The 2020 Ohio State football season is still more than seven months away, but some early preseason rankings are projecting the Buckeyes to be one of the best teams in the nation yet again.
January is the time for writers desperate for any relevant topic to crank out more or less meaningless “way too early top 25” columns. But once recruiting classes are finalized in early February, things get a little more real.
This is the time when some of the more respected advanced analytic systems produce their first versions of preseason rankings. These are a little more meaningful than the “they have their quarterback back and get their rival at home, and therefore they’ll be good” thinking that tend to rule the January lists.
Systems like Bill Connelly’s SP+ use a combination of the previous handful of years’ worth of recruiting rankings, their per-play results from the previous season, plus returning production on both sides of the ball to measure how far above or below average a team might be expected to be in the coming year.
It’s not perfect, but as a predictive system, it went 58 percent against the point spread in the first five weeks of the 2019 season. That’s pretty impressive.
What it doesn’t do is take into account that one team may have a tougher schedule than another. It’s not predicting records, just which team will likely be the best from an objective standpoint.
ESPN has a separate system called Football Power Index (FPI), which is similar.
Both released their 2020 preseason rankings within the last few days. Here’s a look at where the Buckeyes and other notable teams stack up.
In SP+, Ohio State ranks No. 2 in the nation, behind only Alabama. Behind them are Clemson at 3rd, Georgia 4th, and Penn State 5th. LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M round out the top-10.
Oregon, which hosts the Buckeyes in week two of the season, is 13th in the rankings. Michigan is No. 16, Minnesota is No. 20, Nebraska comes in at No. 25, Indiana is No. 27, and Iowa checks in at No. 29.
FPI also has the Buckeyes No. 2 in the country, but they’re behind Clemson instead of the Tide. Oklahoma is third in the FPI rankings, followed by Alabama, Penn State, Wisconsin, Texas, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, and Georgia.
Defending national champion LSU is 12th, after losing Heisman winner Joe Burrow, and a number of other key players.
You can find the full SP+ rankings from No. 1 Alabama to No. 130 UTEP by clicking here.