Monday, November 27, 2006

USC vs. OSU, 1/8/07

So by now I realize that it's time to come to terms with the inevitable: USC is going to the National Championship Game to take their shot against OSU. Whatever. As I ease out of my spirited campaign for the Rematch of the Century, I have little left to me, except to state the several reasons I wish it weren't so. Without further ado - the reasons.

First, foremost, and obviously - I want My Team to get a trip to the National Championship Game. I'm graduating in a month, but not leaving town (for the real world) yet, so this would be a perfect opportunity for me to follow my team to a BCS NCG. Really, the only opportunity of its kind. I'm not gonna lie, and pretend that this isn't the biggest reason for my wish. It is. It's there, but it's not alone. In fact, it is related and leads logically to the second reason -

I think Michigan is as good as (verily, better than) Ohio State. I don't want to take a trip to Arizona to watch my team lose one of the biggest games of my life, and I certainly don't want Michigan to get a second chance at Ohio frickin' State and lose again. By some definitions, that would make this the worst season in Michigan Football history, which sounds like a bad plan. If Michigan couldn't beat the Buckeyes, I would be all for a trip to the Rose Bowl and a Boise State matchup to make Michigan look good and make minor conference upstarts look awful. But I think Michigan can beat the Buckeyes, and I think they can do it on the field they'll play the NC Game on. I would absolutely put money on Michigan in the NC Game, if the option made itself available, because I really believe that Michigan would win.

And that's pretty much the same as the third reason - I would hate to see this season end with an OSU rout of USC, followed closely by declarations that Ohio State might be "the best College Football team ever." It's bad enough that Ohio State came away with a very slim victory two weekends ago, and analysts all over the country have ignored the closeness and circumstances of The Game to come to the conclusion that Ohio State is undeniably better than any other team in the country. Ohio State proved that they could beat Michigan at home. What if Michigan won by 3 in Ann Arbor sometime this month in a hypothetical game that you will dismiss as a ludicrous conceit? Such a Michigan victory would throw this whole Ohio State supremacy into question, but does it seem that unlikely? I say no. How tragic would it be for Michigan if history praised these Buckeyes, while forgetting an equally good/better Michigan team? Unbearably tragic.

Another reason is purely my enjoyment of Bowl Season this year. USC-OSU is a great, Pac-10/Big Ten matchup that might be entertaining, and might be lopsided because USC is not really very good. But what else will be worth watching? Who will Michigan face in the Rose Bowl? Notre Dame? No thanks. Boise State? Please, no - if Michigan wanted to play a high school team, they could call up East Grand Rapids and schedule a scrimmage on Pioneer's field. Rutgers/Louisville/any ACC team? Maybe for comedic value. I find that most of the surefire BCS teams so far aren't really very good.

The teams I would like to see Michigan play probably can't come; Florida will either beat Arkansas and be unavailable, or lose and be a 2-loss team. I wouldn't mind revenge against Nebraska (for 1997 plus the Bullshit... I mean Alamo... Bowl) or USC (for the only Rose Bowl I have seen in person... ouch.), but the Trojans are obviously predisposed, and if Nebraska makes it out of the Big XII, they're locked into the Fiesta Bowl. LSU might get an invite, but I don't believe in 2-loss teams, especially when they play games as stupid and ugly as whatever you call that game against Arkansas.

And now, some things I don't like, but instead dislike.

I hate "What have you done for me lately?". I hate watching the polls every year and knowing that the voters will somehow vote just as though they've forgotten what happened a few weeks prior. I hate USC losing a month ago and taking Michigan's place because Michigan lost a week ago. And I hate, hate, hate poll inertia that keeps teams like USC on top all year, because voters appear to have no individual minds. In short, I hate everything that has helped USC to reach #2 in all the polls. But I don't hate them for this reason; I hate them on principle. Seeing the same things I hated to begin with come and bite My Team... it's almost too much.

One more thing I hate: USC. I hate Pete Carroll and his smarmy press conferences. I hate USC's 30-plus-game home winning streak that exists because USC plays Pac-10 teams and beats them all at home because they're not that good. I hate teams that lose to lousy teams but go to the National Championship Game anyway, especially if there are better-qualified teams who could go instead. I hate all of USC's smug players who keep talking about what they deserve and what they've earned, when both of those things equate to nothing.

And now, my case for Michigan's inclusion.

What is the whole point of the BCS? Is it to match the #1 team in the country against the #2 team in the country? Or is it to create some matchup that might or might not have been impossible before the BCS existed, which satisfies various coaching and media personnel? I ask because I had heard a rumor that the former was the answer, but as far as I can tell, the latter is the case.

There is a nationwide conversation brewing about the BCS standings and the #1 vs. #2 matchup that they will produce. Everywhere in the College Football Universe, fans, commentators, and analysts are discussing who ought to go to the National Championship Game. Almost none of them are debating which team is better. It's clear which team is better. Michigan won 11 games and lost to Ohio State, perhaps one of the best teams of all time (ha, ha?). USC has won 10 games and lost to Oregon State, perhaps one of the 50 best teams in NCAA Division I-A this season. Teams are defined by their losses, and great teams do not lose to lousy teams.

If everyone who filled out a ballot that will have some bearing on the final BCS standings decided to honestly follow the instruction, "rank these teams in order, from best to worst," Michigan should be a near-consensus #2.

I think that's enough.

If you don't agree with my second paragraph, you'll probably disagree with most of this post. Fine. I understand your motivation and I respect, at least, your right to feel the way you do. If you care to try and explain the way you feel in the comments section, go for it. My request is that you refrain from the use of the argument "Michigan had their chance," since USC, Florida, Oklahoma, LSU, Arkansas, Texas, and others had their chance to remain undefeated this season, and they all passed. My demand is that you never mention Boise State as a serious National Championship contender in this century.


Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...

Some interesting stuff in there. Obviously you are motivated by the fact that Michigan is your team. If you went to Florida, you'd think that Michigan should stop pouting and enjoy the Rose Bowl, no doubt. But it's ok to be a homer--we all are. As far as the "Michigan had their chance" argument--no one said that the national champs have to be undefeated, and that we think it's bad that Michigan isn't. What Michigan had their chance to do is beat OSU--something that USC, Florida et al haven't had.

The way I see it is this: Michigan, USC, Florida all had equal chance to remain undefeated, and didn't. However, only one of those teams also had the chance to play Ohio State, and lost. Thus, wouldn't it stand to reason that maybe one of the two teams that hasn't played OSU, but shares a record with Michigan, should get their crack at OSU.

And the gaps between Michigan's best win and USC/Florida's best win, and Michigan's good loss and Florida's good loss, are narrowing to a degree. Certainly, Florida's win over LSU has to be as nearly as impressive as Michigan's win over ND, and Florida's loss to Auburn on the road isn't that much worse than Michigan's loss to OSU on the road.

Basically, what it boils down to is that no team is a clear-cut deserving #2 team. All three had their chance at #2 already and blew it. All three suffered road losses. All three played tough schedules. All three have playmakers and good defenses. All three have at least one really good win on their schedule. In my eyes, Michigan has the most compelling argument AGAINST, namely that they haven't won the conference and they already lost to the #1 team. But at the end of the day, any of the three teams mentioned have about equal claim to a championship game berth.

Did you ever receive my e-mail?

11:33 PM  
Blogger oriolebird38 said...

I'm not really sure why you trash USC so much. I think Lloyd Carr is just as "smarmy" as Pete Caroll.

But smarmyness aside, your criticisms of USC are pretty far off base. The Pac-10 is lousy? Perhaps. But what do you call the Big 10? Is Indiana, Minnesota, a bad Iowa team, NU, MSU all significantly better than Arizona, Washington State, Arizona State, Stanford, and UCLA? Oregon State isn't going to be confused with Cal anytime soon, but losing to an 8-4 team isn't the worst thing in the world. Obviously, the UofM loss is more "impressive" (if you wanna judge losses as such), but USC played a far tougher OOC schedule. Nebraska and Arkansas > Vandy, CMU, and Ball St. and you know this. I think that boost outweighs the differences in losses.

Look at it from the USC side: they played more ranked opponents, won their conference, and you're going to tell them that they can't play because some people think that UofM might be a better team than OSU despite having lost to them? C'mon now. If you think Michigan is more deserving than UF, ok. There's defintely a case for that. I would even agree with you on that discussion. But USC has done plenty to deserve a spot in the title.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Brave Sir Robin said...

Lost in your analysis of the OSU/Mich game is the fact that OSU played a mistake heavy game and still won. Yeah, it was at the Shoe, but it's naive to pretend that Michigan would be the only team that would fix their mistakes in the rematch.

Also, yes, it was a road game for Michigan. Guess what? The game alternates every year. And, under Tressel, it's not like OSU's been getting killed at the Big House. Who knows, using your hypothetical logic, maybe playing at the Big House makes OSU execute better and win even more handidly.

OSU would win the rematch, and even if it didn't, what would that even prove? It wasn't like the Michigan game was early in the season, it was the game right before the NC game. To say one counts more than the other just because it's later is absurd.

9:29 AM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Joe -

Haha, yeah, I got your email.

Settle down, tiger. I can't believe you ran home and did that... how can you take Mark's random claims seriously enough to do the research to refute them? I don't even remember hearing him say that.

Maybe he was thinking of 2 or 3 years ago; I think the Big Ten went 7 for 8 in bowl games or something. I don't think it was so good last year...

And maybe he meant recent history, but I don't even know where he would have been coming from on that - the only things sticking out in my mind are Tennessee whomping on Michigan and Michigan beating Ron Zook (ha, ha).

I don't know why Mark would even argue about a history that he hasn't studied. I would rather just talk about this year, because last season makes Michigan's past look rather sordid.

10:08 AM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

oriole - I'm not gonna tell USC they can't play. The BCS will take care of that, and I will deal with it. I just felt like explaining beforehand and longwindedly how I will feel about that.

I do think that USC's loss to an 8-4 team is a pretty dark mark. I was waiting for a really bad loss for USC all season, when they kept pulling it out against a bunch of middling Pac-10 teams. The Washingtons both played them close; I think they had 3 close calls the month before Oregon State, but nobody noticed the trend, and nobody expected them to lose to Oregon State. I thought it was just a matter of time.

I think if Michigan had lost to, say, Minnesota, in addition to OSU, that would have demonstrated that Michigan isn't that great. If you can lose to teams that aren't great, you probably aren't that great yourself. It's just something I can't shake. If USC had lost to only Cal or ND, it's a different story. You can lose to really good teams on bad days and still be great, I think.

bsr -

This year, and in this post of mine, the debate is about which team is better. I say we're not sure. I'll try to go point-for-point.

I think mistakes are part of a game. I think they belong to a team, and without other evidence, we can expect a team to make them again. I'm not the guy crying, "But we had a penalty that we shouldn't have committed!" We did have a penalty that we shouldn't have committed. It was part of our game and we have to own it. You make mistakes or the other team forces them; either way, they are part of the game you played.
The thing that would change about the game is externalities. I doubt that you want to hear it, but I know that the sod they were playing on affected these teams, and I know that some things would go differently with better turf.

I understand rotating home fields; when the debate is about who is Big Ten Champion, that's fair. That championship is not exactly based on a single season, taken all by itself; it's a thing that the two schools are fighting over year in and year out, the Rose Bowl trip used to be based on "who hasn't gone more recently," et cetera. It's fair that OSU got to play at home this year, and it's fair that they're locked into the title game, and I'm sure they'll win, perhaps unless they play Michigan, and that's good for the Big Ten and I'm glad.
Also, these teams are not the same teams that met in Michigan Stadium last year, and don't act like Tressel is the only important factor. The whole BCS is set up so we can crown a champion for this season. If the #2 team is supposed to get a chance to play the #1 team in a championship game, why not let this year's #2 team do so?

Finally, the argument is not that this game counts more because it's later - and you know it. My argument is that this game would count more because it's played at a neutral field. Not neutral in terms of crowd, although it would obviously be much closer to neutral and that might help some. Neutral in that neither team owns the field or plays there all season long. It drives me crazy to think how much the stupid grass had to do with the outcome of many, many plays in The Game, and to wonder how well Michigan could have done if they had been ready for it or had not had to play on such a poorly prepared surface.

I know you hate it, but you can't honestly say it's not fair that the outcome of the second game would count more. If you think you can, you're lying to yourself.

10:36 AM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Back to Joe -

The "had their crack" argument has some measure of merit, but it can't be undeniable unless the game is at home, or neutral, as per your Large Outdoor Beverage Party. For the same reason I think the NC Game would matter more, I think the "crack" in question wasn't definitive. But your argument was written pretty well for an argument of its type. Maybe this will help me enjoy Michigan vs. Boise State in January.

I hate that "won their conference" shit. Cut that out. What a manufactured argument. This isn't the pre-1972 Big Ten. What if ND had lost last week, and USC this week, and Florida lost to Arkansas? Everybody but Louisville and Boise State would have two losses (sorry, Oklahoma, but as Mr. Galea has been known to say, "score enough that the refs don't matter"), but somebody has to win every conference. That's just silly. If we're trying to come up with a Champion in earnest, why let this come into play?

10:48 AM  
Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...

Having to play OSU on the road is the nature of the beast, though. OSU has had their national title hopes killed by losing to UM in Ann Arbor. It happens. That's why you alternate home and away.

As far as a bunch of two loss teams, well, if UF lost to Arkansas, and USC lost to UCLA, then you get Louisville or Rutgers playing for a national title. I just think it's very difficult, in a setting where there is no playoffs, to say that a team that did not win its conference should play for a national title. Sooner or later, you have to eliminate someone somehow, and taking only the conf. champs is a good way of doing so. Winning your conference is pretty much the only objective criterion that exists.

And your mention of 1972 Big 10 is a great point for me, IMO. In the old days, in the Big 10, you couldn't even go to the Rose Bowl in consecutive years. Now we want second place Big 10 teams playing for national titles? Bo and Woody spin in their graves at this thought.

There has to be some reward for winning the conference title, otherwise we are just getting NFL minor leagues.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...

Re: the Rose Bowl matchup--you won't get stuck with the blue turfers because the Rose Bowl gets first pick of their two teams, and can have any at large they want. So a SEC team is a good bet to travel to Pasadena, either LSU or Florida. Mark Schultz will be pleased.

1:18 PM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Louisville or Rutgers playing for a national championship is a joke-ass joke.

That's what I meant when I said everybody in the SEC could have two losses. What if every other team in football demonstrated that it didn't deserve a shot? Losing in the Big East demonstrates that; 2 losses in ANY conference demonstrates that.

(Playing in Boise State's booty-WAC conference demonstrates that.)

8:42 PM  
Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...

Well, then if everyone in the SEC has two losses, or the only one loss team is Big East champ Louisville, then so be it. They are all infinitely preferable, in my mind, to a one loss team which did not win its conference. The conference championship has to stand for something.

BTW, if there was a playoff, we could routinely see two loss teams, or shit-ass Louisville, winning a national championship.

Besides, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a time ever when one conference had an undefeated and a one loss team, and no other conference had a team with fewer than two losses, going into the bowl season. So your situation is pretty hypothetical anyways.

9:50 PM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

My argument is that there comes a point when you just can't get away with leaving a one-loss team out of the big bowl because it lost its conference.

Say, oh, I dunno, Florida. Gets through Tennessee, Georgia, FSU in a good year, LSU, Auburn, Alabama now that Shula's kid is gone, happened to schedule Michigan in this hypothetical season, and loses to Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game to finish with one loss. Not conference champions. Now let's pretend (yes, this is hypothetical, that's the point) that every team outside the SEC has three or more losses. Hard to even imagine, but parity's rough everywhere.

Now I know you could just distance yourself from this because even though I mentioned Florida, you know this outlandish scenario would take far longer to ever have a shot of occurring than, say, the creation of the Grand Canyon, but just imagine that for one second.

Does that 3-loss (10-win!) Big XII Champ have your #2 vote in the 20006 Final BCS Standings? Or do you punch The Underwater University of Florida's ticket?

If you say send the team that won its conference, ...I don't know what to do.

So as long as we're just haggling over the price, as they say, how can we cling to this idea like it's the rock on which College Football is built?

"Michigan had its chance," I'll grant, belongs in the conversation of this season. But you can take your "Michigan didn't win its conference," and you can shove it.

The assertion that Rutgers could ever belong in the NC Game this year is such nonsense. Ugh.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...

A three loss team playing for a national championship? Why, that's almost as absurd as an 83 win team playing in the World Series! A travesty!

2:44 PM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Great job.

4:59 PM  
Blogger oriolebird38 said...

well to be perfectly honest, hypotheticals don't really have a place in this argument. it boils down to a 1 loss good team who won their conference against a good 1 loss team who didn't win it. if you wanna say UofM is as good as USC, ok, but in such a deadlock, i believe that a conference winner should get priority over a team that could not win its conference.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Paul Schultz said...

As a Michigan and Big Ten fan, I will not dispute OSU status as National Champion, should it beat SC on January 8th in the Southwest. That result is good for college football, say I, as one biased in favor of the Big Ten and other major conferences. I would never want to introduce anything like a playoff (not even 1-game) because the spectre of March Madness bs would then destroy the season long elimination tournament that is college football.

I think it likely, however, that when OSU beats SC, Michigan will end up #2 in all the final polls. And that is great! When is the last time one conference did that?

The other lesson I draw from this year is non-conference schedule strength - particularly contrasting regional opponents ND, Michigan and Wisconsin - the two from the Big Ten have to beef it up. For whatever reason, when Lloyd's crew loses in September, all is lost. But ND, if it had beat SC, would still have been in the title hunt (particularly in any other year, where the team that beat ND picked up a subsequent loss or two).

This year ND played UM (BCS 3), GT (BCS 22), SC (BCS 2) and defeated bowl-bound Purdue (8-5), Penn State (8-4), Navy (8-3) and UCLA (6-5).

UM, by contrast, played OSU (BCS 1), ND (BCS 10), Wisconsin (BCS 7), and defeated bowl-bound Penn State (8-4), Minnesota (6-6), Iowa (6-6) and ...

Wisconsin, to drive the point home, played UM (BCS 3) and defeated bowl-bound Penn State (8-4), Purdue (8-5), Minnesota (6-6), Iowa (6-6).

9:47 AM  
Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...


ND was not in any serious national title contention as of their game with SC. Everyone agreed that if they beat USC, it would only be paving the way for Michigan or Florida to play for the national title. ND's contention ended the minute Prescott Burgess ran back another Brady Quinn INT for a touchdown.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Joe (Livonia, MI) said...

"oriole"=Nick Galea

11:06 PM  
Blogger john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhh. I gotcha.

11:16 AM  

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