ANN ARBOR, Mich. – When the second edition of this year’s College Football Playoff rankings is released, everyone knows who will be at the top. But will it be Michigan or Ohio State at No. 2?
Georgia toppled No. 1 Tennessee in dominant fashion over the weekend, emphatically earning this week’s top spot. Meanwhile, Clemson, the committee’s No. 4 team, got boat raced by a three-loss team.
That leaves just four unbeatens in college football, and since the committee ranked TCU all the way down at No. 7 last week, it’s pretty obvious that the second and third slots will belong to Michigan and Ohio State.
But in what order?
The argument for Michigan
Written by: Brandon Carr
Watching the Michigan Wolverines over these past few weeks has been impressive, as they’ve grown tremendously in all phases of the game.
Production from the quarterback to the running game, the receivers and tight end play, to the tremendous leaps from the no-star defense, it’s like night and day, which is what the CFP likes: recent production.
This past Saturday, Michigan, after a hard-fought in-state battle against the Spartans, had to take its show on the road and not only battle but overcome adversity in front of a raucous crowd under the lights.
The Wolverines trailed at the half to an unranked Rutgers team and flipped the switch by turning a 17-14 deficit into a 35-17 lead in the opening two minutes of the third quarter. They eventually ended the game on a 38-0 run, boat-racing the Scarlett Knights in a 52-17 victory.
Against MSU, after trailing 7-3 in the first quarter, the men in maize went on a 26-0 run to end the game, with 16 points coming in the second half.
Against Penn State, the Wolverines, while finishing the second half on a 25-3 run, rushed for over 400 yards. Michigan went on a 21-0 run in the second half against Indiana to pull away with the victory, and if you’re keeping score, Michigan has outscored its opponents in second halves of the last four matchups 100-3.
Ohio State, on the other hand, after facing some recent adversity, blamed their poor showing against Northwestern on weather conditions, like they don’t play in the East Division of the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes struggled against one-win Northwestern due to wind conditions. Not that a high-powered team continued to pass the ball instead of just enforcing their will on an inferior team and pounding the ball down their throats.
In perfect conditions, they will run any team off the field, but if they can’t play a grind-it-out game, then they’ll be in some trouble on Nov. 26. They should be able to score on all facets, not just through the air.
Not to mention the Wolverines have yet to trail or be tied against an opponent in the fourth quarter all season, which is why they should be ranked No. 2 ahead of the Buckeyes.
The argument for Ohio State
Written by: Derick Hutchinson
I understand that Ohio State didn’t look impressive against Northwestern, but outlier bad games around this time have never been very predictive of future Buckeye results.
In 2018, Ohio State needed a two-point conversion stop to beat Maryland in overtime as a massive favorite. It went on to win the Big Ten and finish 13-1. Last season, the Buckeyes led Nebraska by only six points with five minutes to go, despite being favored by 14 points. They went on to win the Rose Bowl.
The CFP committee isn’t just going to look at this week’s results. The discussion will include both teams’ entire bodies of work.
In many ways, these resumes are near mirror images of each other. Michigan and Ohio State are both 9-0. They’re both highly rated in every major computer metric. Heck, they’re both coming off first halves that stayed a lot closer than people expected.
So what will committee members use to differentiate the two teams? Probably common opponents.
Michigan and Ohio State have both played Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, and Penn State. (Oddly enough, while Michigan hosted Michigan State and Penn State and traveled to Rutgers and Iowa, Ohio State did the exact opposite.)
Let’s take a look at what the two teams did against all four opponents:
- Rutgers: Michigan 52-17, Ohio State 49-10
- Michigan State: Michigan 29-7, Ohio State 49-20
- Iowa: Michigan 27-14, Ohio State 54-10
- Penn State: Michigan 41-17, Ohio State 44-31
The Rutgers and Michigan State games are pretty comparable, while Michigan was much more dominant against Penn State and Ohio State was much more dominant against Iowa.
Michigan beat these four teams by a combined score of 149-55, while Ohio State’s combined margin was 196-71.
If you want to argue that the way Michigan plays doesn’t lend itself to such lopsided wins, I would agree with you. Ohio State had C.J. Stroud throwing touchdown passes up 37 points midway through the fourth quarter, while Michigan typically gets up a few scores and milks the clock.
But still, the resumes are so similar otherwise that I think the committee will lean toward Ohio State, especially because of the non-conference schedules.
CFP Committee Chair Boo Corrigan admitted openly that The Wolverines’ soft non-conference schedule worked against them in the first rankings. Since then, Ohio State’s best non-conference opponent, Notre Dame, knocked off No. 4 Clemson, meaning the gap has only widened.
Wisconsin also beat Maryland over the weekend, giving Ohio State’s second-best win a boost while hurting Michigan’s. The Buckeyes will have two ranked wins if Notre Dame enters the top 25, while the Wolverines will still only have one.
If Michigan jumps Ohio State, it will be entirely due to the optics of being out-gained by Northwestern. Is that enough to overcome all those other resume advantages? I don’t think so.
Luckily, this doesn’t actually matter. The two teams will square off in three weeks and settle this once and for all. But it’ll be fun to see which team currently has the edge when Tuesday’s poll is revealed.