After the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes beat the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game by a score of 34-21, the question wasn’t whether Ohio State would be in the College Football Playoff, but rather what their seed in the playoff would be.
Fortunately, Buckeye players, coaches, and fans don’t have long to wait to figure out where and who they are going to be playing in the CFP semifinals on Dec. 28.
The final College Football Playoff rankings will be released on ESPN today at 12 noon ET. Along with the Buckeyes, the LSU Tigers and Clemson Tigers are both assured a spot in the field as all three finished the season as 13-0 conference champions, and — unless the committee pulls the biggest upset in selection history — the Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners will be the playoff’s fourth team.
College Football Playoff Seedings
When: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 12 noon ET
While we more than likely know the “whos” that will make up the playoffs, we don’t yet know the order. Ohio State has been the No. 1 team in three of this season’s five rankings, including the last two, while LSU has been No. 2 when the Buckeyes were No. 1 and vice versa.
So, given that they both won their conference championship games on Saturday, it stands to reason that those squads will be fighting for the No. 1 overall seed in the playoff with defending national champion Clemson coming in third and the Sooners fourth.
With all due respect to OU, most analysts believe that there is a significant divide between the top three teams and everybody else, so the right to be No. 1 means that a team’s path to the title is significantly easier, since the No. 2 and 3 seeds would presumably have to play both of the other best teams in the country, while the top-seed would only have to play one of them.
The committee claims that it bases decisions on a full-season view and a combination of football expertise and stats and analytics. Here are a few of the more basic numbers that the committee might be looking at to make their decision:
|Total Offense||1st | 554.3||4th | 531|
|Total Defense||32nd | 341.3||2nd | 247.6|
|Scoring Offense||3rd | 47.8||1st | 48.7|
|Scoring Defense||27 | 21.2||T-2nd | 12.5|
|SOS (thru 11/30)||11||15|
|SOR (thru 11/30)||1||2|
The committee has contracted Sports Source Analytics to be the official analytics platform for the College Football Playoff. And while their Twitter account doesn’t necessarily have any connection to what is going on in the playoff committee’s meeting room, it could provide some insight into the data that they are using to make a decision.
In graphs like this, the more round the plot, the more... well, well-rounded a team is. So, the closer a team is to a perfect circle, the better they are.
Who are you picking for #1 in the #CFBPlayoff?— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) December 8, 2019
Here are the strength profiles of both #OhioState and #LSU. pic.twitter.com/HEXQVJ1bbM
Here are a couple of other metrics that Sports Source Analytics have sent out on Sunday morning.
#CFB Top 8 Teams - Game Control— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) December 8, 2019
1️⃣ #Clemson . . . .85.8%
2️⃣ #LSU . . . . . . . .84.7%
3️⃣ #OhioState . . .83.8%
4️⃣ #Oklahoma . . .77.1%
5️⃣ #UCF . . . . . . . .77.1%
6️⃣ #Alabama . . . .76.7%
7️⃣ #Wisconsin . . .76.5%
8️⃣ #AppState . . . .72.6%
** % of Plays with the Lead
#CFB Top 9 Offenses - Relative Scoring Offense— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) December 8, 2019
1️⃣ #OhioState . . .209%
2️⃣ #LSU . . . . . . . .196%
3️⃣ #Alabama . . . .177%
4️⃣ #Clemson . . . .164%
5️⃣ #Oklahoma . . .156%
6️⃣ #UCF . . . . . . . .155%
7️⃣ #Wisconsin . . .150%
8️⃣ #Michigan . . . .148%
9️⃣ #Florida . . . . . .146%
#CFB Top 9 Defenses - Relative Scoring Defense— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) December 8, 2019
1️⃣ #Clemson . . .38%
2️⃣ #Georgia . . . .43%
3️⃣ #Iowa . . . . . . .44%
4️⃣ #Utah . . . . . . .44%
5️⃣ #PennState . .47%
6️⃣ #Florida . . . . .48%
7️⃣ #OhioState . . .48%
8️⃣ #SDSU . . . . . .49%
9️⃣ #Oregon . . . . .52%
From a more basic perspective, FOX made a pretty compelling case for the Buckeyes to be No. 1 during last night’s broadcast. LSU fans argue that the Tigers beat a higher-ranked team far more handily in their conference championship game than OSU did — which is objectively true — but Buckeye fans can argue that across the season, OSU has been more dominant on both sides of the ball, which the committee has echoed throughout the rankings process.
I mean, when you put it that way, the No. 1 seed seems pretty clear cut. pic.twitter.com/HHiNNlo6Wk— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 8, 2019
While many fans south of the Mason-Dixon Line continue to believe that because LSU has survived the SEC, that this is inherently better than anything that Ohio State could accomplish in the Big Ten. However, according to the CFP committee’s rankings, OSU does have a slightly better resume.
Wins Against CFP Rankings
|Wins against CFP's current||LSU||OSU|
|Wins against CFP's current||LSU||OSU|
Another argument in OSU’s favor is that while they did struggle in the first half against Wisconsin, that game was coming on the end of a rough three-game stretch in which Ohio State beat three top-15 teams in a row. The first time that any school has done that in 37 years.
Personally, I think that based on their “body of work” and everything that the committee has said thus far that the Buckeyes should be the No. 1 overall seed. Call it bias, but everything that we have been officially told and shown points OSU.
However, I recognize that both teams have a legitimate claim for the top spot, and I admit that putting much faith the committee to follow a coherent thought and decision making process throughout their entire six weeks of work is a fool’s errand.
And after years of being berated by fans and media, it is hard for me to overcome the voice in my head that says Ohio State won’t get the benefit of the doubt over an SEC school that has looked better in recent weeks. Heck, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Clemson jumps up to second; not that that would mean a whole lot for the No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup, other than who gets to call the coin toss and what jerseys each team wears.
The other component that will be revealed by the committee at noon is where the final four teams will play. Both semifinal games will happen on Saturday, Dec. 28, one will be the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the other will be in Phoenix at the Fiesta Bowl.
Despite what you might have heard, the No. 1 seed does not get a say in where they go. Instead, the committee factors in geography, history, and proximity for the No. 1 seed and their opponent when determining the venues.
Assuming that Oklahoma is the fourth-seed, that means that whomever the No. 1 seed is will almost certainly be playing in Atlanta, since it will be closer to either Columbus or Baton Rouge. Meaning that whichever team finishes second will play Clemson in the desert.
Peach Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson
but I certainly wouldn’t put any money on that.