The Buckeyes are going to play for the national championship in New Orleans on January 7, because neither of the two teams ahead of them in the BCS rankings could win yesterday. And once again the BCS will come in for withering criticism because there are five or six teams with a legitimate argument that they should be Ohio State's opponent. This guarantees that the elusive consensus that is the goal of the BCS will be impossible to attain...again. This Fox article sums up the arguments for the contenders.
LSU seems like the odds on favorite to get the nod, although the BCS will have to explain why they have the Tigers leap-frogging 4th-ranked Georgia to play for the title. Oklahoma has a good case too, but I'm hoping for a matchup with LSU. The taint on the Buckeyes of last year's championship game will not be removed until they play a good SEC team and win, in a high profile game. This would be their chance for redemption. Sure, it's virtually a home game for LSU in the Superdome. But that will make a win all the sweeter. Bring on the Tigers.
UPDATE 12/2: It's official. From the ESPN report:
"The brass ring was there for a lot of different teams to grab it," SEC commissioner and BCS coordinator Mike Slive said during a conference call Sunday night. "Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't, and when they didn't it allowed two teams that were seen as two of the better teams in the country early in the year to find their way back."
Sort of. The Buckeyes were ranked from No. 11-15 in preseason, and only began to get attention when they went on the road in two nationally televised night games and handled Purdue and Penn State convincingly to go 9-0, while everyone else ahead of them was losing. Here's where the AP report begins to go all anti-Buckeye...
Ohio State has been roundly criticized since the beginning of the season, after losing players from a team that was heavily favored in last year's title game but flopped mightily in a 41-14 loss to Florida.
The Buckeyes were ranked first in November, but surrendered that with a 28-21 loss to Illinois that only added fuel to those who said they weren't deserving. But they backed into the BCS game without even playing, beneficiaries of the fact the Big Ten doesn't play a title game while many other conferences do.
They backed in? (without even playing?)
Let me get this right...They were criticized early this year because they had (gasp!) lost players from the previous year's team, and even that team got drilled by Florida in January....you know, last season?
How exactly can the team ranked No. 1 by a wide margin over No.2 in the final BCS poll, be said to have backed in? Because OSU's schedule ended before some other teams schedules? Or maybe that thing about W.Va. and Missouri losing the last games on their schedules. Hey, they all count. The Buckeyes last game was up in Ann Arbor, in front of 110,000 people. Things are tough all over. As for West Virginia - the team many experts would have been perfectly happy to have representing college football in the BCS game, had they managed to sneak by Pitt - I have just one word....Pitt!
Most of the anti-Buckeye sentiment is about that 2007 schedule, and it really wasn't quite up to the level that Tressel has established here. The 2007 OSU schedule is atypical really, falling as it does, coincidentally, in the odd year between the end of a two game series with Texas (2005,2006), and the upcoming set with USC (2008,2009), followed by two game series over the following six years with Miami, Virginia Tech and Cal.
Tressel has scheduled top 20 programs for non-conference, early season games. When you schedule six years out, you can't know if a team will be highly ranked, but those are some consistent top 20 teams (Miami excepted for the moment.) Tressel doesn't need to take flak from anybody about strength of schedule. I wish more coaches would challenge their kids like this early in the season. Pete Carroll and some others do much the same thing. USC traveled to Nebraska this September.
And as lots of upset victims can attest, playing MAC teams is not something any team can mail in. Akron trailed the Buckeyes 3-2 at halftime this year, and held them to 20 points. In another non-conference game, Ohio State went to U of Washington and won by 19 points, 33-14. USC beat Washinton 27-24, if you're keeping score at home. The Bucks first impressed the nation with those dominating wins at Purdue and Penn State, and later beat two more teams that were ranked (by these same experts) in the top 5-7 in the preseason; in Wisconsin and Michigan. They lost one game, by a touchdown, to a team that just got invited to the Rose Bowl.
The Buckeyes had their Youngstown State, Kent State and Akron, and LSU had their Louisiana Tech, Tulane and Middle Tennessee. I don't want to hear it about the OSU schedule anymore.
Does it mean a lot that the Ohio State Buckeyes have been the No. 1 ranked team in the final BCS Poll for the last two seasons, and that they have won 23 of their last 24 regular season games?
Probably not. But it doesn't mean nothing either.
'Backed in' my ass.