College football mailbag (cont.)
Posted: Monday January 14, 2008 1:42PM; Updated: Monday January 14, 2008 1:42PM
Can you please put a stop to any Big Ten bashing before it begins? The SEC's best team beat the Big Ten's best team. It is a reflection on those teams alone, not the entire conferences.
I agree that no one game is reflective of an entire conference's strength or weakness. The same cannot be said, however, about a conference's cumulative performance, particularly over a long period of time, and in that regard, the Big Ten apologists are fighting an uphill battle at this point. The league went 3-5 in bowl games this season. It has now lost its past four BCS games by scores of 32-18 (USC-Michigan, 2006), 41-14 (Florida-Ohio State), 49-17 (USC-Illinois) and 38-24 (LSU-Ohio State). It is 8-9 overall in BCS games.
Meanwhile, the SEC went 7-2 in bowl games this season. It placed five teams in the final top 15 -- including Nos. 1 and 2 -- it's won the past two BCS championships, is now 4-0 in BCS title games and 11-4 overall in BCS games.
fully believe conference strength is cyclical. There have certainly been seasons when the Big Ten was strong and the SEC was down. But I'm not sure how anyone could deny at this point that the SEC is in the midst of a particularly strong era, while the Big Ten is in the midst of a down cycle. I do think the Big Ten will get better with a recent influx of talented young coaches (Rich Rodriguez, Mark Dantonio and Bret Bielema), but it's still got a long ways to go to compete with Steve Spurrier/Nick Saban/Les Miles/Mark Richt/Urban Meyer/Tommy Tuberville/Phillip Fulmer/Bobby Petrino.
I guess Jim Tressel's 10-minute DVD got his team 10 minutes of good play against LSU. It seemed that one of two things happened to Ohio State. Either they came out storming, got up by 10 and by then they had spent all of their energy, or they got up early and thought it would be easy. I didn't see the same intensity on either side of the ball for the Buckeyes once they were up 10-0.
The game came down to one key difference: When LSU got down early, it didn't flinch, but the minute things got dicey for the Buckeyes, they came unglued. Witness all those personal fouls, turnovers, etc. There were even reports of the Buckeyes fighting amongst each other during halftime. I think what Miles said after the game is true: All those close games the Tigers endured throughout the season paid off when it mattered most.
Meanwhile, I said way back when Ohio State pounded Penn State in late October that the Buckeyes have suffered these past two years due to the lack of quality competition in their conference. They simply aren't battle-tested by the time they get to January, and it shows. Think back to the Buckeyes' 2002 national title team and all the close, hard-fought games they had to win throughout the season. Think that didn't have a direct correlation with their performance against Miami?
Contrary to what many of you seem to believe, Ohio State is a talented football team. Watch the NFL draft the next few years; you'll see just as many Buckeyes selected as Trojans, Tigers or anybody else. But LSU was not only the better team this season, but also a better-seasoned team, and it showed.
Do you think Ohio State should adjust its schedule to include an SEC team or even any other moderately good conference team?
Everyone lambasting Ohio State for its non-conference schedule seems to have an awfully short memory. Do you not remember the Buckeyes playing a home-and-home with Texas the two seasons prior to this one? Have you not gotten the memo that they begin a home-and-home next year with USC? And that they already have similar series scheduled down the road against Oklahoma and Miami?
Yes, this season's schedule stunk. Washington, who was a perfectly legitimate opponent at the time the game was scheduled earlier this decade, turned out to be a dud. But of all the schools to accuse of "not playing anybody," Ohio State should probably be at or near the bottom of the list.
Stewart, I am crushed right now. I don't know what to do about this now that it happened again. I dare not think about what people will say if Ohio State makes it back to the national championship game next year, which is a realistic possibility. Can you give me some words of comfort so I can put all of this behind me somehow?
Beat USC on Sept. 13. It's as simple as that. Win that game, and the Buckeyes will regain a whole lot of credibility. Get blown out yet again, and I'm guessing the voters won't let them anywhere near Miami next January.