Ohio State jumped LSU for the No. 1 spot in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings that were released on Tuesday, which comes just three days after they topped now-No. 10 Penn State 28-17 in Columbus, Ohio. The reason is simple — defense wins championships, and Ohio State’s defense has made it the most complete team in football.
The Buckeyes have paired the nation’s top scoring offense (49.4 points per game) with the nation’s top scoring defense (10.5 points per game). When you contrast that with an LSU defense that is giving up 23.5 points per game, the Buckeyes are going to win that argument every time.
“That’s the key piece,” said CFP Selection Committee chairman Rob Mullens. “They’re a balanced team. Strong on offense and defense. Obviously LSU has a very strong offense, but to date their defense isn’t as strong as Ohio State’s.”
Another interesting part of this equation is the resume. Ohio State’s is continuing to improve over the final month of the season, while LSU hasn’t had that luxury. The win over the Nittany Lions gives the Buckeyes three wins over top 20 teams. They topped No. 19 Cincinnati in September and No. 12 Wisconsin in late October. LSU’s resume is stellar, too, with wins over No. 5 Alabama, No. 11 Florida and No. 15 Auburn. But a win over Texas in Week 2, which seemed like a big deal at the time, isn’t too impressive now that the Longhorns have sputtered to a 6-5 record.
In the end, there’s only one way to describe the disparity in the strength of schedule between the top two teams in the country — negligible.
“We would obviously value LSU’s three wins over top 15 teams and Ohio State’s three wins over top 19 teams,” Mullens said. “Those are all really impressive wins to the committee … and they each have three.”
Does it really matter who’s No. 1 when all is said and done? If chalk holds, absolutely.
There’s a clear separation between the No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Clemson and the rest of the field. The battle for the fourth spot is raging between several flawed teams, all of which are not named “Clemson.” If chalk holds, getting that No. 4 team in the national semifinal will, in theory, be a much easier path than what the second-seeded team gets.
Again, that’s if “chalk holds.” The likelihood of that is about as likely as somebody blocking star Ohio State defense end Chase Young for a full four quarters — impossible.