In its first findings last week, the 13-member committee placed Ohio State at No. 4, within the realm of a prospective four-team playoff. At that point, Ohio State stood 4-0, with No. 5 Texas A&M (5-1), No. 6 Florida (6-1), No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0) and No. 8 Northwestern (5-0) just behind. After the cancellation of Ohio State’s visit to Illinois on Saturday because of the Buckeyes’ positive coronavirus tests in their program population, Ohio State still stands 4-0.
This happens, a lot, in 2020.
Texas A&M has played a seventh game, against LSU, and has gone to 6-1. Florida has played an eighth game, against Kentucky, and has gone to 7-1. Cincinnati and Northwestern have simplified the puzzle somewhat. The Bearcats remained at 8-0 after not playing Temple because of coronavirus considerations, and the Wildcats dropped to 5-1 after their surprising loss at Michigan State. What a hard day for felines.
All of that probably means Ohio State stays put. The committee might not rate a 20-7 home win over an uneven LSU, which Texas A&M just achieved, or a 34-10 home win over a struggling Kentucky, as Florida just achieved, as something worthy of pushing either past Ohio State. It’s worth a look, though, to see how unbalanced the records have to get before the number of wins on one side simply weighs too much.
Anybody can watch Ohio State and see its highbrow capabilities; it’s just that anybody hasn’t gotten to watch Ohio State all that much this season. Will its scheduled bout at Michigan State go off at noon as scheduled?
Last season, of course, Ohio State debuted at No. 1 in the initial rankings. LSU replaced it in Week No. 2 after winning at Alabama. LSU held on for Week No. 3 before the last three weeks went Ohio State, Ohio State and LSU, after LSU had ransacked Georgia. This kind of thing marks an improvement over the old system, where an unbeaten team at the top tended to remain at the top no matter the caliber of victim the No. 2 team just felled.
In that light, it’s also interesting to watch the very top come Tuesday evening. No. 1 Alabama just finished giving Auburn a 42-13 comeuppance for past sins such as its win over Alabama last year, all while coach Nick Saban sat at home after his own positive coronavirus test. (How should a committee weigh something such as that?)
No. 2 Notre Dame, meanwhile, just finished reaching 9-0 with a deeply impressive 31-17 win at a North Carolina the committee had ranked No. 19. The win featured the kind of big-boy muscle some of the past Notre Dame teams had been accused of lacking somewhat. A psychedelic North Carolina offense spent the second half scoreless, its gaskets blown and strewn about the field. Alabama won at home against a team ranked No. 22, Notre Dame on the road against a team ranked No. 19. Might the committee pull another transposal?
Otherwise, the curiosities seem tame. Might BYU (9-0) get a little bounce after its slighting at No. 14 last week, even after it didn’t play? Where to place Iowa State (7-2), which just won at then-No. 17 Texas, whatever one could construe that to mean right about now? One thing’s for sure in a year in which certain conferences started late out of public-health concerns: No. 16 Wisconsin remains just 2-1 after not playing last week, No. 18 Southern California remains just 3-0 after not playing last week, and unranked Washington stands just 3-0 after a stirring comeback against Utah last week.
Those guys are all hard to rank.