A Broken Tale
Once upon a time a few people decided there needed to be a way to determine the best college football team in the land. So, they thought and they thought, and they talked and they talked until one of them said, “Hey! I’ve got an idea!” They decided to get a bunch of their friends together, and vote on who they thought should be college football’s champion. Their grand idea worked pretty well, and made the fans quite happy for the first few years. But, then the quite happy fans began to notice some teams seemed to be held to different standards than others, and those more favored teams would be placed on top regardless of who they played, or what their record was. Teams with ties or losses were inexplicably being favored over those with an unblemished record. All of this led to a lot of arguing, and the once quite happy fans were no longer quite happy. It became very apparent to the once quite happy fans that the voters living in college football’s ivory tower were only concerned about which teams looked good to them. The voters living in college football’s ivory tower could offer no more than a few mumbled, feeble answers that made little sense. College football had become a beauty contest, and the crown went to the prettiest team in the room. The fans of those more favored teams saw absolutely nothing wrong with this, but all the others were hopping mad, and said, “This needs to change!!”
Does that little tale sound familiar? But, here’s the thing: I’m not talking about the present day. My story is about that long ago time when men named Hayes, Bryant, and Parseghian patrolled the sidelines, and the polls determined college football’s champions. In my opinion little has changed from the way teams were ranked by the voters in the polls (the coaches and media each had their own separate one), and the way the College Football Playoff committee ranks teams. This year’s committee chair Rob Mullens talked endlessly about who looked good to the members. When pressed about why teams with a seemingly similar resume’ were being treated so differently by the committee, Mullens tended to talk out of both sides of his mouth. Oh sure, we now have a four team playoff to determine who is number one instead of naming a champion after they’ve all played separate bowl games, and not necessarily against each other. I’ll most certainly acknowledge there now is a definitive champion because if number one loses to number four in the semifinals, number four gets to play for the championship regardless of what happens between numbers two and three. In the days of the polls, if number four defeated number one, the second ranked team would almost automatically be voted number one regardless if they defeated number three or thirteen in their bowl game. It isn’t the playoff that bothers me, it’s how teams are chosen for that playoff that rubs me the wrong way. Just like the days of the polls, it is still a beauty contest for the committee.
The system is broken. It started off well enough. The committee chair always seemed to give concrete answers each week, and they seemed to be consistent with the criteria being applied. Now it no longer seems to matter who a team has beaten, lost to, or the quality of their schedule as long as they look good in winning or losing. There is no better example of this than Georgia. They have wins over Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn, all who were ranked at the time they played the Bulldogs, but lost to the two best teams they played all season. LSU thumped them by 20, and Alabama came back to beat them by 7. Combine these TWO losses with an awful non-conference
schedule, and you really question why the committee has them at number five in their final rankings. Austin Peay, an FCS school, Middle Tennessee State, UMass, and their annual rivalry game with Georgia Tech made up their non-conference schedule. It’s hard to wrap my head around what the committee is selling here. Three quality wins, and a bad non-conference schedule is enough to override TWO LOSSES when looking at their overall body of work? I’m not sure what the committee sees in their 20-point loss to LSU. The Tigers kicked their ass that day. It isn’t like Georgia battled them to the wire. Against Alabama the Dogs put together just over a half of good football, and then stood around and got steamrolled as the Tide came back. The more I look at it, the more I’m at a loss about the committee’s decision to place them fifth.
Overall body of work is a term Mullens used often when talking about where a team was ranked. To me that means when the committee considered a team’s schedule, they looked at the ENTIRE schedule. So, why are these teams not held accountable for their out-of-conference scheduling?
I’ve already detailed Georgia’s non-conference slate. Have you taken a look at Alabama’s and Florida’s? The Crimson Tide took on Lousiville, and such heavyweights as Arkansas State, Louisiana, and The Citadel, who was tied with Saban’s All-Stars at the half. Given the committee’s love affair with the SEC I’m surprised Mullens didn’t praise Alabama for rising up to fight off the challenge. Florida lined up against Charleston Southern, Colorado State, Idaho, and their rivalry
game with Florida State. I’m not going to criticize either for Lousiville and Florida State. Alabama
had no control over how bad Louisville was this year, and it is no fault of Florida that their biggest rival had a lousy season. BUT, the fact these opponents were not good this year
shouldn’t be overlooked by the committee, nor should the poor quality of those other non-conference foes be overlooked when considering the overall body of work. At his final press conference, Mullens said the committee did not favor one conference over another when considering where to rank teams. I don’t know how he managed to say that with a straight face. I don’t think there is any question the SEC could do nothing wrong this year, and having TWO LOSS Georgia in front of a one-loss conference champion in the final rankings confirms that.
That brings us to Oklahoma and Ohio State. My goal is to illustrate the absurdity of the polar opposite treatment the two teams received by the committee. Both teams had high powered offenses led by dynamic quarterbacks. They were the top two teams in the country in total offense. Oklahoma led the nation in scoring; the Buckeyes were eighth. Both struggled on defense for much of the season. Oklahoma went to OT with Army, and struggled to wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Buckeyes went to OT with Maryland, and battled for wins over Minnesota and Nebraska. But, when asked to explain why Oklahoma was always ranked ahead of the Buckeyes, Mullens would blather on about the Sooners’ great offense, and the committee was impressed by how it could overcome their bad defense. When it would be pointed out the
Buckeyes were doing the same thing he would mumble something about being inconsistent, and talk in circles for a bit. Oh trust me, the Sooners were consistent alright. Their defense gave up more than 40 points five times; that’s nearly half of their regular season games. That sounds consistently bad to me. The Buckeyes gave up more than 40 just twice. The Sooners had four close wins; the Buckeyes only three. Ohio State had a very bad loss to unranked Purdue; Oklahoma had a narrow loss to ranked Texas. If that is the deciding factor between the teams, then Mullens needed to say that instead of this inconsistent crap. The reasons he was giving as to why the committee liked the Sooners so much could easily be applied to Ohio State. This is why his standard “they’re inconsistent” answer when queried about the Buckeyes doesn’t hold water. The committee took the Sooners simply because they wanted to. Transparency and accountability are major issues with the selection process.
When I first began writing this OSU-Oklahoma comparison, I didn’t intend to make a case for the Buckeyes over the Sooners. But, after researching a few things I think making an argument for Ohio State makes a lot of sense. There are similarities in their non-conference schedules. Both
played a Pac 12 opponent, and both played a team from a Group of 5 conference. But, the Buckeyes went to Dallas to play a “neutral site” game in TCU’s backyard; Oklahoma played Army at home. At first glance the win over Army looks very good. It’s when you breakdown Army’s nine wins do you see where the shine begins to come off of it. Most of the Black Knights wins came against the likes of Liberty, Buffalo, San Jose State, Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan, Lafayette, and Colgate. I have the utmost respect for the service academies, but that list is not impressive at all. Oklahoma needing OT to beat this team at home
is something that should have been held against the Sooners. Once you begin to get into “best” wins is where you see the teams begin to separate. The Buckeyes’ best win is the best of any team in the country. There isn’t another team out there who can claim a blowout over the number four team. Ohio State’s win over Michigan far outdistances Oklahoma’s best, which is against then-13th ranked WVU. The Buckeyes’ second best win came against Penn State, who finished twelfth in the final rankings. Oklahoma’s second best? It was last Saturday against number fourteen Texas; a team they had already played. One thing that too many did not acknowledge is it is far easier to prepare for a team you’ve already played. I don’t think the Sooners’ win over the Longhorns in the Big XII title game is nearly as impressive as many have made it out to be for
that reason. Let’s keep going with best wins. The next best win for Ohio State is when they went on the road and took care of then-18th ranked Michigan State. We know the Spartans struggled the remainder of the season, but at the time the committee thought enough of them to place them in their top 20. Oklahoma’s next best win is against Iowa State, who finished the 24th in the final rankings, and nearly lost to FCS school Drake last week. The Sooners’ next best win was against……well….let’s see…..um, ya know it doesn’t look like the Sooners have any other wins over ranked opponents. The Buckeyes can keep going. Their three touchdown win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game gives them four best wins. The Sooners have just three. Want to take it one step further? Ohio State defeated two teams ranked higher than any team Oklahoma played. Not defeated, PLAYED. Also, something to consider is the Big Ten is widely regarded as the country’s second best conference behind the SEC. Why is the champion of the number two conference in college football being left out of the playoff? The committee wants me to believe one bad loss to unranked Purdue overrides all that I’ve just detailed? I don’t think so.
The explanations given by committee chair Rob Mullens are weak, and make no sense when you really begin to break it all down. One team has a great offense and is praised because they are able to overcome a bad defense, while the other team with a great offense that overcame their bad defense numerous times is said to be inconsistent. A double standard was applied, and the committee took Oklahoma because that’s who they wanted. The system is broken again, and it is time to either change the process of selecting the four teams, or expand. I’ve said a few times I think you’ll see a push for change when the heavy hitters are continually left out. The Big Ten and Pac 12 are heavy hitters, and are continually being left out. Don’t be surprised if you see some rumblings coming about expansion from those two. Washington head coach Chris Peterson talked about it at a recent press conference. Once the schools, and TV people realize just how much more money there is to be made, that’s when the talk will become serious.
Three In A Row And A Head Scratcher
For the third straight year the Buckeyes have an All-American center. Michael Jordan was named to Sports Illustrated’s first team. He continues the standard set by Pat Elflein and Billy
Price the last two seasons. Jordan, a junior from Canton, Michigan, was a starter at left guard his first two years with the Buckeyes, after he won the position in spring practice as an early enrollee. He moved to center in August when Brady Taylor began to have knee issues, and the team wanted a spot for Malcolm Pridgeon. The Buckeyes have a long history of outstanding play from their centers. In the last 53 seasons the Buckeyes have had 31 starting centers. Eleven have been first team All-Americans; that’s over one third. Seven more have been All-Big Ten. Over fifty percent have been either the best in the country, or best in the conference. I’m going to wager there isn’t another school in college football that can claim success like this at any one position.
How can you be a Heisman finalist, but not be named a finalist for any other major quarterback award? Dwayne Haskins is a victim of these awards opening their voting and naming finalists too early. The Davey O’Brien award announced their three finalists on November 19th. That’s a full five days before the Michigan game, and far before the conference championships are played. Haskins had a great day against Michigan, and another against Northwestern. One of the O’Brien finalists is Washington State’s Gardner Minshew. The same day Haskins was torching the Wolverines, Minshew managed just 152 passing yards against archrival Washington, and threw two interceptions. Do you think it would have affected the voting if the people with ballots had seen those games? Yeah, I think so. The O’Brien award voters look REALLY bad right now. Speaking of looking bad, how bad does it look to have seven coaches leave a Heisman finalist off their conference MVP ballot? Still trying to wrap my head around that one.
With any coaching change there is going to be a shake up in recruiting, and the Buckeyes certainly aren’t immune. Not long after Urban Meyer announced his retirement, the first decommit took place. Legond Cavazos, a defensive back from Florida, announced he was reopening his recruiting. One day later offensive lineman Jake Wray announced he was
decommitting; he’s the brother of current Buckeye Max Wray. Both Cavazos and Wray were committed to the Class of 2020. So far no members of the 2019 class have changed their mind, although Doug Nester, an offensive lineman from West Virginia, said he will not enroll early as originally planned. But, the Buckeyes received great news Thursday night when St.Ignatius inside linebacker Tommy Eichenberg announced his commitment to the Buckeyes. He becomes the first player to choose OSU since Ryan Day was named as the new head coach. This is huge for Day because it gives his recruiting efforts some momentum going into the early signing period which is a little less than two weeks away. The 6’3”, 225 pound Eichenberg is the number nineteen inside linebacker nationally, and the eighth player overall in Ohio.
Offensive lineman Paris Johnson, Jr. from Cincinnati, the state’s top recruit for 2020 and an OSU commit, was not told the news ahead of time, and said he was disappointed. His mother told a local TV station he was discussing how to move forward with his recruiting. However, reports say he will be on campus today, and meet with the Buckeye coaches.
OSU commits Cade Stover from Lexington, Ohio, and Marcus Crowley from Jacksonville, Florida have been named their state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
One piece of recruiting news that didn’t get much attention is the commitment of the state’s top punter to the Buckeyes. New Albany’s Michael O’Shaughnessy has decided to join the Ohio State program as a walk-on. Why is this important? Well, did you see what Drue Chrisman did against Michigan State? Since Chrisman has two more seasons of eligibility O’Shaughnessy will have time to learn under him and develop into the next great Buckeye punter. Chrisman served his apprenticeship under Cam Johnston, who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
I’m only going to keep this short, and touch on just two things. Lions left tackle Taylor Decker scored the first touchdown of his football career on Sunday. He caught an eleven yard pass from Matthew Stafford late in the third quarter of the team’s loss to the Rams. When I say it is the first touchdown of his career, that’s exactly what I mean. He had never scored a touchdown in all of the time he’s played organized football. He was so caught in the moment he chucked the ball into the stands, and then had to make a plea in the days after for it to be returned. The fan who caught the ball returned the memento to Decker, and all lived happily ever after. Take a second to relive Decker’s life-changing moment.
Former Buckeye safety Tyvis Powell has been signed by the Jets to their practice squad. He was recently released by the 49ers, who he had played five games with one start this season. He has also spent time with the Seahawks in his career. He and Decker were members of the Buckeyes’ 2014 national champions. Powell was the Defensive Player of the Game for his performance in the National Championship game against Oregon. I love this guy, and hope he can hang around long enough to earn a fulltime roster spot. If you wonder why I like him so much, take a listen to this interview with him. Just a great guy.
We’ve got about 3 ½ weeks until the Rose Bowl, so I’ll be cutting back to just one blog per week for a while. I’ll definitely have a game preview posted on New Year’s Eve. For now it’s time for me to do some Christmas shopping, and enjoy the holidays. The Army-Navy game is Saturday; I highly encourage all of you to watch this great rivalry. Mount Union is in the Division III semifinals against Johns Hopkins at noon Saturday. You can watch the game online on ESPN3. The Buckeyes may not be playing, but there is still an awful lot of meaningful football being played. Do yourself a favor and check out some of it.