Ohio State’s win over Penn State was enough to propel the Buckeyes to No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week.
The Buckeyes were No. 2 behind LSU last week but were rewarded for beating the Nittany Lions, who were eighth a week ago and 10th this week.
Clemson is third again this week with Georgia again fourth and Alabama No. 5.
“Ohio State has been a complete team all year, and their win over Penn State impressed the committee,” College Football Playoff committee chairman Rob Mullens told reporters on a conference call after the rankings were released.
Asked why Ohio State is viewed as a “complete team,” Mullens cited the Buckeyes’ consistent play on both sides of the ball.
Although the specific data the committee uses to quantify teams is not released, Ohio State is No. 1 in the nation in scoring, scoring defense and total defense while checking in sixth in total offense.
LSU is second in scoring and total offense but 42nd in scoring defense and 43rd in total defense.
In SP+, an advanced state hosted by ESPN.com, Ohio State is No. 1 overall with the No. 5 offense and No. 1 defense. LSU is third overall, No. 2 on offense and No. 29 on defense.
“That's a key piece,” Mullens said. “I mean, they're a balanced team, strong on offense and defense. Obviously LSU has a very strong offense. But to date their defense isn't quite as strong as Ohio State’s.”
Defending national champion Clemson is fourth in SP+ and like Ohio State has a top 10 offense and defense according to that metric, but none of the undefeated Tigers’ wins are over teams currently ranked. They could pick up one ranked win in two weeks in the ACC Championship game, where they will play Virginia or Virginia Tech, who play this weekend for the ACC Coastal division title. The Hokies are No. 24 this week.
Mullens said it is up to each committee member to weigh strength of schedule against dominance of that schedule.
“That's the beauty of having 13 football experts in the room who watch the games, who study it,” he said. “That’s exactly the kind of conversation that you would have. Who are the wins against, who are the losses against, and then what do you see when you watch the games.”
Ohio State was No. 1 in the first edition of the rankings, but LSU claimed that spot after winning a 1-vs-2 showdown with Alabama on Nov. 9.
The race for No. 1 is important as finishing the season on top would mean not having to beat both sets of Tigers, who along with the Buckeyes are seen as a clear top three in the country compared to the rest of the pack.
Ohio State plays No. 13 Michigan this week then will play either Wisconsin or Minnesota in the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
The Badgers, who lost 38-7 at Ohio State in October, are 12th this week within the Golden Gophers are No. 8 and could still rocket into the top four by winning out.
Penn State is No. 10 this week while Cincinnati, a 42-0 loser at Ohio State in the second week of the season, is 19th.
The race for the fourth spot could be wild as the Bulldogs will play LSU in the SEC Championship game.
If Georgia pulls an upset, the SEC could get two teams into the playoff, but LSU would be in danger of falling out of the top four.
Alabama can pick up a quality win against No. 15 Auburn this week, but then the Crimson Tide will be unable to help their case after that.
The Pac 12 and Big 12 both could still produce one-loss champions, which would likely propel them ahead of Alabama when all is said and done.
10-1 Utah is No. 6 this week while Oklahoma is No. 7 and 10-1 Baylor is No. 9.
The Utes play Colorado at home this weekend. If they win, they will play No. 14 Oregon in the Pac 12 championship game. If they lose, No. 22 USC will face the Ducks, whose championship hopes were dealt a deathblow by an upset at Arizona State on Saturday.
In the Big 12, the Sooners and Bears are set to play in that conference championship game, which will be a rematch of a game Oklahoma won 34-31 on Nov. 16.
The Bears play Kansas this week while the Sooners take on Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam game.
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