Despite Penn State’s 24-21 win over Ohio State on Oct. 22, the Nittany Lions remain five spots behind the Buckeyes in Tuesday’s latest College Football Playoff rankings. That sparked some intense debate on the ESPN set following the unveiling, with former Ohio State teammates Kirk Herbstreit and Joey Galloway going back and forth about who should have the inside edge on making the playoff between the two squads.
The conversation centered on a scenario in which Ohio State finishes the season with one loss and Penn State finishes with two losses and a Big Ten title.
Herbstreit, who played at Ohio State from 1989-92, argued that the Nittany Lions’ win over the Buckeyes shouldn’t be the determining factor in the final rankings.
“The victory over Ohio State, while they won the game, I think anybody who watched the games — they had eight completions, it was not a great game for them offensively,” Herbstreit said. “They deserve all the credit in the world for winning the football game with a blocked punt, blocked field goal that led to the game-winning field goal, but I don’t think anyone walked about from that game saying Penn State is an emphatically better team than Ohio State.
“That’s why I’ve always felt Wisconsin might have an edge over Penn State because of that win against LSU, but now because of that (LSU) loss to Florida, I think it loses a little bit of its sting and how impressive it looked now that (LSU is) out of the top 25.”
Galloway argued that it was unfair to dismiss those special-teams plays that helped Penn State beat Ohio State. He was the only analyst on the ESPN set who wouldn’t say that the Buckeyes should be ahead of the Nittany Lions if both teams win out.
“You are now starting to chip away at the very basis of sports,” Galloway said. “If you tell me that they beat you and it doesn’t matter because we think they’re still better, now you’re starting to worry me about where we’re heading with this.”
David Pollock pointed out that Penn State has two losses, as opposed to one for Ohio State, and Herbstreit said the committee views head-to-head as more of a tiebreaker.
“The thing to remember about head-to-head and conference champ and division champ and all those things, is it’s when you’re really trying to differentiate between two teams because they’re so close,” Herbstreit said. “Do you think Penn State is a better team than Ohio State because they beat them?”
Though Galloway did not directly answer Herbstreit’s question, he again suggested the committee would be unfair to understate Penn State’s win over Ohio State.