Should It Be The Buckeyes?

Every year, it seems, the talk on the Sunday where the participants in the College Football Playoff are finally decided is all about the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Should they go, or shouldn’t they?

jt-barrett-vs-wisconsin-8e4be645b4ee0204This year is no different.  With Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin last night, a game in which the Buckeyes were led by a gutty J.T. Barrett, only days after he’d had knee surgery, the Buckeyes are 11-2 and the official Big Ten champions.  Normally, you’d think the Big Ten champs would be in easily — but in one of those losses the Buckeyes got waxed at Iowa, losing by 31 points in one of those games that shows you that anyone who thinks they can predict college athletics just doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  The first three teams in to the College Football Playoff are easy decisions:  Clemson, Georgia, and Oklahoma, which handed the Buckeyes their other loss.  And now the chatter is whether the fourth team should be Ohio State, the Big Ten champ with that one big matzo ball of a bad loss, or Alabama, which has only one loss but didn’t play in its conference championship game, lost its only game of the season against an elite team, and played a schedule that wasn’t very difficult.

It’s a tough question, and as an Ohio State fan I’m king of torn.  Last year’s blowout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff rattled a lot of us.  We love our Buckeyes, but that defeat — and then the Iowa debacle this year — has introduced an element of doubt for many.  We don’t want to see the Men of the Scarlet and Gray get in, and then get creamed.  And since the Buckeyes would be the fourth seed if they were to make it, they’d play Clemson again.  Would another humiliating spanking be in the offing?

On the other hand, you’ve got to give Ohio State credit for playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.  They’ve beaten a number of very good teams, including Penn State in an epic comeback, and they bounced back after the Iowa loss to thrash Michigan State, win their great rivalry game against Michigan on the road, and then beat a tough Wisconsin team on a neutral field.  And, while Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin was only by six points, I think the Buckeyes clearly were the superior team by a larger margin than the score indicated.

So, should it be the Buckeyes, or the Crimson Tide?  Call me a homer, but I think a conference championship should count for something, and I think fans can’t let their fears stand in the way of the dreams of young men who’ve played hard and had a fine season.  I hope the Buckeyes make it.

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Our Encounter With Doubting Bob

There’s a lot of dislike for, and skepticism about, the Ohio State Buckeye football team lurking out there.  All of the sports pundits are picking Alabama to win easily, and the Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Crimson Tide as a 9.5 point favorite.  That’s a lot of points when you consider both Ohio State and Alabama have only one loss and Ohio State just won its conference championship game by a 59-0 score.

IMG_4431We experienced some of this pervasive anti-OSU passion firsthand during our recent trip to Jacksonville.  When we were enjoying a beer and some appetizers at a Riverside neighborhood tavern, we overheard this guy ranting about how Ohio State didn’t deserve to make the playoffs.  Actually, “overheard” isn’t quite the right word — this jerk was so loud that you couldn’t help but hear the scorn he poured on our beloved Buckeyes. To make matters worse, his name was Bob.

Why was this guy so deadset on saying that the Buckeyes were pretenders?  There were lots of reasons.  The Big Ten sucks.  Everyone knows that Ohio State chokes in big games.  The Virginia Tech loss showed Ohio State’s true value as a team.  Urban Meyer is a decent coach, but he screwed the University of Florida.  And, as is usually the case, he had a conspiracy theory, too — it’s all about money.  I don’t think he was saying that anyone got paid off to put the Buckeyes in; instead, he believed the playoff selection committee wanted to pick a Midwestern team to try to increase interest in the first-ever playoff, and Ohio State is about as well-supported and Midwestern a team as there is.

We didn’t engage with this loudmouth; you’re not going to change the mind of somebody like that with reasoned discourse, and there’s no point in getting into an argument in a bar.  But listening to his diatribe was enlightening.  It showed a perspective on Ohio State that is a lot different from what you get here in the heart of Buckeye Nation.  We won’t be able to change the conspiracy theories, but a win over Alabama Thursday night would go a long way toward changing some of the other views.