December 4, 2006

That School Up North

I can say it now. I think the second best team in the country is Michigan.

And the BCS system has been shown to be a joke that once in a while happens to get lucky and have two clear-cut favorites to play off. I haven't favored a rematch because I don't think an OSU victory would say much to the rest of the country that they haven't already proven, and a Michigan win wouldn't conclusively decide anything either. Oh yeah, and also because they have a hell of a team and as a Buckeye partisan, I didn't want any part of them in what looked like a no-win situation for OSU. But remember, I was against it for principled reasons too.

To claim that if Michigan won the rematch they would be the undisputed National Champions is to say that the Ohio State-Michigan game on November 18 meant nothing. The greatest rivalry in all of sport would be sullied. The most watched, highest-rated, most anticipated game of the year..."The Game" would count for nothing. I think that's part of what poll voters were thinking.

It does appear that the voters decided that they didn't want an OSU-Michigan rematch, and manipulated the polls to achieve their desired result. I also think some voters looked back at the OSU-Michigan game and, if they saw the same game I saw, they realized that UM was fortunate to be within three points of the Buckeyes, having benefitted from two unforced turnovers and some very questionable officiating. At no point in the second half of the game (OSU led by two touchdowns at halftime), was Michigan in possession of the ball with an opportunity to take the lead with a touchdown. After the early Michigan TD, OSU dominated and dictated the game.

So the question of who is Number Two is still a legitmate argument. Maybe Florida could hold the Ohio State offense under 500 yards. UM couldn't. Now we'll find out. None of this refutes my statement in the second sentence of this post.

Stuart Mandel at SI guesses we can't assume anything anymore. (Read it all)

For the better part of two months, the college football media and public operated under the assumption that Ohio State and Michigan were the two best teams in the country. Even after the Buckeyes knocked off the Wolverines on Nov. 18, we held true to that assumption, setting up the possibility of a rematch for the national championship.

But a strange and unprecedented thing transpired over the two weeks: The people who vote in the polls actually questioned their own assumptions.

Which is how it came to be that on Sunday, a surprisingly large amount of coaches and Harris voters suddenly -- and, if you were to ask any Michigan fan, inexplicably -- moved the Gators over the Wolverines onto No. 2 on their ballots. Did 63 coaches and 113 Harris voters watch Florida's SEC title win over Arkansas on Saturday night and suddenly decide, "I've changed my mind -- Florida is the second-best team in the country, not Michigan."

I highly doubt it.

Gene Wojciechowski at ESPN.com says UM got jobbed:

The BCS system rewarded Florida for finishing its season with wins at FSU and against Arkansas at the SEC championship in Atlanta.

And the BCS penalized Michigan twice for being on the wrong end of the calendar: once when USC moved to No. 2 after beating Notre Dame (even though Michigan beat the Irish worse), and now, when Florida overtook the Wolverines (even though U of M's season ended two weeks ago).

How can you call this a "system" when Florida belongs to a league that plays a conference championship, and Michigan doesn't? How can you call it a quasi-playoff when Michigan drops twice in the standings without losing a game?

The BCS is a contrivance, but one that is about as good a system as possible in the absence of a playoff. They were (pick one) a last-second TD by Michigan over Penn State, a Bush Push of Leinart at Notre Dame, or a dropped TD pass by an OSU tight end against Texas away from being in the exact same dilemma last year. Texas or USC or Penn State could just as easily have ended as the only undefeated team, and the urgent demand for a playoff would have begun a year earlier.

This year of course, in order for there to be any final argument about who's best, the Buckeyes will have to lose in Arizona. I just don't see that happening. I'm having the same optimistic feeling I had in "97 about the World Series against Florida when...wait...never mind.

And as for the Wolverines, they must be relishing going to Pasadena on a mission to prove the voters wrong. You'd think that anyway, Lloyd Carr notwithstanding. I always root for UM twice a year...in the Notre Dame game and in their Bowl game, just for Big Ten bragging rights and all. But this year, I'm not so sure I can do that. Because if they can't beat USC in the Rose Bowl, we won't have to listen to their fans whine all the way till next November.

Nope, no sympathy here for the Ugly Hats. See you in November, as usual.

Posted by dan at December 4, 2006 11:32 PM