The argument is on. It’s Deep South vs. Midwest. Bayou vs. Bucknuts. LSU vs. Ohio State.
Who’s the real No. 1?
It matters a ton because neither national-championship contender is going to want any part of current No. 3 Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
The next playoff rankings, which will be revealed Tuesday, probably will have LSU in the top spot again. And that would be entirely fair, given that the Tigers’ victories against Alabama and Florida outshine the Buckeyes’ victories against Wisconsin and, in Week 13, Penn State. LSU still has Georgia to contend with in the Southeastern Conference title game, too, which looms larger than anything Ohio State can accomplish — even Saturday at surging Michigan.
Yet the argument eventually could turn based on Ohio State’s defense, which is hands-down better than LSU’s. Chase Young reminded us of that in a monstrous way against the Nittany Lions, returning from a two-game suspension with three more sacks — giving him a school-record 16½ this season — and two forced fumbles.
So who’s the real No. 1?
Head-to-head, give me the Buckeyes.
On to the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. We’re No. 4! LSU can lose a game and still get into the playoff. Ohio State could lose at Michigan, rally in the Big Ten title game and still get in. Defending champ Clemson has a cakewalk to get back in.
That leaves one-loss Georgia, which can win its way in, and one-loss Minnesota, which couldn’t be denied if it beat Wisconsin on Saturday and Ohio State after that (likely knocking the Buckeyes out). The only other possibilities are Utah, Oklahoma, Baylor and — a long shot — Alabama.
The Utes need to win the Pac-12 and root against Georgia. The Sooners need to win the Big 12, root against Georgia and hope Oregon beats Utah in the Pac-12 title game. The Bears need to win the Big 12 — avenging their lone loss, to the Sooners — and likewise root against Georgia and for Oregon.
The Crimson Tide? They need a lot. They must win at Auburn, root against Georgia, pull for Oregon and hate on the Big 12 boppers with all their might.
3. Then again, the Big Ten: If monumental things happen — specifically, Ohio State loses at Michigan, Minnesota loses to Wisconsin, then Wisconsin beats Ohio State in Indianapolis — the conference will be out of the playoff for the third consecutive season.
4. The Game: Ohio State at Michigan is second only to LSU-Alabama on the big-deal-o-meter this season. The Wolverines are playing as well as anyone. If they can neutralize Young, they can win.
5. The Heisman: It’s still LSU quarterback Joe Burrow’s to lose. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields are right behind Burrow. But here comes Young flying around the turn. And if he terrorizes the Wolverines like he has everyone else, he’ll make a run for the front. A defense-only player never has won the award.
6. Andrew Marty, your table is ready: No one is talking about Marty, the quarterback who went most of the way for Northwestern in its 38-22 loss to Minnesota. But the sophomore was the Wildcats’ fourth-string quarterback entering the season and, forced into action against the Gophers, threw for a touchdown and rushed for two more. Plus, he did it with attitude and toughness. Modest ability? Sure. Afraid of the moment? Not one stinkin’ bit.
7. Iowa 19, Illinois 10: The Illini played on mostly even terms with an excellent Hawkeyes team in Iowa City. That should be as encouraging as any victory coach Lovie Smith’s team has had.
8. Notre Dame 40, Boston College 7: The Irish are 9-2 nobodies in the national conversation. Fair? Doesn’t matter. It’s reality.
9. That’s what he said: ‘‘If we get to the playoffs, we’re going to beat somebody’s brains in.’’
That was Utah safety Julian Blackmon, per ESPN, after a 35-7 victory at Arizona. Don’t doubt this team, either. It’s one of the few in the land that can play with anybody on both sides of the ball.
10. And another thing: LSU’s Burrow. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Georgia’s Jake Fromm. Maybe Washington’s Jacob Eason, too.
Sorry, I was just thinking out loud about quarterbacks I’d rather have on my team than Mitch Trubisky in 2020. Cue Ryan Pace letting them all get away, right?