The question remains
One year later, fans still dispute Ohio St.'s worthiness
Posted: Wednesday November 28, 2007 12:11PM; Updated: Thursday November 29, 2007 1:43AM
You know what's the craziest thing of all about this unusually crazy season? That for all the crazy developments in the polls over the past 13 weeks -- the rise and fall of non-traditional teams like USF and Kansas, LSU falling from No. 1, twice, Oregon going from national-title contender to potential Sun Bowl team in the blink of an eye -- we head into the final weekend still fixated on the same crazy storyline that's been hovering over the sport for nearly a year now.
Ohio State's worthiness.
Not only have I been anti-playoff, but I've also been pro-BCS since it's inception (I can, in my mind, justify every title game participant). If Ohio State backdoors its way into the title game, then it's off to the playoff bandwagon I go. Please tell me you agree that putting Ohio State in the title game (and not just because of last year's performance versus Florida) is a bad, bad idea. A loss to Illinois isn't bad ... but beating absolutely no one of real significance is.
First of all, that's very brave of you, Jared, to admit your fondness for the BCS in a public setting. I believe in certain states you can be fined and imprisoned for such a thing.
While I'm certainly not crazy about the idea of a team advancing to the national-title game while sitting on the couch for two weeks, I fail to see any grave injustice were the Buckeyes to make it. A month ago, when we were talking about then-undefeated Ohio State's credentials versus more accomplished one-loss teams like LSU and Oregon, I was right there with you. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't care what conference you're in; if you can't make it through your schedule with less than two losses, you're just not national championship material.
Has Georgia played a tougher slate than the Buckeyes? Absolutely. USC? Yep. But by no rational measure are either more deserving than Ohio State. The Dawgs lost at home to 6-6 South Carolina and by three touchdowns at Tennessee. That's the equivalent of OSU losing to Michigan State and getting destroyed by Illinois (rather than losing by a touchdown). USC lost to Stanford. Can you imagine if the Buckeyes lost to Minnesota? I think we can all agree that in neither scenario would OSU even remotely enter the national-title discussion, yet because of the backlash that still lingers from last year's Florida game, there are no shortage of people who would rather see 10-2 Georgia or 10-2 USC in the title game instead of the 11-1 Buckeyes. That's just silly.
I hate to break it to the masses, but guess what? Ohio State? That's not a bad football team. I don't necessarily think it's the best team in the country, but it's up there. Last we saw them, the Buckeyes went to Ann Arbor and held Michigan to 91 total yards. No, it was not a great Michigan team, but holding any team to less than 100 yards of offense is pretty darn impressive. LSU did not do that this season. Neither did Oklahoma, nor USC, nor ...
I think OSU is in the exact right spot in the pecking order as of now -- last of the remaining one-loss teams, but ahead of any two-loss teams.
Why are the Buckeyes getting no love for the NC game? I have not heard anyone talk about the possibility of OSU jumping West Virginia. Let me remind you that OSU's sole loss was to 15th-ranked Illinois, where West Virginia lost to 25th-ranked USF.
Now I won't go that far. While in reality, the primary reason the Mountaineers are ahead of Ohio State is because they lost less recently, there's no question in my mind they're the more deserving team, for two reasons.
Ohio State lost at home to 9-3 Illinois, whereas West Virginia lost on the road to 9-3 USF in a game in which it lost its star quarterback. And, more importantly, the Mountaineers played a much more impressive non-conference slate. While the Buckeyes were beating up on I-AA Youngstown State (38-6), 3-9 Kent State (48-3), 4-8 Akron (20-2) and 4-8 Washington (33-14), West Virginia had similar ease with three impending bowl teams: 7-5 Mississippi State (38-13), 7-5 East Carolina (48-7) and 6-6 Maryland (31-14).
Ironically, in almost any other season, this would not be a crutch for the Buckeyes. They just played a home-and-home with Texas the past two seasons, and will do the same with USC in 2008 and '09. It just so happens that their one BCS-conference foe this season, Washington, stinks.
I would like to see Georgia and USC in the Rose Bowl. If Ohio State goes to the championship game, could this happen?
It could, but only if Illinois doesn't reach the top 14 of the BCS standings (the Illini are currently 15th), because if there's a Big Ten team available, the folks in Pasadena are going to snatch it. I know that sounds strange to many of you (Why would a bowl pass on matching up two potential top-five teams in favor of a 14th-ranked, 9-3 team, right?), but you have to understand, the Rose Bowl marches to the beat of its own drum. It is far more concerned with its tradition and its parade than the rest of college football.
In fact, many people don't realize this, but the Rose Bowl is not formally part of the BCS. It has its own, independent contracts with ABC, the Big Ten and the Pac-10. So obviously, its loyalty is going to lie with its contractual partner, the Big Ten, over a team from the SEC. The much more realistic scenario is that Georgia will go to the Orange Bowl to face the ACC champion.
I do think the Rose Bowl would give some thought to taking the Bulldogs over the Illini, particularly since Georgia fans would almost certainly travel in greater numbers than Illinois', but the political ramifications are too great. The Rose Bowl is adamantly opposed to a plus-one game and has been able to count on the Big Ten and Pac-10's support of that stance. Tick off Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany at your own risk. Suddenly one of the most powerful men in college sports might start rethinking his continued loyalty to the Rose Bowl.