With the reveal of this year’s penultimate College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night, Ohio State’s chances of being this year’s No. 1 seed seem to have only gotten better.
The Buckeyes are unsurprisingly still sitting in the top spot of the rankings after they picked up another top-15 win with their 56-27 victory over Michigan on Saturday, and their standing above No. 2 LSU appears to be even stronger now than it was last week.
Ohio State now has four wins over top-20 teams, including two wins over top-10 teams after Wisconsin – which the Buckeyes beat on Oct. 26 and will have the chance to beat again in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday – jumped up four spots from No. 12 to No. 8 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. Penn State is still ranked 10th, Michigan dropped just one spot from 13th to 14th and even Cincinnati, who suffered its second loss of the season to Memphis on Saturday, is still ranked 20th.
LSU, meanwhile, still has only three wins over teams currently included within the College Football Playoff rankings, and its signature win over Alabama – which dropped seven spots to No. 12 this week – lost some juice after the Crimson Tide’s loss to Auburn on Saturday. Granted, the Alabama team that lost to Auburn didn’t have Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, and Auburn moved up to No. 11, giving the Tigers three wins over top-12 teams. But with no other wins over top-25 teams, College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Rob Mullens indicated Tuesday that Ohio State’s additional win over a ranked opponent is a factor working in the Buckeyes’ favor.
“Ohio State now with their impressive win over Michigan on the road has four wins over top-25 teams. LSU has three very impressive wins over top-25 teams,” Mullens said Tuesday night on a teleconference with reporters.
The Buckeyes also still have the argument of being college football’s most complete team, which was what moved them ahead of LSU last week following their win over Penn State. Even after allowing Michigan to score 27 points on 396 yards, the most Ohio State has allowed all season, the Buckeyes defense still leads the nation in yards allowed per game and per play and fourth in points allowed per game while LSU ranks 35th, 28th and 31st in the same category.
LSU’s defense made a statement by holding Texas A&M to just seven points and 169 yards in a 50-7 Tigers win this past weekend, but so did Ohio State’s offense by scoring 56 points on 577 yards against Michigan.
“Both really have dynamic offenses,” Mullens said when asked to compare Ohio State and LSU. “Both have good defenses; Ohio State’s is just a little ahead at this point.”
The Tigers still have a chance to make one last run at the No. 1 seed this week when they will play Georgia, who is currently fourth in the College Football Playoff ranking, in the SEC Championship Game. A win over the Bulldogs, especially a convincing win and another strong defensive performance, would certainly bolster LSU’s résumé. Mullens said the committee is still discussing Ohio State, LSU and Clemson – though Clemson, with no ranked wins, seems like a long shot to move up from No. 3 unless Ohio State or LSU loses – “in great detail.”
But given that Ohio State will be playing a top-10 team again, too, a convincing win for the Buckeyes should seemingly be enough for them to lock up the top spot in the field – and LSU might need Ohio State to play a close game or lose to have any chance to overtake the Buckeyes.
“Both really have dynamic offenses. Both have good defenses; Ohio State’s is just a little ahead at this point.”– CFP selection committee chairman Rob Mullens on Ohio State vs. LSU
Mullens indicated Tuesday that a win over Wisconsin would still count the same for Ohio State even though the Buckeyes have already beaten the Badgers once, and he said the committee views the Badgers – who are now the top two-loss team in the rankings after their win over Minnesota – as a “balanced team” who ranks in the top 10 nationally in both the relative offense and defense metrics that the committee uses.
Ohio State’s focus right now, of course, is simply on winning the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes can’t control what the committee will ultimately decide on Sunday – though they can certainly influence it by winning impressively – but as one of just three undefeated teams remaining, they know that they will lock themselves into the playoff with a win over Wisconsin on Saturday.
Even if Ohio State loses, it could still make the playoff based on the strength of the résumé it’s already built up. Barring a stunning blowout loss, Ohio State’s body of work would still be more impressive than any team currently outside the top four that could potentially move up with a win on Saturday.
That’s partially why Ohio State should want to do everything it possibly can to make its case for the No. 1 seed, though, because a semifinal matchup against the No. 4 seed is likely to be more favorable than a matchup with Clemson. Assuming Ohio State beats Wisconsin and LSU beats Georgia, the top candidates for the fourth spot will be Utah if it beats Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game and the winner of the Big 12 Championship Game between Oklahoma and Baylor, and the Buckeyes would likely be double-digit favorites to beat any of those teams.
Additionally, earning the No. 1 seed would give Ohio State the opportunity to tell the committee (though the committee ultimately has the final say) whether it wants to play its semifinal in the Peach Bowl (Atlanta) or the Fiesta Bowl (Arizona), which could help ensure the Buckeyes will have a home-crowd advantage.
The Buckeyes won’t have to wait long to find out who and where they’ll be playing after the Big Ten Championship Game, as the four-team playoff field will be announced on Sunday at noon, but they certainly appear to have reason to feel good about where they stand right now. All they need to do to ensure they’ll have a chance to compete for a championship and likely, earn the No. 1 seed in the playoff for the first time ever, is beat a Wisconsin team that they already beat 38-7 in the regular season.