Ohio State came back in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night to beat Wisconsin 34-21 with an incredible second half performance. The Buckeyes are now 13-0, just like LSU and Clemson, which has led to a debate over how the teams should be seeded in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The order should be: LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma.
An argument in favor of Ohio State, which FOX’s Joel Klatt presented towards the end of the Big Ten Championship Game telecast, is that the Buckeyes have five wins over College Football Playoff’s top 25 teams, compared to four for LSU. Their margin of victory in those games is also greater.
But here’s the thing: LSU’s toughest games were tougher, their best wins were better, and they have an equalizer for the supposed fifth top 25 win.
LSU beat Alabama on the road, when Bama was still undefeated, and before Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury. LSU destroyed Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Those two wins are better than any of Ohio State’s wins. They also have home wins over Auburn and Florida, which stack up well with Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan.
In each of their second games of the season, LSU beat Texas on the road, while Ohio State blanked Cincinnati at home. Texas may have sputtered to a 7-5 finish, but LSU winning in Austin was a tougher win at the time. So if you want to count the Cincinnati win as a differentiating factor in Ohio State’s favor, to me, LSU’s win at Austin balances it out.
Ohio State has had a very tough schedule. Beating Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin in three straight games is extremely difficult. Even their non-conference wins turned out to be over teams that won or played in their conference championships (FAU, Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati). The Buckeyes’ season has been impressive and they’re an excellent team. But when it comes down to it, if you asked a coach which schedule they’d rather play — Ohio State’s or LSU’s — they’d tell you Ohio State’s, because nobody in their right mind would choose to visit Tuscaloosa. And that should be the difference.