The final College Football Playoff Rankings of the 2019 season were released on Sunday, but that doesn't mean we have to stop debating! The CFP Selection Committee had a change of heart following Championship Weekend, restoring LSU to the No. 1 spot and knocking Ohio State back down to No. 2. But should they have?
Listen, at the end of the day, while LSU and Ohio State fans might feel differently about it, there was no wrong answer. LSU certainly has a strong case for being No. 1, but so did Ohio State. In the end, though, that the Buckeyes deserved the No. 1 spot slightly more than the Tigers did, and it's time to explain why.
We'll break it down into three different areas.
1. Dominance or the eye test: Both LSU and Ohio State went 13-0 and won their respective conference championships. Both had dominant seasons. Ohio State was a bit more dominant, however. One of the more remarkable stats about Ohio State's season came from its 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball, and it proved to be a prescient choice as the Badgers would score on that opening possession to take a 7-0 lead. That 7-0 Wisconsin lead was the largest deficit Ohio State had faced all season until that point. Wisconsin would later score again to make it 14-0 and set a new mark for the largest deficit Ohio State had faced. If a slow start played a role in Ohio State slipping to No. 2 after LSU dominated Georgia in Atlanta, well, is trailing a top-10 team like Wisconsin 21-7 at halftime worse than trailing Northwestern State 7-3 after a quarter? Because LSU did that way back in September. I would argue it isn't, but I'd also argue that neither should matter. I'm just trying to make a point here.
Ohio State dominated teams all season long and played poorly for one quarter. The Buckeyes played 13 games this season and never trailed heading into the fourth quarter. It won those 13 games by an average of 36.2 points per game, and none of its wins came by fewer than 11 points. That's right: not a single Ohio State game ended with its opponent only one score away from tying or taking the lead. Compare that to LSU, which had three wins by seven points or fewer (though, I'm not sure Alabama should count).
2. It's the more complete team: Think of how great the LSU offense was in 2019. It's been the talk of the country all season long, and it deserved the attention; I mean, it averaged 47.8 points per game. That's amazing! Almost as amazing as the 48.7 points per game Ohio State averaged.
|Points Per Game||Ohio State||LSU|
vs. Power Five
vs. Winning Teams
Then there's the defensive side of the ball, where Ohio State allowed 12.5 points per game. That was good enough to tie for second nationally with Georgia. LSU finished at No. 27, allowing 21.2 points per game. Now, when it comes to defense, it's not an apples to oranges comparison to use points per game straight up. LSU's offense scored quickly, so the defense was on the field for a lot more plays. Let's break it down to points allowed per play. Ohio State's defense allowed 0.199 points per play this season, which ranks third nationally behind Clemson (0.172) and Georgia (0.197). LSU ranked 27th again, allowing 0.312 points per play.
3. The resume: It can't just be about how you play, but who you play as well. I've gone over plenty how Ohio State has played this season, but it should be pointed out that Ohio State didn't do all of this against scrubs. From a pure rankings standpoint, Ohio State picked up five wins against teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings, with those victories coming by an average of 25.2 points per game. Of course, LSU has an impressive resume of its own, picking up four wins not just against ranked teams, but teams ranked in the top 12. Only three of Ohio State's wins came against teams ranked in the top 12 by the committee. Those three wins came by an average of 18.3 points per game, while LSU's four wins against top-12 teams came by an average of 12.25 points per game.
Now, wins against ranked teams shouldn't be all that matters. It should be the overall schedule. According to Sagarin ratings, which were included in the BCS formula, Ohio State played the 18th most-difficult schedule in the country, while LSU played the 10th. So the Tigers have an advantage there, though the difference between 10 and 18 in those ratings was 0.69 points. For context, the difference between the most difficult schedule (South Carolina) and the second-most difficult schedule (Auburn) was near twice that at 1.18 points. Plus, while some have dinged LSU for playing an FCS opponent in Northwestern State, the Tigers didn't get to play Rutgers as Ohio State did, so it balances out.
Seriously, though, it should be noted that Ohio State's nonconference schedule consisted of two conference champions (Florida Atlantic and Miami-Ohio) and a team that lost its conference championship game (Cincinnati). Ohio State beat those three teams by an average of 45.7 points per game.
In summary, that's why Ohio State was more deserving of the No. 1 spot than LSU this season. But as referenced at the beginning, we're splitting hairs here. Both LSU and Ohio State were tremendous teams this season, as was Clemson. Hell, you can make an argument that Clemson is better than both, but by CFP selection criteria, it's hard to justify putting them at No. 1. Ohio State and LSU both have arguments. Both are good arguments. I just believe Ohio State's is a little better.