COLUMBUS, Ohio — For at least one more week I’m keeping Ohio State football ahead of Clemson on my Associated Press Top 25 ballot.
If the Buckeyes cannot play at Michigan State on Saturday due to their coronavirus flare-up, though, it may be time to reassess whether they are worthy of a top-four spot — or perhaps even top five.
The fact that Ohio State is undefeated doesn’t mean much when it has played half as many games as the other contenders. So take away the one loss for Clemson (double overtime at Notre Dame), Florida (3 points at Texas A&M) and Texas A&M (curb stomped by clear No. 1 Alabama). Then compare games won and performance:
OHIO STATE (4-0)
Wins over: Nebraska (1-4), at Penn State (1-5), Rutgers (2-4), Indiana (5-1)
Wins: Wake Forest (4-3), Citadel (irrelevant), Virginia (4-4), Miami (7-1), at Georgia Tech (3-5), Syracuse (1-9), at Boston College (6-4), Pittsburgh (5-5)
Comparison to OSU: Indiana and Miami are comparable programs, and Clemson won its matchup more convincingly. Boston College and Wake Forest are probably better than anyone else OSU will play during the regular season.
Wins: at Mississippi (4-4), South Carolina (2-7), Missouri (4-3), at Georgia (6-2), Arkansas (3-5), at Vanderbilt (0-8), Kentucky (3-6)
Comparison to OSU: The Buckeyes never had a chance for a road win as good as the Gators’ at Georgia. Some ugly records round out the field, but have you seen Rutgers and Nebraska?
TEXAS A&M (6-1)
Wins: Vanderbilt (0-8), Florida (7-1), at Mississippi State (2-6), Arkansas (3-5), at South Carolina (2-7), LSU (3-4)
Comparison to OSU: I suppose Indiana might be a poor man’s version of Florida.
Coming into the week, Ohio State ranked ahead of all of those teams in metrics such as Football Outsiders’ FEI and ESPN’s SP+ — in some cases, well ahead. The performance justifies a higher ranking for the Buckeyes, but barely.
You don’t want to penalize Ohio State for missing games due to the pandemic. At some point, though, the flashes of on-field performance do not stand out as much from the more-active competition.
Were we to some extent, voting that way all season, especially when the Big Ten teams were not yet eligible for the poll? Sure, but OSU was supposed to close the gap in games played, and that has not happened.
NATHAN BAIRD’S WEEK 13 AP TOP 25 BALLOT
2-Notre Dame (9-0)
3-Ohio State (4-0)
6-Texas A&M (6-1)
12-Iowa State (7-2)
20-Oklahoma State (6-2)
21-North Carolina (6-3)
24-Coastal Carolina (9-0)
New Ohio State face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Ohio State-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection. A 3-pack is available on Fanatics for $29.99.
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