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College Football Playoff Rankings judgments: Why is Oklahoma so comfortably ahead of Ohio State?

The newest College Football Playoff Rankings are out, and the biggest story this week is likely seeing UCF jump up from No. 11 to No. 9, surpassing Ohio State, which stayed at No. 10 despite a close call against Maryland. While I’ll have something to say about UCF and its top-10 ranking, there’s another question about this week’s rankings that I find fascinating, and that’s where I’m beginning.

Why is Oklahoma so far ahead of Ohio State?

Oklahoma remains at No. 6 and Ohio State is at No. 10. Ohio State narrowly averted disaster against Maryland on Saturday. Oklahoma was never in peril against Kansas, but the Sooners defense did allow 40 points to Kansas. It was the first time Kansas had scored 40 points in a game against a Power Five team not named Rutgers since posting 52 against Colorado way back in 2010. It’s the third-straight game the Sooners have won despite allowing their opponent to score a least 40 points. That’s the kind of thing you can get away with when you’re working with an offense that plays at another level than nearly everybody else.

Now, I’ve already made my feelings known about Oklahoma this week, but I don’t have a problem with them being at No. 6; I think the Sooners would beat the teams behind them in the rankings more often than not. But I don’t get what’s so different about Oklahoma and Ohio State that allows them to be separated by three different teams.

Oklahoma has a much better loss than Ohio State. It lost to No. 14 Texas by a point, while Ohio State got pantsed by Purdue. But Oklahoma’s best win to this point is against No. 25 Iowa State, which remains ranked despite being only 6-4. Ohio State has beaten No. 12 Penn State, so the Buckeyes have a much better win in the eyes of the committee.

Oklahoma has played a similar schedule to Ohio State depending on who you listen to (Oklahoma’s SOS is ranked 43rd by Sagarin and 76th by S&P+ while Ohio State’s is 53rd in Sagarin and 74th in S&P+), and has outscored opponents by an average of 18.8 points per game. Ohio State has outscored opponents by an average of 17.0 points per game. So, again, Oklahoma should be ahead of Ohio State, but these two teams have incredibly similar resumes as well as similar profiles (good offense, bad defense), so why are they so far apart in the rankings?

I’m not sure the committee even knows.

Washington State needs to be ahead of LSU

Hell, UCF and Ohio State should probably be ahead of LSU as well, but Washington State’s the more immediate problem. I understand why the committee leaves the Tigers at No. 7, because they do have a strong resume. A 20-point win over No. 5 Georgia is the most impressive in the country right now, and neither of their losses to No. 11 Florida or No. 1 Alabama are embarrassing on the surface, but at some point, the two losses need to mean something no matter who they’re against. Yes, one of LSU’s losses was to Alabama, but more importantly than who it lost to should be how it lost that game. It was shutout. We have seen LSU take its shot at a top-four team, and it failed badly. So even if the resume as a whole is strong, the shutout loss needs to carry more weight when considering this team.

Washington State, on the other hand, is 10-1, and while it hasn’t played a schedule as strong as LSU’s, it’s putting together complete performances. This isn’t your stereotypical Mike Leach Air Raid team that’s trying to win games 45-42. It’s capable of winning lower-scoring defensive slugfests as well, and it’s shown that. Nothing LSU has done this season leads me to believe it could survive a shootout if it got into one.

The committee gave UCF a cookie

The Knights move up to No. 9, which is significant because a Group of Five team has never reached the top 10, but it feels like the committee just tossing that team a bone more than anything. I’m not saying UCF doesn’t deserve to be ranked where it is — it does — but they still have no shot of getting to the top four this season. When you’re ranked behind a bunch of one-loss teams, and even a two-loss team, the committee has told you everything you need to know. If there’s any good news, it’s that UCF is blazing a path, and all it took was 23 straight wins! Maybe if they double this win streak to 46, they’ll get to No. 5 by November 2020.

The confusing views of Pitt and Northwestern

Northwestern is 7-4, doesn’t have a win over any team ranked in the top 25, lost to Akron earlier this season and is ranked No. 19. Pitt is 7-4, has a win over No. 20 Syracuse, lost to a 2-8 North Carolina team earlier his season and is ranked No. 24. Both have won their division this season. So why is Northwestern ranked five spots higher? Is Mike Wilbon on the committee now and nobody told me?

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