College Football Playoff rankings: What got Ohio State the top spot

So far in the beauty pageant that is the 2019 college football season, Ohio State has looked better than the rest.

Offense, defense, evening gown or special talent, the Buckeyes have it covered.

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That is the gist of College Football Playoff committee chairman Rob Mullens' explanation for Ohio State being No. 1 in the initial rankings, which were revealed Tuesday night.

“Ohio State is No. 1 because of their overall consistent dominant play each week as well as their strength on offense and defense,” said Mullens, who is director of athletics at Oregon. “Undefeated LSU is No. 2 because of its tough schedule and marquee wins over Florida and Auburn. Alabama is No. 3 because committee members are impressed with its overall performance and quality of play on both sides of the ball. Penn State is No. 4 because of its strong play, which includes wins over Michigan and Iowa.

“Penn State's strength of schedule gave it an edge over an impressive Clemson, which we ranked No. 5.”

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Although Mullens and his predecessors have been accused of expressing inconsistent points of view over the years when asked to explain the committee’s rationale for each week’s rankings, he generally hit the same themes when he spoke to reporters after the first rankings were revealed.

The committee wants to see teams play well every time out, and doing so against a tough schedule is a big bonus.

“Because this is the first week of our rankings, let me remind you of how this committee operates: This process created by the commissioners is subjective,” Mullens said. “The committee has 13 different people, some of whom are athletic directors, some are former coaches, players, and one is a former journalist. Each is an expert in college football and that's why they're on the committee. We watch the games. We evaluate data and statistics, and in the end each expert uses his or her judgment to rank the teams based on who they think is best.”

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Ohio State is No. 1 in the rankings for the first time.

(Although the Buckeyes won the first playoff in 2014, they entered that tournament No. 4 and there are no post-championship game rankings.)

The Buckeyes last made the playoff in 2016, and they have not been in the top four at any point since that season, which ended in a humiliating 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

Last season, Ohio State topped out at No. 6, where the Buckeyes also finished.

In 2017, they could not get higher than five.

In both instances, ugly losses and even some lackluster wins hurt their perception with the committee, but so far winning by an average of score of 48.2-7.9 seems to have left a big impression on the committee.

“They're highly ranked in just about every statistical category, both offensively and defensively,” Mullens said. “Again, when you watch their games, they play at a consistent high level. Again, on both sides of the ball, explosive offensive playmakers, outstanding defense, probably the best defensive player in the country at this point. Very efficient, very consistent.”

That is noteworthy because last year Mullens knocked Ohio State for its inconsistency while explaining why Oklahoma was ranked ahead of the Buckeyes heading into the final weekend of games even though the teams had the same record.

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As for what Ohio State did to edge LSU for the top spot this week, Mullens did not offer much in the way of specifics.

“You know, two great teams, and when you've got two strong teams with quality schedules, both undefeated, two outstanding offenses, great quarterback play, so there's a lengthy discussion, and at the end of the day, the committee felt that Ohio State was 1 and LSU was 2,” Mullens said.

Ohio State has beaten a pair of teams in the committee’s top 20 — No. 20 Cincinnati and No. 13 Wisconsin — with games against No. 4 Penn State and No. 14 Michigan yet to be played this month.

LSU has beaten No. 10 Florida and No. 11 Auburn with Alabama up next this weekend.

While the Buckeyes beat the Bearcats and Badgers by a combined score of 80-7, LSU had considerably more trouble with the Tigers and Gators, topping them by 3 and 14 points, respectively.

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