Early anticipation for Michigan-Ohio State showdown
Posted: Wednesday October 4, 2006 12:27PM; Updated: Wednesday October 4, 2006 6:34PM
If Ohio State is to beat Michigan, it must contain Mario Manningham, who had four catches for 64 yards against the Buckeyes last November.
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As you know, the nation's players and coaches are mandated by the NCAA, their school charters, the local police, Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to take things "one game at a time." There are no such restrictions on my readers, however, many of whom are already thinking well beyond this week and this month, ahead to November in anticipation of what could be our nation's biggest event in decades: the release of the Borat movie.
There could also be a pretty big football game.
Has a No. 1 team ever played the No. 2 team three times in a season? It could happen this year with Ohio State. Also, have Ohio State and Michigan ever matched up at No. 1 vs. 2. -- Andrew Sadler, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Andrew is presumably referring to the increasingly plausible scenario that both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines will run the table and meet as undefeated No. 1 and 2 teams on Nov. 18. And he's suggesting that Ohio State, having already played one 1-vs.-2 game against Texas, could potentially play in two more if this were to happen and the Buckeyes were to win, thus reaching the national-title game. To answer your questions, no team has ever played in three such games in one season. Using AP rankings, six have played in two (Florida State in 1993, Oklahoma in '87, Nebraska in '71, Texas in '63, Army in '45 and Notre Dame in '43). Also, Michigan and Ohio State have never met while ranked No. 1 and 2 (they last met as undefeated foes in 1973, playing to a 10-10 tie).
Of course, just the mere fact that we're talking about this now pretty much assures it isn't going to happen. So we should probably stop.
Consider this hypothetical: Ohio State and Michigan make it to the final game of the season ranked 1-2, perhaps as the only two undefeated teams. Have the two top-rated teams ever met in the last regular game of the season? -- Mike Rogan, Chandler, Ariz.
As you may recall, a very similar scenario occurred in 1996, when No. 2 Florida State beat No. 1 Florida in the last "regular season" game, then rematched in the Sugar Bowl, with the Gators winning the title. It wasn't exactly the same, however, because Florida played another game in between (the SEC championship), as did two other teams, Nebraska and Ohio State, whose losses allowed the Gators to rise back up to No. 3. (No. 2 Arizona State lost to the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl.)
Nos. 1 and 2 have met in the last regular-season game several times, most notably the 1969 Arkansas-Texas "Game of the Century," but remember, prior to the mid-'60s for AP and mid-'70s for coaches', the last poll was taken before the bowl games. And even after that, the polls rarely played a role in bowl matchups. So this would be the first case where a 1-vs.-2 game truly "preempted" the title game. But again, that's only if it actually happens, which is a long way away from reality, so I don't know why we're even having this discussion....
Given that you have a vote on the fate of college teams, what would you do as a voter if Michigan and Ohio State meet Nov. 18 and Michigan wins? Would you put Ohio State No. 2 and Michigan No. 1 to get a rematch in the BCS championship game? I would love to see Michigan play Ohio State for all the marbles, not just a Big Ten championship. -- Brad Worthington, Toronto
OK, now you're really being presumptuous. Not that I have a say in this (AP isn't part of the formula anymore), but if I did, I would never predetermine how I'm going to vote in a poll before the game is even played. Plus, I think we learned our lesson about that with Oklahoma a few years ago. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but there'd have to be a real dearth of other deserving teams that didn't lose their last game of the season.
But c'mon, people. Hasn't anyone stopped to consider the possibility that one of these teams might actually lose before Nov. 18?
Oh, good, I found one.
Do you think Michigan should be worried about Michigan State this weekend? I do. Every season Michigan State loses to a team it has no business losing to and then goes out the next week and beats a top 10 team. -- Adam Pence, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Normally I would say yes, but this Michigan team, much more so than recent ones, seems to be extremely focused, and I can't see it letting down its guard enough to lose to a team that just lost to Illinois. If I'm a Michigan fan, I'd be much more concerned with the following week's game at Penn State. The Nittany Lions seem to be the one team left in the Big Ten (besides OSU and Michigan) that still plays defense, and they're going to be out for revenge following last year's heartbreaker in Ann Arbor.
But that's not to say the Spartans can't still play spoiler. They host Ohio State the following week. I bring this up only because in 1998, an undefeated, top-ranked Buckeyes team that was crushing everybody had its title teams dashed by a Michigan State team that had struggled much of the season. Could lightning strike twice? I doubt it ... but it would be so Michigan State-like.