edge in the overall offense-defense production. 

The Buckeyes Outperform the Sooners in Every Category
          Overall Metric No. 6 Ohio State No. 5 Oklahoma
Point Differential +17.5 +17.3
Yards/Game Differential +145.5 +135.2
Turnover Differential +1.7 -0.2

These numbers show that while Oklahoma's offense can make up for its defense, that statement cannot be an explanation as to why the Sooners are ranked ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes are superior in the three categories, all of which involve a mixture of offense and defense. If Oklahoma was better than Ohio State, wouldn't the Sooners have better numbers?

While competing for the final spot in the playoffs, both teams will have a chance to add another ranked win and a conference championship to their resume. Ohio State's superiority over Oklahoma continues against ranked opponents. 

Metric Against Currently Ranked Opponents No. 6 Ohio State No. 5 Oklahoma 
record 2-0 2-1
Point Differential +12 +3.3
Yards/Game Differential +31.5 +20.7
Turnover Differential +0.5 -0.5

Even after considering for TCU's implosion and a weaker-than-usual Big Ten, Ohio State has been more dominant than Oklahoma. The difference in offensive versus defensive production favors the Buckeyes, which should support Ohio State's argument to get into the playoffs. 

Then how can Oklahoma be ranked ahead of the scarlet and gray?

The answer is rather simple: Purdue. Oklahoma's loss to Texas on a last-second field goal looks much better than Purdue's fourth quarter explosion against the Buckeyes. The Sooners will also get a second chance at the Longhorns, giving them the opportunity to beat every team that they played this season. The Boilermakers ended their season at 6-6 with losses to Eastern Michigan and Minnesota.

When disregarding the inexcusable loss to Purdue, Ohio State has the far superior resume. The Buckeyes have the two best wins between the two teams (Michigan, Penn State) and disparaged the best defense in the nation last week. 

Losing by 29 points to an unranked team, however, is damning for championship teams and may be too much for the Buckeyes to overcome.

Ultimately, however, today's games matter the most. If Oklahoma loses and Ohio State wins, the Bucks should have a date with Alabama. If the Buckeyes fall to Northwestern and Oklahoma takes care of Herman, the Sooners could be playing an SEC team in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Neither of these scenarios likely matter if Georgia is able to beat Alabama. Nevertheless, Ohio State may be able to push its way into the playoffs with a dominant performance over Northwestern and some help from an old friend.

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