How About It, America?

In a few hours, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will decide which teams make the playoffs. I’m saying Ohio State should be one of the four.

I saw parts of the Big Ten Championship game, where the Buckeyes — led by their third-string quarterback — crushed a good Wisconsin team, 59-0. 59-0! Anyone who watched could not possibly doubt that OSU is one of the four best teams in the U.S.

So who would you rather watch, America? TCU? Baylor? Or a team that shredded one of the top five defenses in the country, stonewalled the leading candidate for the Heisman, and tossed him around like he was a rag doll?

Seriously . . . what would you rather see, America?

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Playoff Peculiarities

Ohio State fans are happy because the Buckeyes vaulted up two spots, to sixth place, in the college football playoff rankings announced last night.  That’s certainly better than heading in the other direction, but there’s just something a bit . . . unsettling about this whole process.

The Buckeyes, who won on Saturday, passed higher-ranked Arizona State, which lost.  I get that. But the Buckeyes also moved past Baylor, which had a bye week.  Why?  Who knows?  And for many Ohio State fans, the answer is:  who cares?  As long as the Buckeyes are moving up the chain and still have a chance to make the first college football playoff, they’re happy campers.

But seriously . . . why should Ohio State leapfrog Baylor?  The answer, I think, is that the 12-member selection panel that figures out the rankings is filled with people that aren’t much different from the rest of us.  They’re aware of win-loss records, but they’re not prone to some purportedly scientific analysis of relative strength of schedule, common opponents, and other quasi-scientific factors that the computer wizards have used to determine rankings in the past.  Instead, the panel members are prone to out-of-sight, out-of-mind notions, winning pretty versus winning ugly, the presence of stars on teams, intriguing match-ups, and other attributes of the rest of us everyday football fans.

That means that, if the college football playoff continues in its current form, you’re going to see it affect how the game is scheduled and played.  Late-season bye weeks that might cause you to drop a spot or two in the rankings will be eliminated.  Teams will try to pile up the points to get the most impressive wins, which means that starters will continue to play in blowouts and might suffer injuries that otherwise would have been avoided.  And you’d better hope that your team and your conference are getting pretty good, respectful coverage on ESPN and other college football venues.

All of these factors might work in Ohio State’s favor right now — no late-season byes, a schedule that is backloaded with games against good teams, a lot of scoring, and the interesting J.T. Barrett story — but it only works until it doesn’t.  If the Buckeyes get out to a good lead against Indiana and keep Barrett in the game, we’ll know that Urban Meyer and his staff have learned some lessons from how the rankings are developed.

The Buckeyes, And Rodney Dangerfield

Last night, Stanford beat Oregon.  That result caused the ESPN talking heads, and sports show commentators throughout the land, to start talking about whether Stanford should jump over undefeated Ohio State in the race to get to the BCS National Championship game.

Of course, such talk caused heads to explode throughout Buckeye Nation.  Loyal wearers of the Scarlet and Gray questioned how a one-loss team, which fell to 4-4 Utah, could possibly leap the undefeated Buckeyes.  They wondered why Ohio State — like Rodney Dangerfield — is getting no respect this year.

There are two obvious reasons.  First, everyone knows that the Big Ten, top to bottom, just isn’t that good.  Second — and at least equally important — the members of the sports talk show fraternity realize that controversy helps increase ratings.  They know that ardent Buckeye fans are easy to bait and quickly worked into a frenzy by the slightest sign of disrespect.  So, if you are a radio or TV sports show host who puts the two together, you know that dismissing the Buckeyes’ latest drubbing of a Big Ten opponent, followed by raves when Stanford beats Oregon or Baylor beats Oklahoma, is bound to get you some angry calls from loyal OSU fans.  And if you just want listeners, or readers, who cares whether they are agreeing with you or not?

I hope that the Buckeyes, unlike their fans, forget about the shows of disrespect and realize that there is nothing they can do other than win their game each week.  If Ohio State can beat Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, and then topple, say, Michigan State in the Big Ten Conference Championship game, they’ve done all that they can do.  I’m betting that, if that happens, the Buckeyes won’t have to worry about getting respect from the media.  Instead, they’ll be worrying about how they can win that National Championship game for a change.