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First things first

Let OSU-Michigan play before talking about a rematch

Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 11:46AM; Updated: Wednesday November 15, 2006 12:37PM
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The thought of Mike Hart and the Wolverines playing Ohio State again on Jan. 8 should bother anyone in favor of a playoff system.
The thought of Mike Hart and the Wolverines playing Ohio State again on Jan. 8 should bother anyone in favor of a playoff system.
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I figured my inbox would be flooded this week with questions about Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. Like, can the Wolverines' defense shut down Troy Smith? Will Chad Henne be able to avoid interceptions? How big a role will Chris Wells play? And just how many gallons of pepper spray are the Columbus police planning to deploy?

But no. All anyone wants to talk about is a possible rematch of a game that hasn't even been played. A quick sampling:

Now that Louisville has lost, everyone seems to be looking for the best one-loss team to meet the OSU-Michigan winner. But what about the possibility of an OSU-Michigan rematch in Glendale? If their first tilt is close, I say "why not?" They clearly seem to be the best two teams in the country.
--Matt Tanner, Wichita, Kan.

I don't understand why these two cannot have a rematch in the title game. Say Michigan wins by a margin of 1-3 points, does that really justify dropping Ohio State that far in the rankings? Plus, wouldn't it make for great ratings? It just seems like the only people that are even looking at this as a possibility are those in Big Ten country.
--Patrick, Indianapolis

Most of the media is saying the only chance for a Michigan-Ohio State rematch is if the Buckeyes lose a close game. What if Michigan loses close? Isn't No. 2 supposed to lose to No. 1 on the road? Why ignore what seems to be the best evidence that the teams are truly No. 1 and 2?
--Mike, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Here's what I find most amusing about all this: If I had to wager, I would guess that around 90 percent of the people crying for an OSU-Michigan rematch are also in favor of a college football playoff. And yet, in saying these things, they're actually validating university presidents' and conference commissioners' biggest concern about a potential playoff: That it would devalue college football's regular season.

Here we are, just days away from one of the biggest regular-season games in the history of the sport -- and all anyone wants to talk about is a game that won't be played until Jan. 8. Can you imagine if there actually was a playoff? No one would care about this weekend's game because they'd already know both teams would be in it. The coaches might rest their starters.

By no means do I think the BCS is perfect, but to me, there are certain aspects of college football that are far more important than making absolutely, positively sure the two best teams play for the national championship. Preserving the sanctity of the regular season -- in particular rivalry games -- is right at the top of the list.

To all the people out there already crying for an OSU-Michigan rematch, think about the statement you're making. You're basically saying it no longer matters whether a team wins its conference and that the result of the national-championship game trumps anything before it. "Oh, you lost on a last-second field goal, Ohio State? Here -- take a mulligan."

And those are just the philosophical reasons why the rematch argument is flawed. Here's the more pragmatic reason: The season isn't over yet! Yes, Ohio State and Michigan have been the two best teams in the country to this point, but they have yet to play their biggest game. Meanwhile, teams like Florida, USC, Arkansas and Rutgers still have three games left. To declare on Nov. 18 that the loser of Saturday's game is definitively the second-best team in the country is like giving a review of a movie that you walked out of with 20 minutes left.

I'm assuming at this point that Saturday's loser will fall to about fourth or fifth (depending on whether other teams lose) in the BCS standings. If between then and Dec. 2, the teams above them all lose and that team moves back up to No. 2, then fine, let's have a rematch. But remember, that team will have already had their shot at No. 1. If there's another deserving candidate out there, that team deserves its shot, too.


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