Save strength of schedule debates and basic eye-test observations, it's difficult to assess whether Ohio State is truly better than a one-loss SEC champion without those two teams actually playing.
The BCS likes it this way (insert image of folks inside a BCS mothership tapping their fingers together with an evil smirk).
These 'Fun with Numbers' below try to paint that picture for you. How do these teams stack up -- in schedule strength, yes, but also a few statistical areas beyond the obvious that might speak to the eye test?
Obviously this is an inexact science, but there are some areas that will help make an informed decision on which team is more deserving of the No. 2 spot.
Tale, say hello to tape.
This one is easy. It's pretty clear Auburn and Mizzou played a tougher slate than Ohio State.
On the Buckeyes' schedule you'll find ...
3: Top 25 teams on Ohio State's schedule (No. 10 Michigan State, No. 16 Northwestern, No. 23 Wisconsin). ... Two of those teams finished the year unranked. Northwestern fell well out of the Top 25 with a 1-7 Big Ten record.
Now compare that to ...
6: Top 25 teams on Auburn's schedule. (No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Missouri, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 24 Ole Miss, No. 25 Georgia). ... Five of those teams finished the year ranked (7-5 Ole Miss fell out).
6: Top 25 teams on Missouri's schedule (No. 3 Auburn, No. 7 Georgia, No. 20 South Carolina, No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 22 Florida, No. 24 Ole Miss). ... Four of those teams finished the regular season ranked. Florida and Ole Miss fell out.
Ohio State's games against one-win Purdue, one-win Cal, three-win FAMU and four-win Illinois lessened the opposing win total for the year. Auburn/Mizzou didn't have that problem.
6.85: Average number of wins by Auburn opponents this season, including Mizzou.
6.77: Average number of wins by Mizzou opponents this season, including Auburn.
5.84: Average number of wins by Ohio State opponents this season, including Michigan State.
But the Buckeyes can make up ground in other areas.
Quarterbacks in big games
Good quarterbacks can single-handedly win college football games. Let's see how the quarterbacks from these three teams played against opponents with eight wins or more.
287 and 2.7: Average number of total yards and touchdowns per game for Ohio State's Braxton Miller against Buffalo, Wisconsin (four touchdowns) and Iowa (324 yards).
280 and 2.5: Average number of total yards and touchdowns per game for Auburn's Nick Marshall against LSU, Texas A&M (336 and 4), Georgia (318) and Alabama.
274.5 and 2.25: Average number of total yards and touchdowns per game for Mizzou's James Franklin (Vandy, Georgia, Texas A&M) and Maty Mauk (South Carolina). Franklin had 341 and 4 against Vandy. Mauk went for 262 and 1 against South Carolina.
You can tell a lot by a team's third-best playmaker (quarterbacks excluded). If you look at a team's No. 3 guy and he's a potentially dominant player, that team is dangerous. Mizzou seems to have the edge.
10: Number of touchdowns for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, arguably Mizzou's third-best playmaker. Green-Beckham might be Mizzou's top talent but tailback Henry Josey and receiver L'Damian Washington have put up slightly better numbers. Still, the 6-foot-6 Green-Beckham might be the most skilled third man out of these contending teams. Missouri has the most playmaking depth, with six receivers/tailbacks over 560 yards rushing or receiving.
585: Number of rushing yards for tailback Corey Grant, Auburn's third-best playmaker behind Tre Mason and Sammie Coates. Auburn is mostly a two-man show with Mason and Nick Marshall, so receivers and backup tailbacks might not be showcased as much as third options on other teams. Grant also has five touchdowns on the year.
644: Number of receiving yards for receiver Devin Brown, arguably Ohio State's No. 3 behind Carlos Hyde and Philly Brown. Ohio State is loaded with scorers. Including quarterback Braxton Miller, six players have at least eight rushing or receiving touchdowns.
This is a little random but noteworthy. All three teams can line up with physical defensive lines and throw some girth around.
310.2: Average weight on Ohio State starting offensive line.
309: Average weight on Mizzou starting offensive line.
303.3: Average weight on Auburn starting offensive line.
Yards per play
7.33: Ohio State's yards per play on offense, fourth in the country.
6.94: Auburn's yards per play, 10th in country
6.68: Mizzou's yards per play, 15th in the country.
52.0: Ohio State's conversion percentage, ninth in the nation.
46.95: Mizzou's conversion percentage, 24th in the nation.
45.16: Auburn's conversion percentage, 33rd in the nation
Third downs against
34.46: Ohio State's conversion percentage, 26th in the nation.
35.23: Auburn's conversion percentage, 28th in the nation.
36.51: Mizzou's conversion percentage, 41st in the nation.
83.9: Ohio State's touchdown conversion percentage (47 of 56), fifth in the country.
71.4: Mizzou's touchdown conversion percentage (40 of 56), 16th in the country.
70.0: Auburn's touchdown conversion percentage (35 of 50), 28th in the country
Ohio State has the statistical edge in most areas -- against worse competition. Therein lies the problem. But let''s not act like Ohio State is an inferior team to the SEC's one-loss teams.