Ohio State drops to No. 2, behind LSU, in College Football Playoff rankings
Ohio State’s stint as the top-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings was short-lived.
After debuting at No. 1, the Buckeyes were passed on Tuesday by LSU, which defeated Alabama on Saturday.
The undefeated teams were considered to be close for the top spot last week when the initial rankings were released.
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As Ohio State fell a spot, it marked the first time that the playoff selection committee had dropped the No. 1 team after it had won during the previous week. The Buckeyes routed Maryland 73-14 on Saturday to improve to 9-0 but lacked the high-profile victory garnered by the Tigers.
Defending national champion Clemson was behind the top two teams at No. 3, followed by Georgia at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 5.
In a teleconference with reporters, Rob Mullens, the chair of the selection committee, touted LSU’s four wins over top-20 teams, including its “impressive” victory over Alabama, as the reason for putting the Tigers atop the rankings ahead of Ohio State.
No other team had four wins over teams in the top 20.
“With that, the committee felt they deserved to be the No. 1 team,” Mullens said.
The Buckeyes have two wins against ranked teams, No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 17 Cincinnati.
Movement toward the bottom half of the rankings affected the teams’ resumes. Texas, which had been unranked last week, rose to No. 19 after a narrow win over Kansas State, giving the Tigers their fourth win over a top-20 team. LSU beat the Longhorns in Austin in September.
Indiana, ranked in the Associated Press poll this week, could have given Ohio State a win over a third ranked team, but Mullens said they “didn’t go into great discussion” about the Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes visit Rutgers on Saturday, a matchup that will do little to bolster their playoff resume, then they close the regular season with games against Penn State and Michigan, which are No. 9 and No. 15 in the rankings.
LSU is not scheduled to face another ranked team.
Mullens did not say if the absence of Chase Young played a role in the Buckeyes’ stumble a week after he had mentioned the star pass rusher as a reason for their hold on the top spot.
“We were aware that he wasn’t available,” Mullens said, “but when we watched Ohio State, we still saw an impressive performance, a dominant win.”
In other comments, Mullens acknowledged the Buckeyes’ balance on both offense and defense.
“They’re an excellent team,” he said.
Waving the flag
The Buckeyes committed a season-high 13 penalties in their win over Maryland last Saturday, a development coach Ryan Day lamented Tuesday.
“That's unacceptable,” Day said. “That's going to hurt us in a close game. Execution level has to be at an all-time high, effort. All those things, taking care of the ball, ball security, decision-making, communication. All of those things have got to be really good if we're going to win close games.”
Penalties have been a little issue for Ohio State this season after it had been the most penalized team in FBS last season. Through the 11 weeks, the Buckeyes had committed 52 penalties. Only 36 of the 130 FBS teams had been penalized less often. Before facing Terrapins, they had averaged 4.9 penalties in their first eight games.
Eight of the Buckeyes’ 13 penalties against Maryland came in the second half after backups replaced their starters. Some of the penalized were chalked up to inexperience. When freshman defensive end Zach Harrison sacked quarterback Josh Jackson, he flexed his muscles in celebration, drawing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After the game, Day said Harrison hadn’t realized at first that he had flexed.
“He was so excited about getting the sack,” Day added.
Day references the penalty as a learning experience.