What we learned last week:
Ohio State might be the last team to get the shaft from the BCS system, and it might even go down in unprecedented fashion.
Considering the 1998 Buckeyes were the first team to be left out because no one really took the time to evaluate who should be where at the end of the season, it is sort of interesting to consider this time they might have to stay home because pollsters overthink it.
I've been resisting talking too much about whether or not things will break right for the Buckeyes, but the weekend left me thinking it’s about time for them to start really worrying – and for more than one reason.
Of course, the No. 1 concern now is that neither Alabama or Florida State lose a game.
Oregon’s loss to Stanford was a major positive for Ohio State, but Alabama’s sound defeat of LSU also seemed to deal some blunt-force trauma to the Buckeyes’ title game hopes. I had started to wonder if the Crimson Tide were getting too much benefit of the doubt from their status as two-time defending national championships, but they were very impressive Saturday night in how they handled the Tigers.
Although I’ve long been a critic of the ACC, that league looks improved this season, and Florida State seems like a legitimate No. 2 that has been tested. Both of those teams pass the look test, something Ohio State is approaching doing.
Could the Buckeyes beat either of them on a neutral field? Sure, especially if a month of preparation proved to help the youngsters on defense continue to improve.
Have they done enough to prove they deserve the chance? It’s a shame that’s even a question.
It’s not quite fair the blame everything on the BCS, because the system that predated it would not have helped Ohio State much this year either, but had CFB just gone to playoff two decades ago as we should have rather than stopover for 16 years at this BCS garbage island, then there would be no problem whatsoever.
While some might have resolved themselves to the fact Alabama and Florida State control their own destinies and the Buckeyes don’t, the idea that Baylor or especially Stanford could pass an undefeated Ohio State squad should be a lot harder to swallow.
For the longest time, conventional poll wisdom held that teams weren’t punished if they didn’t lose. Going unbeaten was considered a sacred achievement in college football, and those that did so in the major conferences could wear a golden ‘U’ on their chests to get admission into the title game with no questions asked.
Resumé talk really only started around 2006, when ironically enough Urban Meyer’s Florida team was elevated past Michigan at the end of the season in large part because the Gators had more quality wins than the Wolverines, whose only loss was of course the “best” loss of the season, having come at No. 1 Ohio State.
I believed then and do now justice was done in that case, and I found it remarkable that voters actually reconsidered the landscape prior to casting their final votes. That represented a new way of doing business, and there was outrage from some corners that Michigan was done wrong because it was passed without having played during championship week.
It made sense to compare their wins as much, if not more than their losses, and that is if for no other reason than wins provide a larger sample size, but those now making the case Stanford deserves to be in the conversation for the top two or three or even four are missing a fundamental point – Florida and Michigan had the same record in 2006.
If Baylor wins out, the Bears could end the season ahead of Ohio State, and if they have the same number of losses and more quality wins than the Buckeyes, that seems like a fair enough deal. It’s not Ohio State’s fault the Big Ten has been down the past couple of years, but it’s not Baylor’s fault, either. The stupidity of the system leaves us with these types of flawed choices.
Moving Stanford ahead of Ohio State or Baylor as long as those teams remains unbeaten might be rewarding the more accomplished, but it would also be unprecedented. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, I just can’t help but wonder how many seasons in the past 15 might have been different if that had been the approach pollsters took. And the first one I would look at is 1998.
What we can expect to learn this week: How the pass defense is doing, and how the Buckeyes are dealing with prosperity.
Champaign, Ill., is a place strange things have happened before, but an upset would be a very tall order for the Fighting Illini.
However, they bring a much greater threat than did poor Purdue, and it starts with veteran quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. While he has never developed the consistency to be one of the league’s better quarterbacks, he is a mobile guy who can be dangerous and has been hot lately.
Are the Buckeyes due for a letdown, or did they already get that out of their system? There really seems to be no good way to predict that, but we’ll find out Saturday around noon or maybe a little after.