In this piece, I will strive to explain why Ohio State will be playing for the BCS title if they can defeat Michigan State this Saturday.
What I’m not going to do is defend Ohio State’s resume against that of Auburn. It is asinine and disingenuous to bury your head, point at a two touchdown loss to LSU, and pretend that the Buckeyes have had a more impressive season than the Tigers.
Now, that doesn’t mean I think Auburn is a better team than Ohio State. I don’t. What defenders of the Tigers forget is how profoundly miraculous their last two victories have been. After beating Georgia on a de facto Hail Mary that was deflected by a Bulldogs defensive back who collided with another teammate, the Tigers downed their archrivals Alabama on a 109-yard missed field goal return touchdown that was only allowed to occur because Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban successfully lobbied to have one second added back to the clock so he could attempt the 57-yard field goal. Those are both wins that go in the left column of Auburn’s 11-1 record, but I challenge you to find any team other outside of the Dillon Panthers who has won two consecutive games on such improbable plays.
Add to that a victory over Mississippi State (6-6 by the way) that came on a Nick Marshall to C.J. Uzomah touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining. That sounds like me tearing down the Tigers resume, but the lucky part of that win lies in the review of the winning touchdown, in which the referees determined that although Uzomah stepped out of bounds while running his route, he was pushed out by a defender, allowing him to come back in and make the catch.
They say it’s better to be lucky than good, and I would agree, but at some point everyone’s luck has to run out.
Many Ohio State critics point to their narrow victory over Michigan as proof that they are undeserving of a spot in the title game. But that analysis fails to consider the complications that come from playing a heated rivalry game on the road. I, and many others, still believe that Alabama is the most talented and complete team in the country, and ask them how playing at the stadium of their most hated opponent worked out.
At the end of the day, the team that will head to Pasadena for the BCS Championship Game should come down to a matter of inertia. The Buckeyes began the season at No. 2 in the polls, beat every opponent on their schedule, and ended in the same spot (in spite of an early season drop to No. 4). Auburn was unranked to open the season and did not enter the polls until beating Western Carolina to make them 5-1, when they were ranked 24. Their rise since then has been meteoric – they jumped 13 spots to number 11 after beating then number seven Texas A&M in their seventh game – but so far it hasn’t been enough to overcome the head start afforded to the Buckeyes.
I haven’t done the calculations, but many people smarter than me have. Many of them have said that Auburn simply has too much ground to make up on the Buckeyes. It’s also important to remember that if Ohio State does win this weekend, it will defeat a very impressive 11-1 Michigan State squad that is ranked tenth in the BCS and has arguably the best defense in the nation. It also should be remembered that Auburn’s opponent in the SEC Championship Game, number five Missouri, is no cupcake. The blue and orange Tigers will be favorites, but they’re in for a challenge in Atlanta.
Personally, I would love to see an Auburn-Ohio State matchup for the BCS Championship. It would give the Buckeyes a chance to put all the War Eagle calls to rest – and I would like their chances to do it. Of course, this is a possibility. It just involves upstart Duke defeating Florida State, the No. 1 team in the country, and Jameis Winston, the presumptive Heisman shoo-in1.
This is a dumb debate to be having before Saturday’s games are played. But then again, how else could the BCS system mark its final season but with a dumb debate?
- But hey, stranger things have happened. Just look at last weekend. [↩]