Cooper: 'They'll be No. 1'
Buckeyes disappointed as Tennessee wins
Posted: Tuesday January 05, 1999 12:46 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Its 11-1 season completed, Ohio State watched the Fiesta Bowl to see how much penance it must pay for one misstep.
Ohio State coach John Cooper, who was holding out slim hopes that his third-ranked Buckeyes could salvage a share of the national championship, was disappointed to see top-ranked Tennessee beat No. 2 Florida State 23-16.
"Hey what can I say? Tennessee won. It looks like they'll be No. 1," Cooper said Monday night. "They'll be No. 1. I don't know who's No. 2. If you follow the logic, since this will be Florida State's second loss, you would think that they will drop to No. 5 or No. 6."
Cooper had said before the game that a Florida State win in a sloppy game would give the Buckeyes an argument that they deserved to be No. 1 as much as the Seminoles because both teams would have finished the season with just one loss. Instead, the Volunteers most likely locked up the undisputed title with a 13-0 record.
The ESPN/USA Today coaches poll has already ordained the winner of Monday's game as the country's top team. The 70-member Associated Press voting board was expected to also rubber-stamp the winner in a vote after the game.
After battling airlines, other stranded travelers and the weather to get home from their 24-14 Sugar Bowl victory over Texas A&M, the Buckeyes all returned to Columbus in time to find prime viewing spots.
Cooper said he knew for sure that he would put Ohio State No. 2 on his final ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll ballot.
"If you follow the same logic that's been followed all year long, we can't be any worse than No. 2," he said. "I mean, you lose late in the year, you drop down, don't you? We lost after Florida State lost, so that's the logic everybody uses: if you lose a game, you can't lose late in the year. So I don't see us being any worse than No. 2."
Cooper said he felt his team staked a claim to being labeled the best team in the nation when it rolled to a 21-7 lead in the first half of Friday's Sugar Bowl.
"I thought we played a heck of a ballgame. I thought we pretty much dominated that team, to be honest with you," he said. "In the first half we missed a couple more scoring opportunities. In the second half, their defense played a little better."
The Buckeyes were outscored 7-3 in the last three quarters, coming up short on the landslide performance they most likely needed to leave a lasting impression with poll voters.
Despite having little chance at the national championship, Cooper tuned in to the Fiesta Bowl Monday night.
"I was curious to watch it. I hadn't seen either team," said Cooper, whose Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 in both polls and the BCS standings until they were upset at home by Michigan State Nov. 7. "Of course, we think we can play with anybody, but we had our chances. I'm not going to get into that."
Cooper said it wouldn't matter if it were the Buckeyes who had sneaked into the Fiesta Bowl and beat Tennessee. He said he still would favor playing one more game to decide the national champion, even if his team was already holding the undisputed poll titles.
"I've been for a playoff ever since I've been a head football coach," he said. "I'm not just saying that just because it affects us in this situation."
There are many who say that the vagueness of the current situation is actually an endearing trait, that the discussion/argument over who is truly the best team in the country is what adds spice to the sport.
But Cooper thinks that's faulty thinking."After tonight, college football is over," he said. "The pros will go right on through the Super Bowl. I think we're leaving a lot on the table by not having a one-game playoff after it's over."
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