SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/19/2006 01:10:00 AM
Ohio State-Michigan: The Aftermath
No one has played Alex Boone (75), Brian Robiskie (80) and the Buckeyes tougher than Morgan Trent and Michigan.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Today was without question the most draining experience I’ve had covering a game. There was just so much that transpired and so much to process over the course of that game, there was no way to even start writing about it until after we’d finished with postgame interviews and then, even after I’d filed my story, there was still so much to think about in terms of the ramifications.
Going into the game, I was pretty adamantly opposed to the idea of an Ohio State-Michigan national championship rematch. Needless to say, I’m softening to it. If you know of another team out there that would have played the Buckeyes any tougher than the Wolverines did today, please, I’m all ears. While I will certainly go into the final two weeks of the season with an open mind, at this point, I still believe they’re the two best teams.
USC and/or SEC backers will undoubtedly try to deride Michigan’s defense, but to me that’s ridiculous. If the Wolverines truly had even a mediocre defense, it would have been exposed before its 12th game. While the Wolverines’ D certainly could have played better, the Buckeyes’ high score and yardage was much more a byproduct of Troy Smith and the rest of OSU’s offensive weapons than any defensive inadequacies by Michigan.
Now, does that mean Michigan should go to Glendale? That’s a different issue altogether. As I said in the Power Rankings last week, the team I think is the best (or in this case second-best) and the team who’s most deserving aren’t necessarily the same. While I do think OSU and Michigan are Nos. 1 and 2, the fact is this: if USC finishes the season 11-1 with wins over SEC West champion Arkansas, Big 12 North champion Nebraska, 10-1 Notre Dame and 8-3 Cal, the Trojans would be more deserving of the title spot than Michigan, which beat Notre Dame, Wisconsin and …. You could make a similarly reasonable case for either Florida or Arkansas if they were to finish 12-1.
Which is why the pollsters who actually have a say in the BCS (coaches and Harris) have a very tough decision ahead of them. Do they keep Michigan No. 2 if in fact they believe the Wolverines are the second-best team? That would basically mean they’d be manipulating the system in a way that’s never done before (throughout history, when a team loses, no matter to who, they drop). But then again, if they know their vote is helping to determine the national-title matchup, and they’re sure those are the two best teams, then it’s fully within their right.
My point all along – and it didn’t change with Saturday’s outcome – is that we don’t really know Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams. It’s just an opinion. The only way to find out for sure would be to let someone else take a shot at the Buckeyes. Get ready for a long two weeks of debate.
I do have thoughts about Saturday’s other action, but I’ve got to be honest, it’s 1 a.m. and I’m completely fried. I’ll save that for tomorrow.
As a Buckeye fantic and the son of a past OSU quarterback I have enjoyed reading your column all year. I will be honest, I was disappointed to read your choice words against the Buckeyes. If 3 turnovers and the nod from the officials didn't help the Wolverine's then it was obvious nothing would. O-H-I-O won fair and square and commands the repsect from all the doubters including you.
I say again, if this game proved anything, it is that the defenses of both these teams are vulnerable. It's easy to look unstoppable with seasons full of second and third level opponents. Michigan's only legitimate challenges this year have been Wisconsin and Notre Dame, and OSU hasn't played a team of any relevance whatsoever since Texas back in Sept. (What do you call a prizefighter that only takes on patsies as opponents?) Despite all that, however, I guarantee you that the AP writers will keep Michigan at #2 the rest of the season, because they desperately want a rematch to write about, and all the OSU-Michigan bandwagon hype has reached such insane levels that any other matchup in the title game will be anticlimactic. However, USC (how many ranked teams have they beaten this year?) has a chance of moving past Michigan in the BCS rankings and earning a completely-deserved spot against OSU in the National Title game if they can defeat Notre Dame next week.
Even if Notre Dame beats USC next week, they don't in my mind have a legitimate claim to the championship game since they lost to Michigan - and I wouldn't drop Michigan below ND, no matter what happens next week.
That only really leaves Florida, which I personally believe will lose the SEC Championship game. And Arkansas, same team or no, already lost to USC this season.
Bottom line, if USC goes 11-1, they are not only more "deserving" to play OSU on Jan 8., but they will have fully earned that spot through strength of schedule alone over Michigan.
Wow, Darin, nothing in Mandel's blogs today denigrates the Buckeye's in any way. What choice words? Care to enligthen us? Stewart agrees that O-H-I-O won more than fair and square. Your post confuses me as OSU is praised for its play calling, Troy Smith, offensive weapons, and coaching. Mandel also praises them for overcoming the loss of last year's defensive standouts and silencing all doubters. Mandel's headline reads "Smith secures Heisman as unbeatable Bucks prevail". The only negative words are about the field, which should not be used as an excuse for a Michigan loss, but a top team should not have such poor facilities. It is bush league and not surprising someone mentions it in a blog considering it was extremely noticeable.
As for the aftermath post...great post. I feel few Michigan alumni want a rematch; they just feel the team is still number 2 until someone proves otherwise, and they feel UM presents the best game for OSU.
The turnovers were an aberration as much as the big running plays, along with the overthrown or dropped passes by Michigan (actually, those are a pretty common occurrence), so those things cancel out. The only problem with officiating was uncalled hold and facemasks which apply at various points in the game to both sides. Crable's penalty was rightly called; all he had to do was raise his hands in the air a tad and it would not have been called. The PI penalty was also legit. It was slight but was enough to prevent a play on the ball. Ohio State won because they were the better team. Not by much, but better. If the game were in AA the outcome would likely be different.
Thanks Stewart for putting the ranking/NC debate in perspective. Most deserving to play in the mythical national championship game and best teams are sometimes two different things, and this year is more subjective than most, as the "they haven't beaten anybody" argument applies to everybody thus far, USC sadly having the best resume.
I'm not down with a rematch because if Michigan wins, they went 1-1 agains OSU, that isn't a very conclusive national championship. Plus, regardless of whether Michigan deserves to be number 2 is irrelevant, the national championship game is to determine who should be number 1. By Michigan losing there is factual evidence of OSU being better than them, while it is still uncertain regarding teams like USC, Florida, Arkansas.
the real problem with a rematch is that it would allow SEC fans to continue kidding themselves that their conference is so all-fired tough.
rather than having OSU-UM beat up on each other for four more quarters, we should see OSU vs. SEC champ in Glendale and UM vs. USC in Pasadena. win those games, and the two rivals end the season ranked 1 and 2, right where they belong.
why give SEC fans (and coaches) anything more to whine about? let the championship be decided on the field.
Great game but did somebody forget to bring the defense? I mean seriously, these did not look like the best 2 defenses in the country. How many open recievers have their been?
Props to Troy Smith - he deserves the Heisman. And a shot at the national championship v.s USC - not Michigan and teir Swiss cheese defense. I think the rematch talk can stop. Besides, it was Bo's last wish...
I have to say, at least in regard to the last blog Mandel posted, I'm not sure what the above poster is referring to. That said, I am sure of two things. One the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines (I'm a UM fan and perhaps you could say this influences two) and two these are hands down the two best teams in college football this year. I'll be the first to admit that defensively this game turned out to be nothing like what I expected. Bottom line is that with the quick routes OSU was running combined with Smith in the shotgun, no one could have gotten to Troy. Also Michigan runs an incredibly balanced offense that is finally healthy and capable of using not only Hart and Manningham, but also players like Arrington and Breaston along with the tight ends. If anything rather than this game showing the weaknesses of each respective defense, this game highlighted both offenses at an extremely high level. Personally I've seen nothing this season in terms of wins and losses that leads me to believe that there are two better teams than OSU & UM, and I believe that if there is no rematch that will be well documented come bowl season.
Congratulations to the Buckeyes and all their fans on another well-deserved victory. The team played a terrific game, and it was clear that the big plays their offense made were due to great players executing very well. Unlike the last two years, my admiration of Ohio State's play was not tinged with very much disappointment in how Michigan performed, especially after they were down 14 at halftime. They dug in impressively in the second half. There are several of "what-ifs" they can carry with them (and Ohio State, too, where they could have had a more comfortable win), but it is hard to be too dejected. The best news, as a Wolverine fan, is that Troy Smith will not be back next season! :)
As for a title game rematch, I think Mandel's comments are right on the mark. If it happens, it happens. I would certainly like to see it (and would, even if Michigan had won). From a 1 vs. 2 perspective, and from a business/ratings perspective, it would be a big draw, if this first game were any indication. But, whatever happens, it has been a fantastic ride this year for UM fans. Good luck to OSU in Glendale, and to UM, I'll be watching wherever you are.
Stu, You've been badmouthing Nebraska all year for not living up to standards and now that it comes down to the BCS Championship game all of sudden the fact they are Big 12 North Champions means something! The fact is this, there isn't another team in the country, regardless of which conference that could beat Michigan other than the Buckeyes. Lets have a rematch!
Several weeks into the season, I bought into what the pollsters (who don't have the best track record) have been saying since August: Ohio State has the best team in the nation.
The win against #2 Michigan reinforced my belief.
However, the whole idea of a Ohio St/Michigan re-match is why a playoff system is needed instead of the foolish Bull Crap System (BCS) we have now.
For every argument that Michigan should re-play Ohio State, I can give you one that USC, Notre Dame, Arkansas, or Florida should play them. The only way the "best" teams should be picked is by squaring everybody off in a playoff. That way the best two teams end up in the big game and no one can whine.
Flor or Ark should be left out if USC wins out. Flor should not be playing S.Miss., C.Flor., W.Carl. Even FSU is horrible (Not Flor. fault, but the rest of the out of conferences teams are such a joke). Ark lost to USC 50-14. Besides that, they beat up on the likes of such powerhouses as Utah St., LA Monroe & SE Missouri St. USC on the otherhand played Ark, Neb and N. Dame outside of the conference. Yes, the SEC is better than the PAC 10, but not enough to make up for such light weights on out of conference schedule.
What on earth are you doing on your computer at 1:00am in Columbus, Ohio, the night after the Buckeyes beat Michigan?!?! That scene is better than Times Square on New Years! Better than Rio de Janeiro during Carnival!
And, for the record, of the 40-some arrests made in Columbus last night, the overwhelming majority were NOT students. Since you were here, you understand how many people flooded into town with little or no connection to Ohio State. If the media trys to make the students look bad, know that it was the Ohio residents who never went to college but still felt the need to come to campus and cause trouble.
In answer to your question "If you know of another team out there that would have played the Buckeyes any tougher than the Wolverines did today, please, I’m all ears." - Yea, I do. The Gators. They would have beaten them.
Some famous writer recently penned "On the other hand, after watching the Wolverines give up more than 500 yards, it would be nice to see whether somebody else's defense would fare better against OSU."
You can image how much it pains me to say anything good about UM, BUT REALLY ........, WHO HAS A SIMILAR DEFENSE.
Would your thoughts about Michigan deserving a rematch also be valid if OSU had lost? Would you have supported the two teams have a re-match then? I think that you would have reamined opposed to the idea of a rematch which undermines your logic for suggesting a rematch.
I'm a Big 10 fan, like you growing up in the Midwest. After seeing the OSU/Michigan game, I honestly think they ARE the two best teams in the country. I'd be fine seeing a rematch. At the same time, can I (and others) cope with the whining and noise that will come from all the USC, SEC, etc. fans out there if that happens? There are all kinds of issues here, like whether or not it's fair that a loss late in the season should hurt more than one in the beginning, etc. I'll tell you one thing...I'd be MUCH more worried about my Buckeyes playing Michigan again than I am about OSU playing Florida, USC, etc. I remember the smack from the Miami fans when we played them in the NC a few years ago..."you won't be able to cope with Florida speed", etc. Anybody out there NOT see speed and ferocity in both OSU and Michigan last night? And by the way, Miami found out the hard way that Big 10 teams can play hard and fast. I'm glad yesterday's game turned out like it did, but Michigan is a GREAT team...and I agree that the score is less about Michigan's D and more about OSU's O.
Bottom line for me: While I'd be fine with a rematch, I'll also be happy if it turns out that OSU and Michigan play in separate bowls, because I'll enjoy watching them shut up a bunch of Big 10 haters by stomping their opponents. If Michigan doesn't end up playing OSU, I think they're going to beat up on their opponent pretty good in January. Remember last year, anyone???
Although I wouldn't argue that they're the second best team in America, I do think that West Virginia would have the best chance of beating Ohio State. The Buckeyes have a marvelous offense, but their defense is a sieve and it's disappointing that there aren't any complete teams out there to test them.
The reason nobody exposed Michigan's weakness on D is because they haven't played anybody that could. They benefit from playing in a conference that seems to tie its shoes together before taking the field. The Big Ten has TWO impressive non-conference wins. The only thing we know about it is that it is better than the MAC. Giving these two teams and their dreadfully unimpressive resumes so much credit is farce. Assuming that they are the best teams for looking "good" (I'm not convinced that they have, Ball St anyone?) is even more stupid. USC and the SEC champ are proven to be good teams. That was proved by their conferences playing many strong teams and playing well against them in many cases. Make the lead-footed Big Ten play someone besides the JV before we crown whichever stiff wins that joke.
Florida would have beaten OSU? Yeah. Right. There are three things that define OSU this year. The first is extremely good balance across the board in offense and to a lesser extent, defense. Another, and IMHO more important, is their workmanlike attitude toward the game. OSU doesn't panic. They don't get scared. Even if they're behind (which they seldom are), they quietly keep attacking and come at you, again and again and again. The third, and probably most important, is Tressel. He's a superb play caller, stays calm, etc. and that carries over to the way the team carries itself. And I hate to tell you this, but I really do think he (and others) would have ways to counteract your two-QB offense. It just ain't that impressive.
Florida would have beaten OSU? Here's MY opinion: Florida would have gotten stomped by either OSU or Michigan if they played them. No question. But just bide your time, Gator Fan...you might get your chance to see how they'd stack up in a bowl game. And it won't be pretty.
Great post, and I (and I'm sure others) appreciate your mature, objective attitude. I agree completely with you on the penalties. They typically balance out, and they need to be called whenever they happen, even if late in the game. Safety-related penalties also need to be ALWAYS called...it'll just become too dangerous if they're not strictly upheld. The helmet-to-helmet contact was very clear, and maybe while not intended it has to be called. Thanks again for the good post.
In the absence of a playoff system, it would be a felony to let Michigan play in the title game over SEC champ Florida or Arkansas (Arkansas will win). The Big 10 and PAC 10 have no conference title game, and as we saw in 2001 (TN vs. LSU), such a game is a liability as much as an opportunity. And how can 2 teams that collectively allowed over 80 points of offense be the 2 best teams in the country? An Ohio State vs. Michigan, Big 10 money-grabbing title game would have ONE good result: it would destroy the idiotic BCS system as other big conferences pulled out.
Ohio State beat them once when it counted. Why should we have to beat them twice in the same year when Ohio State proved to be the better team. I doubt we would be having this debate if Michigan pulls the game out.
Ohio State already beat Michigan when it counted. They proved they're the better team. Why do they have to beat them twice in the same year to convince them? I doubt we would be having this argument if Michigan would have won. Plus The Notre Lames' and USC's of the world will whine like babies if they don't get their shot.
Fact:With 3 min. left in game Mich was down by 11 pts With 1 minute left Mich finally got within a field goal of TYING the game for the first time in the 2nd half! Not a real close game. A good game between a very good team & a fairly good team. Mich lost time for someone else.
Michigan also beat Penn State at Penn State. Maybe you should add that instead of "...". Penn State you may notice is 8-4 with the 4 losses coming teams with a combined 3 losses (Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin an Notre Dame)
A great game between a very good team & a good team. The good team played as well as they ever will got 3-0 in the turnover dept. & allowed 42 pts in a loss. The only time they were within 3 pts in the 2nd half was with 1 min in the game when they didn't have the ball. Mich had their chance time for Ark,USC, Florida. If they all crash than maybe Mich again.
BUT... it was sad the refs had to help out. Now don't get me wrong... a W is a W just like when the refs helped us get the NC against Miami. I was disappointed my boys couldn't do it on their own, but I'll take the win.
Now, with a neutral field and neutral refs, Michigan would smoke us. But luckily there is no way a rematch will happen... the other conferences would go nuts!!!
I'm gonna say the winner of the SEC is gonna face us... and they will be DESERVING of it. No other team in the NC consideration has a conference championship game to go through.
My personal opinion is that all BCS conferences should have Conference championship games, that way there is none of the 'share of the title' crap.
One of the things that I've come to admire about this year's Buckeyes is the air of confidence they bring without being cocky or having to tell their opponents "we they are better that you are". They give their opponents the proper credit for a tremendous effort and stress the team effort it took to beat them.
Then I tune in and have to listen to a sore loser like Mike Hart after the game? What a classless response from a team I though was above that (come on Michigan...). Any member of the Buckeyes could have made a comment about how overrated the Michigan D was after putting up 500+ yards on them with relative ease; how the Michigan D was "nothing special". No One did. Go ahead and run your mouth...We OSU fans hope you get a chance to play that "nothing special" defense again...I'm sure the results will probably be the same.
F$U routed weaker conference teams the entire time they were in the ACC prior to VA Tech and UM joining. You made the correlation IVAN. Congrats USC on a strong non-conference. It is what others should live up to however. Now what can I do to get my team (SEC school) in to the Big East, so they can also run amok and be a shoe in for a chance at a National Championship title.
The logic that keeps Michigan at #2 despite the loss to OSU this week should mean that Wisconsin should be #3. After all, they only loss to Michigan. If we are stuck with the presumption that the Big 10 is the only conference, perhaps Purdue should be about #5. After all, they only lost to OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame.
The pollsters unwillingness to give anyone else a chance at OSU robs OSU of the opportunity to be a clear national champion. There will be plenty of folks outside the Big 10 that consider their title (if they indeed win it) tainted. Besides, why should they have to beat the same team twice?
Even the ’96 rematch only happened because Florida (who had lost to FSU in November) dropped to #5 and than climbed back up the rankings over the last three weeks. Three other teams had (and blew) their shot AFTER the Florida loss.
I don't know if the Gators could beat OSU, and I fully support Leak. We have a good enough defense that I don't think would surrender 42 points. And now for the support contradiction. A Tebow ran offense would shake up our offensive woes. It may be Leak's team but if he really wanted a championship he would play the support role. I don't mind close games. The games we lost and were close in there was a noticeable absence of Tebow. Its enough fodder for a debate anyway.
(1) Why should OSU have to beat them again? It is simply not fair to them.
(2) Face it, the Big 10 is bad this year. Really, really bad. OSU has only had two games against the current Top 25. Michigan has had three, BUT, one of them is Wisconsin who has beaten not one team even near the current Top 25.
(3) USC and FLA have played far tougher schedules than Mich. Arkansas still has LSU and FLA. If they get through those two, and USC losses, same goes for Arkansas.
Mich had its chance. It's body of work would not be impressive as USC, FLA, or ARK (if any of those teams win out). No rematch.
I'm sick and tired of hearing all the comments about how it would be "unfair" if OSU and Michigan met in a rematch. Would it be "unfair" if the Indianapolis Colts have to play the Dallas Cowboys again in the playoffs to win the Super Bowl? No. Was it unfair that the Detroit Tigers had to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series after the Tigers won the regular season series? No. Bottom line is that if (I will stress if) OSU and Michigan are the best two teams in the country, then they should play each other for the National Championship. It doesn't matter if they already met in the regular season because that is what it is, the regular season. Once it's the post-season, if you have to play a team you've already played, then you suit up and fight for a win and if Michigan wins a rematch, then no they are not tied. Michigan would be the National Champion. Period.
Einstein_cross, about Florida getting run over by either of the TWO teams, do you remember what UM did to Vandy? I happened to watch that game and it was not all that impressive. They beat one of the bottom teams in the SEC. I don't really care who thinks any conference is better than the rest. Everyone plays crappy games outside of what they have to except, and it pains me deeply to say this, USC. They get props for that, and nothing else. Vandy handled UM better than OSU did on defense. Again, that is one of the worst defenses in the SEC. Bad arguement against Florida. I think Auburn, Florida, or LSU has the defense to hold either OSU or UM to under 24. Now, their offenses are hit and miss. The fact of the matter is that we will never know because the two conferences rarely play one another.
Stewart said: "As entertaining as OSU-West Virginia would be, however, the Mountaineers don’t hold much water in the one-loss derby due to their non-conference schedule."
Please. Let's look at the non-conference schedules of the teams ranked ahead of West Virginia this week:
OSU - Northern Illinois, Texas, Cincy, Bowling Green.
Michigan - Vanderbilt, Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Ball State
USC - Arkansas, Nebraska, Notre Dame
Florida - Southern Miss, Central Florida, Western Carolina (1AA)
Notre Dame - Not in a conference obviously, but played such powers as Stanford, North Carolina, and Army ... And how's that win over Michigan State looking now?
Arkansas - USC, Utah State, SE Missouri State, Louisiana Monroe
This is a case of perception run amok. I won't say WVU should be in the BCS championship game, but I do know that the Mountaineers would get ripped if we played any of THOSE schedules, except for USC's ... Especially if we had been blown out at home by USC (Arkansas) or Michigan (Notre Dame) or if we had struggled with Ball State at home (Michigan).
Ohio St. and Michigan have played a total of 5 teams with winning records COMBINED. Penn State for both of them, Wisconsin for Michigan, Notre Dame for Michigan which Notre Dame hasn't played anyone and Texas for Ohio State well who plays in the big 12, enough said about that. Come on WVU and its horrid schedule has at least 7 teams with winning records, so does usc, florida, Arkansas and even Boise State. Sad that these two teams would be considered the best teams in the nation and can get all hyped up for a bcs title game and bowl for michigan and probably win, guaranteed they will not blow their opponents out if they do win.