Ohio State’s reign as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings lasted just one week, at least for now.
After last week’s No. 2, LSU, earned a 46-41 win over then-No. 3 Alabama on Saturday, the Tigers are now the top team in the rankings, propelled by a victory in what had been billed as the biggest college football game of the season to date.
Ohio State, which becomes the first team ever to drop from the No. 1 spot in the CFP rankings after a win, still has a strong case for being the best team in the country. Coming off a 73-14 victory over Maryland on Saturday, the Buckeyes have now scored more points per game (51.0) and allowed less points per game (8.6) than every other team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Having won all nine of its games this season by at least 24 points and by an average margin of victory of 42.4 points, Ohio State has inarguably been the most dominant team in college football this season. The Buckeyes are statistically the nation’s complete team, as well; their defense has also allowed less yards per game (214.8) and per play (3.52) than any other team in the nation, while their offense ranks fifth in yards per game (535.9) and sixth in yards per play (7.22).
Across the board, Ohio State ranks among college football’s top teams in just about every major statistical category, and the College Football Playoff selection committee still holds Ryan Day’s squad in very high regard. LSU now has wins over four other teams who are currently in the top 25 of the CFP rankings, though, and selection committee chairman Rob Mullens said that weighed into the committee's decision to move the Tigers up to the top spot.
“We got two great teams at the top in LSU and Ohio State,” Mullens said. “Just like I said last week, the committee's really impressed with Ohio State's consistent level of high play. But when you look at LSU's resume, with the win over Alabama on the road, that makes their fourth top-20 win, and they're the only team in the nation with that. They're deserving of that No. 1 ranking.”
Following last week’s release of this year’s initial playoff rankings in which Ohio State was No. 1, Mullens specifically noted that Chase Young is “probably as disruptive a defensive player as there is in the country.” Mullens said Tuesday that the committee was aware that Young did not play against Maryland, but didn't directly answer when asked whether Young's suspension had any impact on the committee's decision to move Ohio State down to No. 2, only reiterating that LSU moved up because of its resume of wins.
“We were aware that (Young) wasn't available, but when we watched Ohio State (against Maryland), we still saw an impressive performance, a dominant win,” Mullens said. “Those two teams are both great teams ... Ohio State was No. 1 last week because of their consistent play at a very high level, but when you look at LSU's resume now, with the win on the road at Alabama, to add to win on the road at Texas, plus two marquee wins at home against Florida and Auburn, so four ranked wins, that's the most of any team in the nation. With that, the committee felt they deserved to be No. 1.”
Despite the one-spot drop in the rankings, Ohio State’s chances of making the playoff remain just as strong as last week. As long as the Buckeyes win out, they’re in.
Even if they were to lose a game – unless that loss inexplicably comes against a horrible Rutgers team this week – they’d still have a chance because of where they currently stand. In the first five years of the College Football Playoff, only one team that ranked in the top two in the second playoff rankings of the year has missed the four-team field (No. 1 Mississippi State in 2014). It helps that there are only five remaining undefeated teams in the nation, and two of them (No. 8 Minnesota and No. 13 Baylor) aren’t even ranked in the top seven right now.
The biggest hypothetical question now is whether Ohio State could still get the No. 1 seed in the playoff if both the Buckeyes and LSU win out.
Right now, LSU is No. 1 because it has more big wins on its resume. The Tigers’ 9-0 record includes wins over No. 5 Alabama, No. 11 Florida, No. 12 Auburn and No. 19 Texas, while Ohio State has only two wins over teams currently ranked in the top 25 (No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 17 Cincinnati).
“The committee's really impressed with Ohio State's consistent level of high play. But when you look at LSU's resume, with the win over Alabama on the road, that makes their fourth top-20 win, and they're the only team in the nation with that.”– College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Rob Mullens on LSU jumping Ohio State in the rankings
There's a case to be made that Texas should not be ranked in the top 20, and that Indiana – who Ohio State has defeated – should be in the top 25, but Mullens indicated Tuesday that Texas figured much more prominently in the committee's discussions than Indiana even though the Hoosiers (7-2) currently have a better record than the Longhorns (6-3).
“When you look at Texas, obviously they have close losses to LSU and to Oklahoma, so two of their losses are against ranked teams, and understand that they do have that third loss against TCU, but they also beat a ranked Kansas State team,” Mullens said. “Indiana, we didn't go into great discussion about them, because they weren't on the board.”
Ohio State finishes its regular season with games against No. 9 Penn State and No. 15 Michigan, however, while LSU does not have any more regular-season games against teams who are currently ranked. The Tigers would currently be in line to face No. 4 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, but if Ohio State wins the rest of its regular-season games, it should also get another ranked game against either Minnesota or Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
|at RUTGERS||at OLE MISS|
|vs. #9 PENN STATE||vs. ARKANSAS|
|at #15 MICHIGAN||vs. TEXAS A&M|
|B1G CHAMPIONSHIP GAME||SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME|
That could be enough to potentially propel the Buckeyes back in front of LSU between now and Selection Sunday – or at least ensure they remain in the conversation for the top spot until the end, even if LSU wins out, as long as they win out.
Whether the No. 1 seed would actually provide a significant advantage depends on how things play out the next four weeks, but right now, it would appear to be the preferred position. Reigning national champion Clemson is the No. 3 seed right now, and there’s a gap between the Tigers and everyone else; if things remain that way, the No. 4 seed, which currently belongs to Georgia but is still very much up for grabs, could potentially be a more favorable matchup.
That’s not something Ohio State can concern itself with right now, though. All the Buckeyes can do is play as well as they possibly can over the next four weeks to make their strongest possible case to the committee, and most importantly, they just want to win the rest of their games and lock themselves into the four-team field to ensure they have a chance to compete for a national championship.