Monday, November 12, 2007

Crash and Burn

Normally I don't like the way the BCS penalizes good teams for losing tough games late in the season. If a good team is going to be upset it will likely come against a tough conference rival who knows its opponent and has had plenty of time to review the game footage. Teams that lose early are often victims of their own in experience. Teams that lose late are often victims of a tough home stretch. So normally I'd cry foul over Ohio State's big drop from number one in the BCS poll to number seven. But this isn't a normal season.

Nobody forced Ohio State to line up an opening salvo of cream puffs. Just because the NCAA opened the door to Division 1-AA, conveniently renamed the Champion Subdivision., doesn't mean Ohio State had to lure Youngstown State to town with a million dollar contract. When the NCAA gave a twelfth game the green light the Buckeyes plugged a depleted Kent State into its bye week without even thinking of a respectable game against somebody else.

Ohio State didn't face a real challenge until they overcame Wisconsin in the second half a couple of weeks ago but even then Wisconsin was without key players so it was hard to judge Ohio State's performance. When you take a long hard look at who Ohio State has played and how those teams have fared it's really hard to come away impressed with any of their victories. Ohio State was number one by default and the only way the Buckeyes were going to retain national respect was by winning out. The Buckeyes understood the consequences of losing.

I don't think West Virginia is better than Ohio State but because Ohio State dodged any meaningful competition this year I don't know that for sure. West Virginia managed to beat some pretty respectable teams this year and they feature a much more refined mobile quarterback than Juice Williams of Illinois. Maybe West Virginia has the tools to beat the Buckeyes after all. Sadly, we won't get to see that on the field. By losing to Illinois Ohio State's best possible finish will get them to the Rose Bowl where they will likely face a Pac Ten opponent. If Oregon wins out the Ducks will earn a BCS berth which means Ohio State could draw an at large team but the Rose Bowl committee will be mindful of selecting a team that will draw plenty of fans to Pasadena. That means it will be a westward orientation. Aside from Oregon, none of the teams likely to end up in Pasadena excite me. Even Kansas , though unbeaten, seems a little suspect against Ohio State. Since we've seen a mobile QB give Ohio State trouble that leaves Pat White as the best possible test. Will the Rose Bowl see it that way? Probably not, the problem with the bowls is that they are all about money.

Even though I'm in the camp that concurs that Ohio State was overrated this year, I still would love to see the Buckeyes get a chance to redeem themselves in some sort of playoff. It's hard to win every game and more than a little short-sighted to put such a high value on a perfect record. Luck plays such a key role in going 12-0. The Buckeyes enjoyed that luck for a while. They avoided injuries to key players and faced opponents who had suffered injuries. In fact, Ohio State's final opponent, Michigan, is decimated by injuries to its best players. quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart have been hampered by serious injuries for much of the season.

Playoffs would give teams a chance to play for the national championship in spite of suffering set backs. Granted, Michigan would probably not recover from three losses but taking the sting out of a couple of early losses would give teams more of a reason to schedule quality opponents. Look at most high school playoff systems. In most places teams desperately try to schedule bigger and better programs in the hopes of earning a lot of qualifying points in the event of a victory or at least gaining some experience to prepare for later games.

Sadly, the people who control big time college ball don't want to give up the big time college money. Even though playoffs would likely generate more money, it would spread that money into more pockets. It would give too many of the teams that finish on the cusp of BCS glory a chance to prove themselves in a good, old-fashioned fight to the finish. Nobody wants to be the team that lost to Hawaii in the playoffs. People don't want to see Boise State getting a regular shot of the big dogs. Parity scares the hell out of the NCAA and they'll do anything to keep it in check. Even if it means punishing Ohio State for playing along.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Short Outs

There are some columnists complaining about all of the hype surrounding the Colts/Patriots clash this weekend. Why? The unbeaten defending Super Bowl champion is playing an unbeaten intra-conference rival most people have picked to win it all. New England looks unstoppable and the winner of this game could finish the season with a perfect record. The only problem with this game is that it should be moved the prime time spot. You can’t hype this game enough. The two best teams in football are going head to head.

Barry Bonds issued a half-hearted threat: If the asterisk-emblazoned 756 ball ends up enshrined in the Hall of Fame, he won’t go. Then he qualified his remark and said that he’s simply expressing how he feels now but that in five years he might change his mind…so Barry did leave wiggle room for his ego. Barry also talked about history and records and stated that you can’t put an asterisk in baseball. Well Mark Ecko proved that you can. He seared a big red one into that record-breaking ball and everybody knows it. The fans have spoken, Barry. You’re a liar, a cheater and a jerk.

Am I the only person who doesn’t give a flying F**K about Joe Torre? Can we stop the pity party? The fact of the matter is that Torre was overpaid and overrated. The Yankees offered him a very generous contract to come back next year and they were not out of line by including incentives. I hate the Yankees and think that George Steinbrenner is an enormous ass who raised two sons to be even worse but the man isn’t spending twice as much as anybody in baseball to lose in the ALDS. Joe Torre didn’t get the job done.

Is Ohio State the best team in the country? Yes. I didn’t think so a few weeks ago but after clobbering Penn State 37-17 in Beaver Stadium the Buckeyes proved their point. Nobody can make a stronger case for the top ranking in the country. The SEC has been enjoying a lot of respect this year but the Big 10 proved to be rather formidable against the SEC in head to head competition this past January. Wisconsin and Penn State defeated their vaunted SEC opponents in convincing fashion and Florida’s win over Ohio State didn’t raise as many eyebrows as Ohio State’s soft performance did. The Big 10 is still a football powerhouse and at this point in the season Ohio State’s record is worthy of respect. There’s still football left to be played and Ohio State will have to avoid looking ahead to its finale against Michigan but until the Buckeyes go out and prove otherwise they’re the team to beat.

In case you missed it, the NHL and NBA both opened their seasons. You don’t have to pay attention yet, but mark your calendar to check the standings after the Super Bowl. Your favorite team might be playoff bound.

Were you surprised to see the Red Sox sweep the Rockies? Yeah? You’re an idiot. The Red Sox were better in every facet of the game. The Rockies ran off an impressive winning streak at the end of the season but they did it in the National League. Money talks people. The Red Sox spent a lot of money picking apart small market teams in free agency. Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox guessed right on their purchases and it paid off. Your first clue that the Sox would win was in the 100 million dollar disparity in payroll. Duh.

Speaking of exercises in futility, who’s your Heisman favorite? Don’t tell me another Boston College QB is going to win it on the strength of one miraculous performance. Can anybody recall a more wide open race? Perhaps we could if the media would stop picking the front runners right after the previous season’s trophy is handed out. Darren McFadden was crowned as this year’s winner last December but a funny thing happened on the way to the podium, he played another season. Now everybody’s confused because the best players in college football weren’t on the short list of contenders. The solution? Stop making short lists! Let the players play a few games before we start worrying about who will hoist the Heisman albatross…I mean trophy.