So Who's No. 1? Right now it has to be LSU

Tony Barnhart

Atlanta—After No. 2 LSU dispatched No. 4 Georgia with authority, 37-10 in the SEC Championship game and No. 1 Ohio State rallied from 14 down to beat No. 8 Wisconsin 34-21 in the Big Ten championship game, there was only one question remaining as Saturday night turned into early Sunday morning:

Who’s No. 1?

We won’t really know until Sunday at 12:15 p.m. (on ESPN) when the College Football Playoff selection committee announces its four-team pairings that will decide the national championship.

Now we know that the four teams will be: Ohio State (13-0), LSU (13-0), Clemson (13-0), and Oklahoma (12-1)—all conference champions.

Clemson, the defending national champions, made its case with a 62-17 thrashing of No. 23 Virginia in the ACC championship game. But if Virginia drops out of the rankings on Sunday the Tigers will not have a win over a ranked team.

And Oklahoma, whose only loss was to Kansas State (48-41) will be included because of its 30-23 win over Baylor for the Big 12 champion.

But in what order will they be?

So again, we want to know: Who’s No. 1?

It’s important. Here’s why:

The No. 1 seed in this event has some built-in advantages. The selection committee will consult with that team before making the public announcement on Sunday. That team will get input when it comes to their destination for the semifinals on Dec. 28 that will be held in Atlanta or Glendale, Ariz.

If Ohio State stays No. 1 after the scare against Wisconsin, then it will most assuredly play Oklahoma as the No. 4 seed. The question is where do the Buckeyes want to play? If it’s pure geography, Columbus, Ohio is certainly closer to Atlanta than Glendale.

That would send No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Clemson out to Arizona for an ACC/SEC matchup.

But if Ohio State choses to play in the desert against Oklahoma, then Clemson/LSU would come to Atlanta. Clemson is just two hours north of here on I-85 while Baton Rouge, La., is a reasonable drive.

If LSU is No. 1 it would play Oklahoma in Atlanta and Clemson/Ohio State would meet in Arizona.

So again we ask: Should Ohio State or LSU be No. 1? Here’s the case for each.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes finished the season with five Top 25 wins against No. 8 Wisconsin (twice), No. 10 Penn State, No. 14 Michigan, and No. 20 Cincinnati, which lost to Memphis (29-24) for the American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday.

LSU: The Tigers have beaten No. 4 Georgia, No. 9 Florida, No. 11 Auburn, and No. 12 Alabama. LSU would also get credit from the committee for scheduling a road game with Texas that it won back on Sept. 9.

LSU has the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Joe Burrow, who put on another vintage performance against Georgia, completing 28 of 38 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns.

Ohio State has its own dynamic quarterback in sophomore Justin Fields, the transfer from Georgia, who struggled at times with a sprained MCL, but made the throws when Ohio State had to have them.

Based on what I’ve seen, I believe LSU has the best team and the best resume and should be ranked No. 1 on Sunday. And the pairings for the Dec. 28 semifinals will be:

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson, Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz.

Let the debate begin.


Tony Barnhart