The Tigers also had a nonconference victory over Texas, a team that seemed far more formidable when it hosted L.S.U. in September.
Ohio State, the first Big Ten team to reach the playoff since the 2016 season, spent this year decimating its opponents, and since Nov. 23, it has beaten three top-15 opponents by an average of almost 18 points. But its 34-21 victory over Wisconsin to claim the Big Ten title started as a slog and, coming soon after L.S.U.’s dominance over Georgia, fanned questions about whether Ohio State should retain the top rank it held going into the weekend.
“I think we’re No. 1 point-blank, period,” Chase Young, Ohio State’s star defensive end, said after the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. “I just feel like a team like this, that hit a lot of adversity, has been tested many times, times like today. To see us come back, and not just come back but we came back and we dominated. I feel like a team that can flip the switch like that is, you know, a No. 1-worthy team.”
In Atlanta, where L.S.U. beat Georgia at an ostensibly neutral site, Ed Orgeron, the Tigers’ coach, rated his squad “a darn good football team.”
“I’ve told the team it doesn’t matter,” Orgeron said of the rankings. “It don’t matter where they rank us, where they tell us to go. We’ve got to win the next game. That’s all that matters.”
L.S.U. still had plenty of people openly believing it could, and should, be No. 1. As he wore SEC championship headgear and L.S.U. attire outside the Tigers’ locker room, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said: “It’s hard for me to imagine there’s a better football team in the country. When you look at the top teams in the country now, nobody has the résumé that L.S.U. has.”
Even Dabo Swinney, the Clemson coach who has long argued that his program was undervalued, seemed to recognize on Saturday night that his team had virtually no chance of locking up the top seed, or even the No. 2 spot (a distinction that would not matter because the second- and third-ranked teams play each other).