The College Football Playoff committee will unveil its first set of rankings Tuesday night, and several questions need to be answered – none bigger than the Ohio State/Oklahoma conundrum.
Oklahoma beat Ohio State, 31-16, in Columbus in September. Since then, however, both teams have gone in vastly different directions. The Buckeyes massacred five teams – beating Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska by a combined 266-56 – before beating No. 2 Penn State this past Saturday.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, struggled to beat Baylor, which is now 0-8, lost at home to Iowa State, survived Texas 29-24 and survived Kansas State 42-35.
So, which team will be ranked higher Tuesday?
“Does head-to-head competition matter? Does on-field performance matter?” CBS Sports college football analyst Aaron Taylor asked on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Without question, I think Ohio State’s win over Penn State certainly passes the eye test. They looked extremely impressive. They fixed all the issues they had in the passing game in their loss to Oklahoma. But how do you rank a team – Ohio State with one loss over an Oklahoma team that beat you earlier in the year – in good faith?”
Well, the AP has done just that, ranking Ohio State No. 3 and Oklahoma No. 8 in this week’s poll.
It’s hard to believe, but J.T. Barrett, who torched the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense for a school-record 423 yards and 39 points, finished 19-of-35 for 183 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception against Oklahoma. The Sooners deserve credit for that performance.
On the flip side, Ohio State’s offensive improvement over the last seven weeks – the Buckeyes rank No. 2 nationally in both total offense and scoring offense – cannot be denied.
“I think we’ve already seen how some of the AP voters have struggled with that, given that Ohio State is third and Oklahoma is eighth – so they already in the AP have Ohio State, who lost to a team, ahead of the team that beat them,” Taylor said. “I don’t think at this point the College Football Playoff committee (will) care where teams are ranked, but I do know that they value strength of schedule and head-to-head competition as two of the four criteria that they base the rankings on. So I would expect Oklahoma, shockingly, to be ahead of Ohio State because the College Football Playoff committee has proven to us they’re not afraid to kind of get off script, if you will, and do and value things differently than what is the college football narrative.”
For the Oklahoma/Ohio State debate to matter in the end, both teams would likely have to win out, which is no small task for either program. The Buckeyes would have to beat Iowa, No. 24 Michigan State, Michigan and No. 4 Wisconsin. Oklahoma, meanwhile, would have to beat No. 11 Oklahoma State, No. 10 TCU and win the Big 12 Championship game.
The final rankings come out Dec. 3.