COLUMBUS, Ohio — Texas A&M’s time as the College Football Playoff committee’s darling was short-lived. Whether Ohio State can seize on that vacancy remains to be seen.
The Aggies, then-No. 7 in the AP Top 25, were the surprise inclusion in the CFP committee’s first top four. To rank fourth, they jumped unbeaten Washington and fellow one-loss teams Louisville and Ohio State.
Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt attributed the rise of the Aggies to the team’s strength of schedule.
“The committee, in our mind, believes that Texas A&M has played a stronger schedule at this point in time,” Hocutt said. “Texas A&M’s got four wins over teams with better records than .500 compared to Washington only having two wins against teams with .500 or better records.”
Real compelling stuff right there. Even setting aside the committee’s use of such a primitive metric, Ohio State had to that point outperformed both schools in that category with five such wins. That’s to say nothing of the fact that the day of the first CFP rankings, the best wins from each team were as follows (using AP rankings):
Washington (8-0): at No. 16 Utah
Louisville (7-1): No. 19 Florida State
Ohio State (7-1): at No. 8 Wisconsin, at No. 12 Oklahoma
Texas A&M (7-1): at No. 11 Auburn
On Saturday, Texas A&M lost at unranked Mississippi State. The teams chasing the Aggies all experienced a more enjoyable weekend. Washington dominated unranked Cal, 66-27, and Louisville trounced unranked Boston College, 52-7. The team that gave itself the most chance to make up ground, though, was Ohio State. The Buckeyes hosted Nebraska (ranked No. 10 in the first CFP) and handed the Huskers a 62-3 beating.
With that in mind, let’s look at the two key questions for Tuesday’s rankings.
Will anything change?
If the Buckeyes’ resume wasn’t enough to impress the committee the first go round, there’s a good chance the Nebraska win won’t help, either. After all, the way in which OSU dominated the Huskers had a diminishing effect. (Nebraska fell 10 spots in the AP poll after the loss.) But Ohio State picked up another win against a ranked team. The Buckeyes have three wins against teams listed in the top 15 of the first CFP rankings. Two of those came on the road.
The discrepancy, therefore, must be not in the wins but in the loss. Washington doesn’t have one, of course. Texas A&M’s came to No. 1 Alabama, Louisville’s to No. 3 Clemson and Ohio State’s to No. 12 Penn State. If good losses are more important than good wins, expect Ohio State to trail the Huskies and Cardinals for the time being.
Do Tuesday’s rankings matter?
As is often the case, the answer is both yes and no. History has shown that a one-loss Big Ten champion will make the playoff, and that looks even more likely this year than the previous two. As long as the Buckeyes win out and claim a conference championship, there’s nothing to worry about. But seeding and positioning matter, and Ohio State has plenty to gain by climbing the rankings sooner rather than later.