The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

OSU #1? Damn straight.

Posted by disappointmentzone on 17 October 2007

The Ohio State Football Buckeyes emerged from the first BCS rankings at #1. They are #1 in both the AP and Coaches’ polls as well. Yet if you were to take a straw poll of AP voters and college football coaches and television pundits you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would unequivocally defend Ohio State as the best team in the country. Most would point to teams like LSU or Oklahoma, coming as they do from conferences that are undeniably better than the Big Ten. Though LSU and Oklahoma have indeed played tougher schedules than the Buckeyes, in a year in which nearly ever team has suffered an unexpected loss to a team coming out of nowhere, why should the relative ease of OSU’s schedule serve as red herring for how good the team actually is?

Is there not an argument to be made that in a season in which Michigan has lost to a D1AA school, USC lost at home to one of the worst teams in college football, Cal lost at home to an unranked Oregon State, Oklahoma lost to unranked Colorado, etc., etc., etc., that avoiding such a crippling and humiliating loss is actually a pretty solid defense of OSU’s current ranking?

A number of writers are trotting out the usual calls for a playoff, using the jumbled mess of the rankings and unpredictability of the season as the catalysts in what is probably the strongest argument from a playoff yet. Parity is the word on everyone’s tongue. The balance of power has shifted to the point where an unranked team knocking off a powerhouse should not be treated as necessarily that surprising. That’s just the age we are living in. Broader media coverage and fewer scholarships are driving athletes to schools that have never been considered elite or, in the case of South Florida, schools that just a few years ago didn’t even have a D1 football program. Parity is the word and it’s the word used to push through a playoff agenda.

I just want to say that no one who points to parity in college football should be allowed to decry OSU’s ranking on the grounds that they haven’t beaten anyone. It’s one or the other, guys. Either the difference between the top programs and the middle programs is so small that the only reasonable way to determine whose the best is to have them play it out on the field OR beating mid-level teams does not justify a high ranking in the BCS. It can’t be both.

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2 Responses to “OSU #1? Damn straight.”

  1. Joe said

    If I’m reading your last paragraph correctly, you’re basically saying “either beating halfway decent opponents means something or it doesn’t”. If that’s not a correct assessment, stop reading here.

    I’d be one of those people who both argues for a playoff and simultaneously claims that quality programs beating mediocre teams doesn’t mean much. The mistake in your logic (IMO) is that a playoff isn’t intended to separate the “top programs” from the “middle programs”, it’s intended to separate the “best program (singular)” from the rest of the “top programs”. And while I’m aware that you’re always going to have the N+1th team claiming that they’re better than the Nth team (where the playoffs involve N teams), it’s my opinion that arguing over “4th vs. 5th” or “8th vs. 9th” is a better situation than “2nd vs. 3rd” (that is, #1 is more likely to have already been included).

    Having said that, here’s the part that’s going to get my comment deleted: LSU’s beaten Virginia Tech, South Carolina, and Florida, and lost in 3 OTs to Kentucky; Ohio State’s beaten, um, Purdue and Minnesota? Give me LSU any day of the week.

  2. I think you can argue for a playoff and simultaneously claim that quality programs beating mediocre teams doesn’t mean much.

    What I don’t think you can do is say that there is amazing parity in college football and then say that beating unranked opponents means nothing (or, more exactly, not losing to unranked opponents). That’s my issue. If there really is parity–if all teams are collapsing towards an equal quality–then the difference between a #14 and an #34 shouldn’t be that huge, nor should the difference between a #35 and #45.

    It’s like this: If you agree that there is more parity now than twenty years ago, then you must agree that beating an unranked team means more now than it did twenty years ago. You can’t claim parity one day and then say beating unranked teams doesn’t mean anything. It’s one or the other.

    I agree that LSU is a better team that OSU. I also agree that they’ve beaten better teams. Are they more deserving of playing for the national championship? I don’t think so…and that’s where the argument for a playoff comes in. It can’t be held against OSU that the rest of the Big Ten sucks. If OSU goes undefeated and LSU wins out they should both have an opportunity to play for the title. If Oklahoma wins out, ditto. Same with Cal, Oregon, or USC.

    OSU can’t control the quality of its conference and shouldn’t be punished if everyone else sucks. LSU shouldn’t be punished for losing to a very good team on the road on triple overtime when they play so many other good schools. The same goes for teams in the Pac 10 and Big 12 and Big East. That’s why there should be a playoff, IMO.

    Thanks for the comment.

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