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Ohio State should be the No. 1 team in first College Football Playoff rankings

Will the committee do the right thing and put them on top of the initial rankings? I have no idea, but they should.

Penn State v Ohio State Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

The inaugural College Football Playoff rankings of the 2023 season are set to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and for Ohio State fans, it should be far more of a treat than a trick. Through eight games, the Buckeyes are undefeated and are currently No. 3 in both the AP and Coaches polls, but when the CFP Committee announces their rankings on Halloween, Ryan Day’s squad should be the No. 1 team. Will they be? I have my doubts, but based on their resume, the Buckeyes have earned the top spot through the first two months of the season.


Will Ohio State Be No. 1 in the First College Football Playoff Rankings of 2023?

Obviously, anyone who has watched the Buckeyes knows that they are far from a perfect team, but looking across the landscape of college football this year, it is clear that no dominant team has emerged thus far so whichever team claims the top spot is going to have a few faults. The difference is that despite their struggles offensively, Ohio State has already amassed an impressive number of wins.

The playoff committee has a very specifically prescribed set of criteria when ranking teams that, in my humble reading, sets the Buckeyes up very nicely to be the top team tomorrow night.

The CFP’s website says that, ”The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable.”

For the most part, none of those metrics really apply at this point of the season. There are still eight unbeaten FBS teams, but only five are actually in contention for a playoff berth: Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia, Florida State, and Washington. So, there are no conference championships won yet, and obviously, none of these teams have played each other, so there are no head-to-head results either.

The Wolverines did beat Indiana more soundly than the Buckeyes did, but OSU played them in Week 1, and Michigan was probably cheating when they beat the Hoosiers anyway. Otherwise, there are no common opponents to draw on. So, the one remaining major factor is strength of schedule.

On the raw strength of schedule metric through nine weeks, Ohio State is No. 15, the top team in contention for a CFP top-four ranking. In fact, most teams even in the discussion for a top-eight seeding are way back; only Alabama is in the top 30 at No. 8, and Penn State — which Ohio State beat two weeks ago — is down at No. 33.

With wins on the road against Notre Dame and Wisconsin and victories at the Horseshoe over Penn State and Maryland, there’s no team in the country that can point to as impressive of a slate of victories this season, especially since Ohio State really has not been in trouble against significantly lesser competition, like many of the other teams in the running for the top CFP spot have been.

Georgia has struggled against South Carolina, UAB, and Auburn; Florida State could have lost to Boston College and Clemson; Washington was in danger against Arizona, Arizona State, and Stanford; Michigan has played nobody... no really, their strength of schedule is currently 111 in all of FBS. While the Buckeyes have not been scoring as many points this season as in the other years of Ryan Day’s, so some scores are closer than normal, the only two games that weren’t decided by double digits were against the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions, two top-10 teams.

UGA is currently No. 100 in strength of schedule, Washington is 75th, and Florida State is a respectable-ish 49th.

Judging by strength of record — which measures how an average top-25 team would do against a specific schedule — the Buckeyes are No. 1. This metric is a bit more helpful in comparative conversations, because it factors in how well you played, not just who you played. So, unsurprisingly, this is a much closer metric.

Florida State is No. 2, Washington is No. 3, Georgia is No. 7, and Michigan is No. 9. Ohio State is still the top team here, but it’s a much closer discussion.


How Does Ohio State Rank in Advanced Analytics?

From a more in-depth analytical standpoint, OSU is currently ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s Football Power Index with Michigan at No. 2, Georgia is No. 6, and Florida State is No. 7. In fairness, the gold standard college football analytical model, SP+, has the Bucks at No. 3 behind the Wolverines and Bulldogs, but again, neither team has played no one to warrant the top spot in the CFP rankings, especially when we know that the committee values wins and resumes above all else.

The one thing working against the Buckeyes is that they are the least efficient team on offense that is in the discussion. SP+ has the OSU offense at No. 16, behind Washington (4), Georgia (6), Michigan (7), and Florida State (8).

Granted, the Buckeyes’ defense helps bridge that gap. They come in at No. 3 defensively with Michigan at No. 2, UGA at No. 5, Florida State at No. 16, and Washington at No. 32.

To me, I think that’s all close enough to come out in a wash — with perhaps the exception of UW. So, when you factor in the SOS and SOR metrics, I feel pretty good about the Buckeyes’ place.


Who Do the Experts Think Will Be No. 1 in First College Football Playoff Rankings of 2023?

While a lot of folks like to portray the CFP committee’s selections as good old boys’ backroom dealings, it is actually fairly regimented and standardized. For years, the CFP has invited journalists to sit in on mock seeding discussions in order for them to understand the processes that go into generating a set of rankings, and because of that, they have gotten very good at predicting how these things will shake out. And, no matter what you think about the media, I’m liking what many of the most esteemed members of the college football beat are picking.

If you watched the Ohio State and Wisconsin game on Saturday night, you know that the official NBC Sports prediction had the Buckeyes at No. 1 followed by Michigan, Florida State, and then Washington, with Georgia on the outside looking in. I’m not sure that I would have UGA at fifth, just because of the gravitas that they carry as the two-time defending national champion, but I’m certainly not mad at it.

Similarly, the NCAA’s official prediction also has the Buckeyes on top. They have FSU and Washington in second and third with Georgia fourth and Michigan fifth (which probably just adds more to the Michigan Man “The NCAA Hates Us” conspiracy theories).

Then Heather Dinich from ESPN, who is quite possibly the most accurate CFP committee prognosticator, also has OSU in the top spot. She has Florida State, Georgia, and Washington rounding out the top four (which probably just adds more to the Michigan Man “The ESPN Hates Us” conspiracy theories).


Where Will Ohio State Rank in the First College Football Rankings of 2023?

Poll

Where will Ohio State be in the first CFP rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    No. 1
    (77 votes)
  • 22%
    No. 2
    (33 votes)
  • 21%
    No. 3
    (31 votes)
  • 2%
    No. 4
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Outside the top four
    (2 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now