Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another BCS blunder

The Ohio State Buckeyes have looked impressive so far this year. Granted, they didn’t exactly obliterate Youngstown State and they struggled to get their offense on track when Akron came to town but they convincingly beat Washington on the road and laid the wood to their early conference foes. Ohio State looks like a strong contender of the national championship.

But looks can be deceiving. Ohio State hasn’t really played anybody of consequence just yet. They boast a perfect record, have put up impressive stats and have a considerable average margin of victory but they haven’t beaten a top 20 team. By the time the season finally wraps up Ohio State might find themselves unbeaten, untied and untested. Does that make them worthy of a title shot?

South Florida stumbled into the number two spot and a lot of people are second guessing them but the Bulls have impressive victories on their resume. Early in the season South Florida shocked a highly ranked Auburn team with a gritty overtime win. A few weeks later West Virginia found themselves unable to move the ball effectively against a quick South Florida defense. At the time WVU was ranked number four in the country.

Ohio State’s highest ranked foe so far is Purdue which had just cracked the top 25 before getting worked over by the Buckeyes. Purdue might have reclaimed a top 25 ranking if it hadn’t fallen to Michigan a week later. People joked about Ohio State starting its season with a YAWN (Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, and Northwestern) but now the Big 10 schedule looks weak with Ohio State facing only one more ranked opponent when it plays Michigan in November. If Michigan continues to win the Wolverines could prove to be a formidable foe but right now nobody sees Michigan as a force to be reckoned with.

The odds are in Ohio State’s favor and if they run the table in a big conference there’s no question that the Buckeyes would be worthy of a shot at the BCS title but the current ranking is premature. Ohio State has not proven that it’s the best team. A perfect record can be impressive but only if the teams on the schedule were competitive. Right now the poll-makers are saying that Ohio State is better than everybody else but if we matched Ohio State up against Kentucky would the Buckeye defense hold? Is that Ohio State offense good enough to get vertical against that LSU defense? Florida humiliated Ohio State by putting Tim Tebow in to pick up tough yards, has Jim Tressel come up with a plan for Superman?

Nobody can answer these questions. That’s why they play the games. USC had too many weapons and Texas only had Vince Young but somehow the Longhorns walked away with a BCS Title in 2005. Last year the BCS Championship was played a month and a half early when unbeaten Ohio State outlasted unbeaten Michigan in a barnburner. Then Florida hung 41 points on the Buckeyes during a rout of the greatest college team ever assembled. Play the game.

Ohio State should not be rewarded for playing a soft schedule. There are those who would say that its unfair to punish the Buckeyes since the schedules are filled years in advance but it’s not as if Akron, Washington and Kent State were top-ranked teams four or five years ago. Nobody forced the Buckeyes to play Youngstown State. The Buckeyes can’t control how competitive their conference is year to year but they certainly have control over the number of in-state patsies they book.

The easy solution is playoffs. The BCS system is a beauty contest that rewards perfection. The polls are supposed to be subjective because the people voting in the polls are supposed to consider each team on its own merits, not just run down the schedule and see who has the most wins. LSU would be ranked ahead of Ohio State if not for one loss; a hard fought overtime heartbreaker to a very tough Kentucky team. While LSU was fighting a tough opponent to the bitter end, Ohio State was enjoying a leisurely stroll to the end zone over a Kent State team so outmatched that the Kent State coach admitted he would be resting his starters. Cal moved up in the polls two weeks ago for no other reason than having a bye week when other teams lost.

Dumping the BCS in favor of playoffs would not make the regular season mean less it would make quality opposition mean more. Coaches wouldn’t want to enter the playoffs having cakewalked through a soft schedule only to get massacred in December. Tough non-conference opponents would be the best way to prepare a team for a championship run through a playoff field.

The best part about playoffs is that post season match ups would no longer be determined by selection committees. For once the NCAA Division 1-A championship would be determined on the field not in some conference room.

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