31 October 2007

Happy Halloween Brutus

Everyone complains when there are dominant teams in college football and the outcome of the season seems predetermined. Now everyone is complaining that there are too many teams in with a shout to be in the BCS or even the National Championship Game. Why is this a problem other than that minor inconvenience of good teams never playing each other at a crucial point in the season/postseason to determine a champion?

A playoff may not be a panacea but the soul butter from the college presidents and bowl committees about history and tradition is hypocritical indeed when 2 1/2 months after college football ends the NCAA basketball tournament begins and suddenly many of those same people profess their love for a system where games and not polls decide a champion and big programs/conferences accept upsets as part of the landscape.

As of this writing Ohio State have been sleepwalking for two months and have awakened to find themselves atop the polls. This year's trip to Ann Arbor will be even more harrowing one given the stakes and the probable momentum built up by the Wolverines who will have admirably salvaged their season by then. There is plenty of precedent for a Buckeye season ruined by a pratfall at Michigan Stadium.

Let's assume OSU wins out. The folks in New Orleans are praying that no undefeated teams emerge from the Pac-10. Let's assume also that BC loses and that the SEC champion has only one loss. A one-loss LSU team would be a dream come true giving the Tigers a virtual home game and an absolutely insane buildup to the NCG. Then again, ask Georgia about those virtual home games like the Sugar Bowl against West Virginia that was played in Atlanta.

The problem for Ohio State is that they probably can beat anybody EXCEPT an SEC team. LSU wouldn't run the score up like Florida last year but would certainly provide the strongest possible opposition. Like so many teams in the top 10 or 25 OSU's season essentially begins now and even if they finish with a perfect mark at least some questions about their overall quality will be answered.

It seems mad that a program of LSU's caliber could lose two quality coaches in the space of four years but the cards are stacked against them. Once upon a time John Cooper became irresistible to Ohio State when his Arizona State team defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl. With Lloyd Carr all but certain to step down Les Miles could write his own ticket back to Ann Arbor with a win over the Buckeyes in the NCG. He even SOUNDS like Bo Schembechler in his interviews - it's uncanny. For all the quality of the SEC programs the fierce competition manifests itself in some ugly ways, particularly unbridled criticism of coaches who bring home 9-3 records or better each year.

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