The 13 people who will ultimately decide whether or not Ohio State makes the College Football Playoff and where the Buckeyes will be seeded if they make the CFP are impressed by what they’ve seen from the Buckeyes so far.
That much was made clear by Tuesday night’s initial playoff rankings for the 2022 season, in which the Buckeyes are ranked second. Only Tennessee is ranked above Ohio State, while the Buckeyes are ahead of Georgia, who was No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches polls yet came in third in the initial CFP rankings.
College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan cited Ohio State’s explosive offense as a significant factor that impressed the committee and convinced them to rank the Buckeyes above the Bulldogs. The top two spots in the CFP rankings mirror the national rankings for scoring offense, as Tennessee (49.4) is the only team that scored more points per game this season than Ohio State (48.9).
Ohio State was considered for the No. 1 spot in the initial rankings, as Corrigan said there was a “lively discussion” among committee members about whether Tennessee, Ohio State or Georgia belonged in the top slot. Ultimately, however, the committee agreed that Tennessee’s two wins over Alabama and LSU – both of whom are in the top 10 of the initial CFP rankings – gave the Volunteers the strongest résumé of any team.
“Ohio State has a powerful offense and a very solid defense. Impressive win last week over Penn State,” Corrigan said in a teleconference following the release of the initial rankings. “But Tennessee’s two wins against those two strong opponents really made a difference.”
Georgia also had a strong case for a top-two ranking. The Bulldogs actually rank second in the nation in total offense (530.1), while the Buckeyes rank sixth (509.3), and Georgia’s defense also ranks second nationally in scoring defense (10.5) and fourth in total defense (262.5). But the committee is more sold now on Ohio State, who also ranks in the top 10 in both total and scoring defense and leads the nation with an average margin of victory of 32 points. However, Corrigan said the selectors are impressed by Georgia.
“Georgia is an exceedingly solid team that the committee really likes and felt good about who they are,” Corrigan said. “Obviously, the dominant win at the beginning of the season against Oregon turned a lot of heads. Their defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in the first quarter, which was part of our discussion.”
Another team with an argument for being a spot or two higher is Michigan, which also ranks in the top 10 nationally in both scoring offense and defense. Michigan’s non-conference schedule consisted of a trio of teams (Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn) who have combined to go just 8-18 so far this season, however, and Corrigan said that was held against the Wolverines in the initial rankings.
“When we look at Ohio State, the explosiveness of their offense, averaging 49 points a game, winning games by an average of 32 points, I think that really stood out to the committee,” Corrigan said. “We like Michigan a lot as a committee, more workmanlike controlling their opponent. But again, I think there's a weaker non-conference schedule that was talked about before, and that was part of the determination.”
While Tennessee has the strongest résumé among undefeated teams in terms of who it’s beaten, the Volunteers benefit from a ranking that could be considered generous for LSU, which is 10th in the initial CFP ranking even though it was only 15th in this week’s AP Top 25. The two-loss Tigers are ranked ahead of four Power 5 teams with only one loss (No. 11 Mississippi, No. 12 UCLA, No. 16 Illinois and No. 17 North Carolina). That said, Corrigan said the committee put the Tigers in the top 10 because of how it’s improved throughout the season and its 45-20 win over Ole Miss in its most recent game.
“The win over Mississippi, the win over Mississippi State, they did lose to Tennessee as well as to Florida State early in the season, but they seem to be getting better and better once Coach Kelly and the quarterback have kind of meshed a little bit, if you will, and we saw them coming off of that Mississippi win as being a team that was worthy of being in the top 10,” Corrigan said.
“When we look at Ohio State, the explosiveness of their offense, averaging 49 points a game, winning games by an average of 32 points, I think that really stood out to the committee.” – CFP selection committee chair Boo Corrigan on Ohio State
Of course, changes will come at or near the top of next week’s rankings after Tennessee and Georgia play each other this weekend. While the Volunteers will undoubtedly retain the No. 1 spot if they beat the Bulldogs on Saturday, it’s presumable Georgia will jump Ohio State into the No. 1 spot if it wins.
The Buckeyes’ best chance to make their case for the No. 1 spot will come when they play Michigan at the end of the month on Nov. 26, but right now, Ohio State should neither worry about not being ranked No. 1 nor celebrate being ranked No. 2. The Buckeyes can feel good knowing they are positioned to be a top-two seed if they win the rest of their regular-season games and the Big Ten Championship Game, but they also know they need to actually win those games first, starting with their road game this weekend at Northwestern.
“I will not watch it. I'll be at practice, and if I'm not at practice, we’ll be watching the film getting ready for Northwestern,” Ryan Day said when asked Tuesday if he would watch the CFP rankings show. “Do I think we deserve to be in the top four? Absolutely. Do I think it matters all that much right now? No. What matters is beating Northwestern.”
Ohio State’s No. 2 ranking is the second-highest ranking it’s ever had in the initial CFP rankings behind only the No. 1 ranking it held in the initial rankings in 2019, when the Buckeyes ended up as the No. 2 seed in the playoff. The Buckeyes have never ranked higher than third in the initial CFP rankings in any other year since the playoff started in 2014.