Oddsmakers, experts, and journalists alike have picked Clemson to beat Ohio State. If the 3rd seed Clemson is favored to beat the 2nd seed Ohio State, did the committee get the rankings wrong? Before championship weekend, hypothetical odds were released, which favored the Buckeyes in every possible matchup. What changed? All season long, analysts have deemed Ohio State the best, most complete team in the country. So, why is LSU ranked over the Buckeyes? These are the questions I will seek to answer in this article.
Did the Committee Get it Wrong?
According to their website, “The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable.” The committee members take into consideration these five things to determine the best teams in the country.
There are three undefeated power five conference champions: Clemson, LSU, and Ohio State. Although none of those teams played each other, Clemson and LSU shared a common opponent – Texas A&M. In week two, Clemson beat A&M 24-10, and more recently, in week twelve, LSU beat A&M 50-7, giving them an edge over Clemson.
Resumes and strength of schedule are the toughest to interpret. While Clemson does have a case for the 1st or 2nd seed, given the resumes of both Ohio State and LSU and the weakness of the ACC, Clemson is out of the debate for the top two seeds.
So, what makes Ohio State better than LSU? The Buckeyes have been far more dominant this season, winning every game by double digits.
Here is a list of Ohio State’s quality wins: Florida Atlantic Owls (10-3, Conference USA Champs), Cincinnati (10-3, 21st in CFB Playoff rankings), Indiana (8-4), Miami-Ohio (8-5, MAC Champs), Michigan State (6-6), Wisconsin (10-3, 8th in CFB Playoff rankings, two wins), Penn State (10-2, 10th in CFB Playoff rankings), and Michigan (9-3, 14th in CFB Playoff rankings). Ohio State has wins over five current top 25 teams. The Buckeye’s smallest margin of victory over a ranked opponent was 11 points against Penn State.
Here is a list of LSU’s quality wins: Georgia Southern (7-5), Texas (7-5), Utah State (7-5), Florida (10-2, 9th in CFB Playoff rankings), Mississippi State (6-6), Auburn (9-3, 12th in CFB Playoff rankings), Alabama (10-2, 13th in CFB Playoff rankings), Texas A&M (7-5), and Georgia (11-2, 5th in CFB Playoff rankings). LSU has wins over three current top 25 teams. The Tiger’s smallest margin of victory over a ranked opponent was three points against Auburn, followed by five points against Alabama.
ESPN FPI ranks Ohio State as the top team in college football, with Clemson and LSU rounding out the top three. On their website, they say, “The Football Power Index (FPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule. Ratings and projections update daily.”
While experts, committee members, and journalists may have other ways of interpreting this information, I find that based on this information, Ohio State is the better team and deserves to be at the top of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Will Ohio State Win Despite What the Odds Say?
The Las Vegas odds help gamblers place their bets so they can make more money. But what is giving the oddsmakers the picture that Clemson will beat Ohio State? Is it experience, talent, dominance, or something else?
Gamblers place their bets on probable outcomes. While Ohio State lost 31-0 against Clemson the last time the two teams faced off in 2016, that does not affect the outcome of this game. The two events are independent, meaning the result of one does not affect the other. Clemson is the defending national champion and has made the playoffs for five straight seasons. The Buckeyes haven’t been in the playoffs for three years, but their last three weeks have been nothing short of playoff preparation. The Buckeyes previous three games have been wins over the 8th, 10th, and 14th ranked teams in the college football playoff rankings.
Ohio State has been tested by five current top 25 teams, including their last three weeks. Clemson’s only top 25 win is over the 24th ranked Virginia.
ESPN has created a way to calculate team efficiencies, accounting for garbage time, the strength of schedule, and scoring margin. Ohio State is on top of the list with an efficiency of 97.2. Clemson is behind them with an efficiency of 96. Ohio State’s offensive efficiency is ranked 2nd, and Clemson’s is 5th. Defensively, Clemson’s efficiency is ranked 1st, and Ohio State’s is 2nd. Additionally, as previously mentioned, Ohio State is ranked higher in ESPN’s FPI rankings.
Given all this data and information, Ohio State can beat Clemson. While people can argue for Clemson all they want, Clemson has not been tested against quality teams. Ohio State has persevered through adversity and proven they can make the necessary adjustments to win football games against teams in championships. Down 21-7 in the Big 10 Championship, Ohio State rallied at halftime and shut Wisconsin out, winning 34-21.