On To The CFP

It was nail-biting time for members of Buckeye Nation at about 9:30 ET last night.  A talented and gritty team from Wisconsin came out swinging in the Big Ten championship game, and when the Badgers scored an improbable touchdown to go up 21-7 at the end of the first half Ohio State fans had visions of past disasters against Iowa and Purdue dancing in their heads.  But the Buckeyes made adjustments at halftime and righted the ship, scoring 27 points and shutting Wisconsin out in the second half to win, 34-21, and take home their third straight Big Ten crown.  Although the Buckeyes ultimately won by double digits, the Badgers fought until the final minute, and held the high-powered Ohio State offense to two field goals when touchdowns would have put the game out of reach.

ohio-state-2019-big-ten-championship

As the seconds ticked down to zero, I thought that Ohio State had been truly tested by a very good football team, and that the Big Ten championship game had taught us something about this Ohio State team — they don’t wilt in the face of real adversity on a big stage, the coaches and players are adept at making adjustments and game plan modifications under pressure, and the whole team can draw upon an ample reserve of inner toughness and guttiness.  And we also learned, again, that head coach Ryan Day has a bit of riverboat gambler in him, as his fake punt call showed.  Ohio State should be grateful to Wisconsin for making the Buckeyes draw deep and for providing a very stern test that will foreshadow what lies ahead.  Last night’s game showed why fans of the Big Ten like the conference and its particular, hard-hitting brand of football — which continued up until the final play, when the Ohio State defense gave the Wisconsin quarterback a tooth-rattling hit as the clock ran out.

Although things looked dicey at halftime, by winning Ohio State undoubtedly punched its ticket for the College Football Playoffs.  The big question to be answered by the CFP Selection Committee in a few hours is whether the Buckeyes will go in at number one or number two — or even number three, and that’s what the talking heads on ESPN and Fox Sports will be debating this morning.  I may be alone in this, but I really don’t care where the Buckeyes end up.  Ohio State clearly is an excellent unbeaten team, but so are LSU and Clemson — and I think all of this talk about “resumes” and “performances against Top 25 teams” and various weird computer metrics is kind of silly when the questions about who is more deserving will be resolved with actual games in about three weeks.  I also think such argument just puffs teams up — and that might not be good in the long run.  If I were Oklahoma, the likely number four seed and a great team in its own right, all of the talk about how important it is for other teams to make it to number one so they can play the Sooners rather than somebody else would be doing nothing except providing motivation and some prime locker room bulletin board material.

The reality is that there are many very good, well-coached teams in college football — Wisconsin is one of them, by the way — and if you’re going to win the national championship you’re going to need to beat a bunch of them.  Regardless of exactly who the top four teams are or where they are ranked, they’re going to need to beat two more great teams to get to the ultimate goal.  If Ohio State ends up playing Clemson in the first playoff game — and thereby lines up with a team that is the defending national champion and has never lost to the Buckeyes and pulverized them in the playoffs a few years ago — there is no chance that Ohio State will not go into that game emotionally pumped and ready to play.  That’s what I want to see.

So the selection show and final seedings announced today will be interesting, but I’m more focused on the fact that the Buckeyes won a very challenging game, are Big Ten champions, maintain their perfect record, and are moving on with a chance to get to their goal.  The members of Buckeye Nation are grateful that we get to watch the Men of the Scarlet and Gray continue their quest to be the best.

Wishing, Waiting, And Watching TV

The Ohio State Buckeyes have a bye week this weekend.  Does that mean that the members of Buckeye Nation won’t be watching football?  Hardly!

No, this is the time of year when any team on the outside looking in is watching the scoreboard, hoping the teams just ahead get knocked off.  That’s Ohio State’s situation.  The Buckeyes are undefeated, but they are ranked fourth in the BCS standings behind Alabama, Florida State, and Oregon.  If the Buckeyes hope to make the BCS Championship Game — and of course they do — they need to win out and have two of those teams lose.  The Buckeyes control the former requirement, but they can’t control the latter.  That means that, on every weekend for the rest of the season, Ohio State fans will be rooting for the Buckeyes and Whoever is playing Alabama, Whoever is playing Florida State, and Whoever is playing Oregon, too.

The TV watching season kicks off in earnest tonight, when Stanford matches up against Oregon, and continues on Saturday, when Alabama plays LSU.  These are games where, theoretically at least, the teams ahead of Ohio State could be upset and open the door for Ohio State to move up in the rankings.

I’m mostly concerned with the Buckeyes keeping their focus exclusively on their personal improvement and their next opponent.  Because I’m not playing, however, I’ll gladly do some scoreboard watching and open rooting on behalf of the Men of the Scarlet and Gray.  So . . . c’mon Cardinal!  C’mon Bengal Tigers!

Help Us, Trent!

Tonight is the first round of the NFL draft.  The Browns made a bit of a splash by swapping first round picks with the Minnesota Vikings — and giving the Vikings three later round picks, to boot — and then drafting Trent Richardson of Alabama.

Every Browns fan knows the team is cursed and can expect only miserable failure come draft day.  Against that backdrop of complete and utter pessimism, I have to say that . . . I think Richardson is a good pick.

Richardson was a mainstay in the Alabama attack last year.  He gained 1679 yards on the ground in 2011, averaging 5.9 yards a carry, and caught 29 passes for another 338 yards.  He scored 24 touchdowns and showed the ability to make big plays with long runs and pass plays.  Equally important, he played well in the big games, including running the ball effectively against the tough LSU defense in the BCS championship game.

The Browns need offensive punch — their offense somehow managed to both suck and blow last year — and Richardson looks like someone who can make the defensive coordinators on opposing teams sweat a little.  Now, if only the Browns can find another playmaker (a speedy wide receiver would be nice) and somebody to block, they’ll have taken their first, tentative steps toward respectability.

In the meantime, I suggest that Richardson promptly identify and buy the largest insurance policy he can get his hands on, and keep his eye out for falling anvils.