The battle for the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings is a tight one heading into conference championship week.
A week after jumping LSU for the No. 1 spot, Ohio State remains on top of the latest CFP Rankings released Tuesday night, as the Buckeyes prepare to play No. 8 Wisconsin in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game.
But nipping at Ohio State’s heels is No. 2 LSU, which will face No. 4 Georgia in the SEC title game Saturday.
Right now, according to CFP Selection Committee Chair Rob Mullens, it is Ohio State’s defense that gives the Buckeyes the edge over LSU for the No. 1 ranking.
“Two really, really good teams, first of all, and that’s what the committee sees,” Mullens said. “Ohio State now, with their impressive win over Michigan on the road, has four wins over top-25 teams. LSU has three very impressive wins over top-25 teams. As we’ve talked in past weeks, both really have dynamic offenses, both have good defenses – Ohio State’s is just a little ahead at this point.”
The chase for No. 4. No. 5 Utah, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor are all in the hunt for the fourth and final spot in the CFP rankings, with Utah set to square off against No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Oklahoma and Baylor getting ready to meet in the Big 12 Championship Game.
If Georgia upsets LSU in the SEC title game, then the Bulldogs would cement a spot in the CFP while Ohio State, Clemson and LSU would likely round out the rest of the top four in some order.
But if LSU and Utah both win, there will be a heated debate about which team deserves the final spot – Utah or the Big 12 title game winner.
As it stands right now, the biggest conversation in the CFP committee room this week was whether Utah or Oklahoma deserved to be No. 5 behind Georgia going into this weekend.
“We spent considerable time on it, more time than anywhere else on the board,” Mullens said. “There was plenty of debate. Obviously when you look at Oklahoma’s resume, they have the win against the No. 7 team on the road without a key wide receiver. They also beat Oklahoma State. When we look at Utah, we see a season-long balance of very consistent play on both sides of the ball, very dominant wins, and their only loss is on a Friday night on the road at a No. 22-ranked team when a key player on offense missed the majority of the game.”
It was a close call between the Utes and Sooners, but Mullens and the committee view Utah’s body of work to this point as slightly more impressive.
“Obviously Oklahoma has the win over Baylor and Oklahoma State,” Mullens said. “When you watch Utah, very balanced, very consistent performance. They’ve dominated the majority of their schedule. Top two or three defense, experienced quarterback, only loss on the road without the key offensive player.”
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