Unbeaten Ohio State could create rankings controversy; more mail
In writing College Football Overtime each Sunday, I do my best to touch on every notable game of the weekend somewhere in the column. Last week's Ohio State-Nebraska game somehow slipped through the cracks, save for
In hindsight, I may be subconsciously downplaying Ohio State to some degree because, to me, it feels like its games don't really count due to its postseason ineligibility. But apparently America does not agree. Saturday night's game drew more TV viewers (5.1 million) than the seemingly more important West Virginia-Texas (4.6) and Georgia-South Carolina (4.0) games played at the same time. So I shall ignore no more.
What are the Buckeyes? Even Urban Meyer would admit they're still a work in progress -- and that's scary. If Ohio State is, as it appears, the best team in the Big Ten this season, what's going to happen next year and the year after when Braxton Miller is an upperclassman and Meyer starts playing with his own recruits?
You do have to take into consideration the quality of competition. There isn't a single other top-20 team in the Buckeyes' conference. Nebraska's defense, which got torched by UCLA and allowed Wisconsin its first decent offensive output of the season, is clearly terrible. Still, 63 points is a big number (even if Meyer did tack on one last unnecessary touchdown at the end) given Ohio State's injury-laden backfield and inconsistent, somewhat butter-handed receiving corps. But Meyer has always been adept at playing to his quarterback's strengths (save for that one dreadful year with John Brantley at Florida), and in Miller's case, that means running him over and over until a defense proves it can stop him.
The Buckeyes faced one of the two best defenses they'll see all season a couple of weeks ago at Michigan State, and they gutted out a 17-16 victory. Miller's toughest test will likely come Oct. 27 at Penn State (which says everything you need to know about the Big Ten this season), as the Nittany Lions completely shut down Northwestern's dynamic Kain Colter last weekend, and unlike the Spartans, have a quarterback of their own (Matt McGloin) who can cause problems for an opposing defense. Win that one, and Ohio State will likely get to at least 10-0.
And if that happens, things could get interesting in the AP Poll. If the teams above them lose, there's no reason to think the Buckeyes can't rise to No. 1, at which point the split national title possibility becomes a legitimate conversation. However, the Buckeyes' season will end Nov. 24 after only 12 games. Other contenders will go on to play a 13th (in a conference championship) and a 14th (in the BCS Championship Game) game, both against the type of high-caliber opponents Ohio State will not see in this year's Big Ten. Therefore, even if the BCS title game winner has a loss, it would almost certainly be more deserving of the No. 1 ranking Jan. 8 than an undefeated but insufficiently challenged Buckeyes squad.
You know how it works. LSU started the season ranked No. 1 or 2 (I myself had them winning the national championship), and despite numerous warning signs since the preseason that things are awry in Baton Rouge, the Tigers remained a national championship contender in the media's eyes. In reality, LSU is a deeply flawed offensive team that may well wind up with three or four losses. As you may have noticed, Auburn, now 1-4, is awful. LSU beat the Tigers 12-10. Clearly, LSU is not what we thought it was. Yet we're to believe Florida ground out a victory in a Gladiator-style SEC bloodbath.
Contrast that to the game I attended last Saturday, where South Carolina nearly shut out a highly explosive Georgia offense. Now
Jeez, I can't win either side of this rivalry.
I'm in the minority that thinks he had a perfectly sensible point -- but unfortunately that doesn't fit our preferred narrative of Saban. Certain coaches are so painted into a box (Lane Kiffin is a jerk and/or unqualified for his job, Urban Meyer's a hypocrite for going back to work, Les Miles is crazy) that virtually anything they say or do, the public will find a way to view it through that particular lens. Saban is widely perceived as a grumpy curmudgeon, so when he made those comments about the no-huddle, people tripped all over themselves to portray him as the old-school Saban telling all these new-fangled offenses to "get off my lawn."
Let's think about this for a second. Do you really think a smart coach like Saban -- who is constantly looking for even the slightest competitive edge -- would summarily dismiss a potentially advantageous wrinkle? If he thought it might help Alabama, don't you think he'd install the no-huddle tomorrow? His own mentor, Bill Belichick,
I hadn't thought about that notion, but yes, with the possible exception of Michigan (which reentered the AP Poll this week after making a mockery of my
As for the second part, while I keep half-jokingly referring to 6-0 Ohio's BCS prospects, the Bobcats' chances aren't looking too bright. For one thing, they're still buried at No. 31 in the Coaches' Poll, but more notably, I don't like their chances of finishing undefeated after close calls against 0-6 UMass and 1-4 Buffalo. The more realistic candidates are Boise and, in particular, newly ranked Louisiana Tech, which has a huge game this week against Texas A&M. The Orange Bowl has last choice of at-large teams this year and thus would seem the most likely candidate to get "saddled with an outsider." But that might change if the team is undefeated Louisiana Tech, which consistently scores 50 points per game. The Sugar Bowl, with the second choice, would face tremendous pressure to take the in-state team.
I must have missed the rash of "ACC will be good" articles this preseason. Were you exclusively reading www.theacc.com?
Coaches becoming more aggressive on fourth down is definitely a growing trend. Last week against Northwestern, Penn State went for it on fourth down six times, converting five. Bill O'Brien has already attempted 20 fourth-down conversions in six games, USC has attempted 16, Missouri 15 and Oregon and Arizona 13. Mind you, many of these are decisions to forsake long field goals, not punts, but it fits with
And in many cases, the decisions are statistically prudent. If an offense is averaging five or six yards per play, why wouldn't a coach have faith that he can pick up three yards on fourth down?
Dave, you were obviously deeply scarred by the RichRod experience. And there's no question, Holgorsen could be quite sought after this offseason thanks to his offensive acumen. But a lot has changed since 2007. For one, West Virginia has gone from a Good Ol' Boy puppet of an athletic director (Ed Pastilong) to one of the savviest ADs in the entire country (Oliver Luck). Luck and Holgorsen have a great working relationship, and the former is going to do whatever it takes to keep the latter happy. Second, the move to the Big 12 is
When Mack Brown retires, then start panicking.
I will refrain from the absolutes (other than to specify that Chizik's
I don't blame Weis for continuing to return to the college game even though the NFL clearly suits him better. He obviously views it as a more desirable lifestyle for him and his family. The better question is, why do athletic directors like Kansas' Sheahon Zenger keep falling for the same trap? This phenomenon isn't exclusive to Weis. This week, Georgia Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh; this is the second time in four seasons he has been dismissed by an ACC school. Groh was an NFL head coach. He obviously knows his Xs and Os. But, like Weis, he seemed unable to connect with his college players.
While we're on the subject, Charlie, it's not
The one person I'm absolutely sure has not given thought to the amount of Ohio State coverage in College Football Overtime is Coach Meteor.