Rebuttal: Defending Champions Shouldn’t Receive Special Treatment in Rankings

by: Ryan Black


The narrative this year to a good number in the media and Ohio State nation right now is that Ohio State is struggling- “Keep them out of the top 4, overrated, they are getting the benefit of doubt because of last years run, etc…”

I’m a little puzzled that so many people believe Ohio State is having such a tough go of it and receiving special treatment from the voters/playoff committee this year.

Even one of our own on MOTSAG seem to think this:

It’s a well written article by our own Brad and one that really summarizes the feelings of a lot of those folks down on Ohio State this season. I’d like to give an opposing view point and attack debate these points head on.

Here is my rebuttal to Brad’s article (his article in black/my rebuttal in red):


Ohio State isn’t one of the two or three best college football teams in the country. At least, they haven’t actually played like it for the majority of the season.

Oklahoma, Ohio State and Clemson are the only Power 5 teams in the nation with top 20 offensive and defensive scoring rankings. You could argue that Ohio State has been one of the most consistent teams in the nation on both sides of the ball. Your word “majority” is what gets me.

Ohio State hasn’t looked like a top 3 team in two games in my opinion: Indiana and Northern Illinois (a game where NIU crossed midfield once in the second half). I’m not counting last weeks Minnesota game as a bad win at all. The Bucks dominated the full game and gave up a few late touchdowns playing with a backup QB (yes Cardale is a backup). This Minny team also played TCU down to the wire and had media darling Michigan all but beat.

It’s a very similar win that Bama had over Arkansas (28-14) or Clemson had over Boston College (34-17). Are these teams any better or worse than the Gophers? I’ll get more into these teams other bad wins later…


Putting all my Buckeye Bias aside – and it certainly isn’t the fault of the team – but Ohio State has benefited through its ninth game in 2015 from its accomplishments in the 2014 season and preseason expectations. They haven’t really done much to earn a top-3 ranking. Similar to the advantage that Florida State was able to enjoy throughout the entire 2014 regular season, a defending champion with a lot of returning talent is given the benefit of the doubt regarding their schedule and outcomes of games. Fans and analysts, alike, are quick to say, “Until they lose, they’re No. 1.”

To your first point- There are only 5 undefeated Power 5 teams left and Ohio State is essentially tied for 3rd SOS among these teams which certainly keeps them in the discussion. 

You bring up Florida State last year…

2014 FSU, with a similar schedule won each game by an average of 10 points and gave up 17+ points 11 times during the regular season. They had 7 games decided by a touchdown or less.

2015 Ohio State has won each game by an average of 22 points and has given up 17+ points 3 times (through 9 games). They’ve had 2 games decided by a touchdown or less last season.

It makes me want to rip my hair out when people compare these teams. FSU had a very very average defense last season after losing a ton of players. Ohio State is one of the best in the country after bringing back a ton of players…

I know Ohio State is annually berated and ridiculed for its weak schedule – especially this year – by media talking heads and fans of other schools around the country, but the argument is legitimate. Based on the competition that Ohio State has faced thus far in 2015, and the way they’ve seemingly struggled to pull out their wins, OSU hasn’t been the best team in the country. They’ve just been blessed with a fortunate situation where everyone knows how talented their roster is and entered the season unanimously ranked No.1, so people feel obliged to prevent them from dropping that far in the polls.

Agreed, the schedule hasn’t been great up to this point (56th) but…

“and the way they’ve seemingly struggled to pull out their wins”

In two games? They’ve only had 2 games that were ever remotely in doubt and in one of those they didn’t let the opponent passed midfield after the first drive of the second half. Struggled is not the word you are looking for. Has the offense looked ugly at the start of games? Yes, but this team hasn’t truly been in danger of losing yet.

Ohio State is winning with defense/special teams, great running game and play action right now and there is nothing wrong with that. Hell Bama made a dynasty out of this strategy.

The people who say last year shouldn’t count are the same ones holding Ohio State to a different standard because of last year. Every team at the top has struggled in a game or two like Ohio State…

Clemson-looked terrible against an average Louisville squad (20-17). They gave up 41 points to a decent NC State team a few weeks ago. 41!!!!!!!! What would people be saying if Ohio State gave up 40+ to similar teams such as Maryland, Penn State or Minnesota?

Bama– 4 loss Arkansas played them close for four quarters (27-14). 4 loss Tennessee was ahead of the Tide in the 4th (hasn’t happened to Ohio State yet) before falling 19-14.  Oh, and somehow everybody on the planet forgets that they lost to 3 loss Ole Miss… #bamalossesmatter.

Notre Dame– Needed a hail mary to beat awful Virginia. Has given up 20+ points in 8 straight games. 8!!!

Baylor– Played nobody until last week and nearly got beat by a team that Texas killed. Texas!!!

Don’t even get me started on Iowa, Stanford, LSU and Utah’s ugly wins or losses…


But is that fair? Why were we held to a higher standard than Michigan State for the first nine weeks of the season (before MSU blew a 12-point lead in the final two minutes against Nebraska)? Up until this past weekend, it seemed as if OSU and MSU were experiencing vastly similar seasons – winning all their games, despite looking sloppy while doing it. Heck, the Spartans had a big home win over then-awesome Oregon – which looked much better than our best win of the season (Virginia Tech). But, despite doing nothing but winning, MSU saw themselves regularly drop in the rankings from No. 2 to No. 7. But Ohio State held strong in the No. 1 spot despite looking just as unimpressive. Why?

Michigan State playing a similar schedule to Ohio State (Oregon is no better or worse than VA Tech imo) has given up 20+ points in every game but 1 (Central Michigan). They beat arguably the two worst teams in the Big Ten (Purdue and Rutgers) by 3 and 7 points respectively. Their avg. margin of victory since week 2 is 12 ppg (highly skewed by their “blowout” victory against Indiana where they were up 28-26 with ten minutes left).

Since week 2, Ohio State gave up 20+ ppg twice (Indiana and Maryland). Their two worst games were Indiana and NIU with 7 point victories, which to be fair, were not impressive at all. Since that game their average margin of victory has been 26 points in 5 games.

Had OSU continued to play like they did against NIU and Indiana they would have certainly fallen in the rankings like MSU. They started blowing people out with Maryland and the voters took notice.


 At the end of the day, the bottom line in football is winning. I recognize that. But college football has proven to be different than the NFL over the years. Style points matter and “statements” need to be made. I’m no expert, but I’m confident that the Buckeyes would not have made the 2014 playoffs if they had beaten Wisconsin 21-14 in the Big Ten championship game instead of the 59-0 drubbing that took place. Ohio State earned its way in, while Florida State sleepwalked through an undefeated yet uninspiring regular season. Hindsight is always 20/20, but following the 59-20 beat-down at the hands of Oregon in last year’s semifinal round, the argument that TCU should’ve qualified for the playoffs was much stronger – albeit they should’ve been included over Florida State, not Ohio State. That was never a possibility, however, because the defending champion Seminoles with returning talent were held to the same unfair higher standard.

I certainly agree with this point: “I’m no expert, but I’m confident that the Buckeyes would not have made the 2014 playoffs if they had beaten Wisconsin 21-14 in the Big Ten championship game instead of the 59-0 drubbing that took place.”

However, that was only needed because of a loss. Something the Buckeyes don’t have yet.

Style points will matter for Ohio State after a loss. An undefeated Ohio State team will always be in the top 4 even if they aren’t defending champs.

Look, Ohio State is capable of beating any team in the country – Clemson, Alabama, Michigan, whomever. But this year’s team shouldn’t be heralded for closer-than-it-should-have-been wins and receive special treatment because of last year’s national title. Because of the precedent that has existed in college football where wins aren’t the same as impressive wins, that evaluation should hold firm across the board – without playing favorites to defending champions.

I agree with that sentiment and I believe that’s what we are seeing this year. If they were playing favorites old school style, Ohio State would currently be number 1. Bama and Clemson both have 1 huge victory that has vaulted them over OSU and that is fair for now.

When comparing them to other teams, to think that Ohio State is not worthy of being top 3 or 4 at this point is holding them to a different standard based upon last years National Title run, and something that you say shouldn’t be done.

Ohio State  hasn’t been as pretty offensively this year as last (due to qb rotation) but they certainly haven’t been struggling as much as many people think.

Clemson gives up 41 points in a shootout to NC State and wins 56-41 and nobody bats an eye. Ohio State wins with defense and a running game to beat Minny to win 28-14 and everybody loses their mind…


Well, I had a lot of fun writing this. Looking forward to some more debate brother. #Cheers


Bonus: I really want this to happen to me someday (NSFW language)….


  1. Well said and needed to be said. Go win the next 4 games and we are in.

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