Who should the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff be: Ohio State, or LSU?
The Playoff committee created an argument based off that question on Tuesday, seeding Ohio State and LSU as the first- and second-ranked teams, respectively, with just two weeks remaining before the final Playoff field is unveiled.
Why does that matter? Because the winner of that argument will get a better draw with the No. 4 team in theory, assuming the chalk holds. Going through No. 3 Clemson is a different story — the defending national champions have won 26 straight games. Add in the usual SEC-Big Ten tension, and this is going to be fun to see if the Playoff committee continues to waffle on this issue over the last two weeks.
“Ohio State has been a complete team, and that win against Penn State was their third win against teams we have currently ranked in the top 19,” CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens said on the ESPN telecast. “It’s probably that complete-team piece. Ohio State has been good on both sides of the ball.”
Other than the odd “top 19” reference, Mullens isn’t wrong in the committee’s summation of the Buckeyes. Ohio State has been considered the most complete team in the FBS for most of the season. The Buckeyes lead college football in both scoring offense (49.4) and scoring defense (10.5), and the victory against Penn State is their third against teams currently ranked in the Playoff committee’s top 25.
The Buckeyes have outscored opponents 543-115 (plus-428), which is better than the Tigers, at 534-258 (plus-276). Ohio State’s opponents have a combined record of 67-54, which is better than LSU’s at 62-60.
What is LSU’s case? The Tigers have four top-10 victories piled up, though Texas’ fade into oblivion hasn’t helped its cause. The Tigers have beaten three teams currently ranked in the top 15 in No. 5 Alabama, No. 11 Florida and No. 15 Auburn. LSU has the No. 2 scoring offense in the FBS at 48.5 points per game, and that was good enough to hold the top ranking each of the last two weeks. Was Ohio State’s 28-17 victory against Penn State enough to unseat LSU for the top spot? Do the Tigers pass the eye test better?
That’s just the start of the back-and-forth between these two fan bases if the chalk holds. Who has the better strength of schedule? Which conference has more top-25 teams? Can LSU improve a touch on defense over the last two weeks? Should LSU’s Joe Burrow or Ohio State’s Chase Young win the Heisman Trophy? Which coach has done a better job between Ryan Day and Ed Orgeron? How many games would the Buckeyes lose in the SEC West? How many games would the Tigers lose in the Big Ten East?
All these arguments are coming to a timeline near you.
These team’s next two games will be interesting, too. Ohio State has the bigger game this week in Michigan while LSU takes on Texas A&M. Next week, however, Ohio State’s opponent — whether it’s Minnesota or Wisconsin — will not be as big as the LSU-Georgia game. The “game control” will matter here, and the scoreboard will factor into the committee’s decision, even if it says it won’t.
Our thoughts? Ohio State should be No. 1 right now. The Buckeyes have been the most complete team in the FBS, and they can put some distance between LSU with a convincing victory at Michigan. A close win, however, could open the window for the Tigers, who have the quality victories in hand and the biggest stage left in Atlanta.
So, we’ll ask again: Who’s No. 1? Ohio State or LSU?
We can’t wait to find out.