The Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes yesterday afternoon in a “winner gets the BCS bid” game. It is a near certainty that the BCS game will be the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. Jim Tressel was criticized by a great number of fans and media for being too conservative with QB Terrelle Pryor and playing for overtime on the Bucks’ last possession in regulation. It seems to be the dominant story most people are talking about this morning. Tressel relied on his defense in OT and they came through holding the Hawkeyes scoreless. Ohio State responded on its ensuing possession with a game winning 39 yard field goal. It’s a little crazy to come down hard on the coach after a game in which you win your 5th straight Big Ten championship and are headed to your 6th BCS bowl in 7 years.
While the Buckeyes have been regulars in the BCS this decade, they have usually found themselves in Tempe or the National Championship game. This will be their first Rose Bowl since that classic game in 1996 against Jake Plummer’s Arizona State Sun Devils. While this week will be devoted to coverage of The Game, in thinking about the immediate implications of yesterday afternoon I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the potential Rose Bowl scenarios for OSU.
The Pac-10 does not have a suitable candidate for the National Championship game being played in Pasadena the week after the Rose Bowl. Therefore, it is shaping up to be the typical Pac-10 vs. Big 10 matchup that the traditionalists who run the Rose Bowl almost always demand. For the first time in five years, USC will not be in the Rose Bowl representing the Pac-10. While the Buckeyes have gone elsewhere in the BCS over the past three years, the Trojans have settled in Pasadena and whipped Michigan, Illinois, and Penn State consecutively embarrassing their Big 10 foe. The Pac-10 plays a complete conference schedule with no conference championship so most teams still have at least two conference games left. With the Trojans out of the picture, who is left as a potential opponent…
Oregon – The Ducks have been getting a ton of publicity lately because of their explosive offense under first year coach Chip Kelly. They have scored over forty points in four consecutive games with their spread offense led by QB Jeremiah Masoli. Freshman running back LaMichael James has burst onto the scene after the much publicized suspension of NFL prospect LeGarrette Blount in their week one loss to Boise State. I think the one thing that surprised people yesterday in the Iowa game was the success of Hawkeye freshman QB James Vandenberg against OSU’s vaunted defense. Oregon would present a much greater challenge as Chip Kelly continues to be one of the pioneers and masters of a refined spread attack. Oregon travels to Arizona next week and hosts in-state rival Oregon State to finish the season. I would handicap them currently as the most likely opponent for OSU and probably the most challenging. The Ducks overcame their opening week disaster in Boise and were in a position to contend for the title game until they lost last week to…
Stanford – Jim Harbaugh is a hot coaching commodity these days as he has really turned the Cardinal football program around taking over in 2007 after a 1-11 season. Aside from the OSU-Iowa game, their blowout of USC in the LA Coliseum was the story coming out of yesterday. The have been extremely impressive this month having scored over 50 points on both Oregon and USC the past two weeks as underdogs. They embarrassed the Trojans yesterday and jumped to #14 in the polls behind the running of new Heisman candidate Toby Gerhart who went for 178 yards. The also start a really impressive freshman QB Andrew Luck, son of former Cleveland native and legend Oliver Luck. This would be another matchup of strength vs. strength with a high powered Pac-10 offense against the Bucks’ stout D. They have only one Pac 10 game left against rival Cal and would need a lot of help. They need to win that game and hope Oregon loses in Arizona next week but beats Oregon State the following week.
Oregon State – The Beavers are yet another explosive Pac-10 offense although it is not currently operating at quite the level of Stanford or Oregon. They are lead by Senior QB Sean Canfield but their most significant offensive force is RB Jacquizz Rogers. The USC defense said that he was hands-down the best player they faced all year and that is high praise considering who was on their schedule (most notably OSU and ND). Oregon State controls their destiny as they beat Stanford earlier in the year and have yet to play Oregon. They will most likely beat a pathetic Washington State team this week but I would not count on them going into Autzen stadium in the final week of the season and pulling out a victory over their rival Oregon. Of the three teams mentioned so far, this would probably be the easiest matchup for OSU.
Arizona – The Wildcats have beaten both Stanford and Oregon State and host Oregon this weekend. They are coming off a tough loss to Cal last night which really opened up the conference race. They still have a lot of work to do with 3 remaining conference games. As I stated, they host Oregon this week but then have to travel to rival Arizona State and Southern Cal to finish the season. They are a vastly improved team under Youngstown native Mike Stoops and they do control their own destiny but it is hard for me to see them getting through that three game stretch unscathed.
The one unifying theme of all four teams is strong QB play and a prolific offense. In recent years, aside from USC, the Pac-10 has had a reputation for having soft defenses. In this instance, I think the offenses of Oregon and Stanford are operating at such a high level right now that it’s hard for me to say that their success is just a result of poor opposing defense. There are still games to be played but right now I feel that the Buckeyes defense matches up with all these teams. Oregon would be the scariest opponent and probably the one team that might be favored over the Buckeyes. It’s an uncharacteristic year with USC completely off the map. It is fun trying to project the bowls especially after such a rousing win yesterday afternoon at the Shoe solidified the Bucks’ BCS pedigree. Alright, back to your regularly scheduled hate of Michigan.
(Photo: Marvin Fong/Plain Dealer)