Who’s Really No. 1? Maybe Ohio State

L.S.U. this week took over the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. And why not? The team is 9-0 and just beat previously undefeated Alabama, 46-41.

But ask linemakers and computer rankers what the best team in college football is, and you will get an unequivocal answer: Ohio State, and it’s not especially close.

Ohio State is 9-0 and its margins of victory have been dizzying: 42 points over otherwise unbeaten Cincinnati, 49 points over Northwestern, 71 points over Miami of Ohio. O.S.U. is even drilling the good teams it has played. It felled ranked teams Michigan State by 24 and Wisconsin by 31.

Those kinds of blowouts are beloved by computer programs that evaluate teams. Of the 99 computer rankings tracked by Massey Ratings, which use a variety of methodologies, 64 pick Ohio State at No. 1. Only 31 choose L.S.U.

And according to many of the ratings, including some of the best known, Ohio State is far and away No. 1. The Jeff Sagarin predictor rating says Ohio State should be favored by at least 10 full points against any other team if they played on a neutral site. The Congrove Computer Ranking makes it 9 points. ESPN’s power index has Ohio State 5 points clear.

While L.S.U. has beaten some very strong teams, it hasn’t always blown them out. A 7-point win over Texas, a 3-point win over Auburn and the 5-point win over Alabama are impressive to the computers, but not as impressive as the comfortable wins over good teams and shellackings of mediocre ones delivered consistently by Ohio State.

Bookmakers agree on the top team. Inpredictable, which ranks teams by the point spreads they are assigned each week, has Ohio State 3 points better than Clemson and Alabama and 5 points better than L.S.U.

This week that love for Ohio State translates into a huge 51.5-point spread for its game against 2-7 Rutgers, even though it will be played in New Jersey. The absence of Ohio State’s star defensive end Chase Young, who is sitting out after accepting an improper loan, does not seem to have pushed the line down very much.

The 51.5 points is the biggest Big Ten spread in the database of Sportsbetting.ag, which goes back to 1985.

The site did find a bigger line in 1989 in the old Southwest Conference, when Houston was a 59-point favorite over Southern Methodist, which was coming off two years without a football team thanks to the N.C.A.A. death penalty. Houston won and covered that day, 95-21. Perhaps a bad omen for Rutgers this week.

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