COLUMBUS, Ohio — Is it possible to drop a team in the rankings after a 21-point win?
That’s the question facing AP Poll and Coaches Poll voters after Ohio State played its most underwhelming game of the same (albeit a three-touchdown victory) on the same day two other Top 5 teams sent messages about their superiority. The polls are typically released on Sunday, but Hurricane Matthew pushed back Georgia vs. South Carolina to Sunday and delayed the polls until Monday afternoon.
No. 4 Michigan’s 78-0 annihilation of Rutgers will force voters to weigh the performance against Ohio State’s 58-0 win against the Scarlet Knights, although it’s fair to note that the Buckeyes called off the dogs early in the second half. Meanwhile, No. 5/6 Washington is coming off its second straight impressive win. The Huskies destroyed Oregon, 70-21, a week after walloping then-No. 7 Stanford, 44-7. No. 3 Clemson’s 56-10 win against hapless Boston College seemed to be the least inspiring of the three teams chasing the Buckeyes.
The question is whether voters will penalize Ohio State and/or reward Michigan and Washington, and then if the Buckeyes’ margins are too big to evaporate entirely.
Let’s look at where the teams stand in both polls to get a clearer picture.
AP Top 25
The AP has a reputation as being the group of voters more willing to make big movements, while the coaches typically vote more conservatively with fewer sweeping changes. (See, for example, the willingness of the AP to reward Washington for its win against Stanford while the Coaches Poll kept the Huskies ranked below Houston.)
For that reason, it seems more likely that if there was a change to Ohio State, it would come in the AP Poll. It doesn’t seem likely that Clemson made a big enough impression to jump the Buckeyes, and Ohio State has a 117-point lead over Michigan and a 217-point lead over Washington. That means most of the 61 voters in the AP Top 25 would have to jump the Wolverines two spots and bump down the Buckeyes, and Washington has an even tougher hill to climb.
Based on the voting patterns of the coaches, it would stand to reason that Clemson is the only team capable of catching Ohio State given that the Buckeyes won by 21, even if that victory failed to meet some expectations.
Given everything outlined above, it seems safe to say that Ohio State will hold on to the No. 2 spot in both polls. The margins should shrink, but the Buckeyes have a road game against a top-10 Wisconsin looming.
The chance to either firm up their hold on No. 2 or make a push for No. 1 will come soon enough.