As the Buckeye and Wolverine fans recover from their post-game euphoria or depression, the drum-beat has begun for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. Actually the campaign began weeks before the game ("Let’s say it’s a close, exciting game and Michigan, the road team, loses . . .") The fact that Michigan remains #2 in the latest BCS rankings adds to the speculation.
I am opposed to a rematch, assuming there is another team available with strong credentials. USC clearly qualifies as such if the Trojans win out. I think they will, despite a scratchy game against Cal (the Bears had two TDs called back on replay reversals). I haven’t been impressed with Notre Dame all season. In fact UCLA might be the tougher opponent for USC given the unpredictability of rivalry games. The stat geeks seem to think that USC will move ahead of Michigan in the BCS rankings if that’s that case. The more difficult case is for the winner of Florida-Arkansas in the SEC Championship game, if that team finishes with one loss. Florida has won with smoke and mirrors all season and Arkansas was crushed by USC in its opener. I would still vote for that team. If Notre Dame wins out . . . that’s the toughest case to make, as Michigan beat the Irish like a drum in South Bend.
Yes, Michigan is arguably the second best team in the country – maybe even co-number one, if you use the typical (gamblers’) standard that home field is worth three points. A personal foul penalty on a helmet-to-helmet hit against Troy Smith late in the fourth quarter perhaps saved the game for Ohio State. But. The BCS is based on the premise that water rises to its own level, that games naturally occur late in the season that eliminate contenders. Louisville beat West Virginia, then Rutgers beat Louisville, then Rutgers lost its claim by losing to Cincinnati. Texas was in good position – for a rematch with Ohio State by the way – but lost to Kansas State. Florida will play Arkansas. USC will play Notre Dame.
For better or worse the second half of the regular season is the playoff. Michigan had its chance. It was in the Horseshoe, yes. The death of Bo Schembechler must be taken into account, yes. But life isn’t fair. I think a good standard for a national championship contender under the current system is that it must win its own conference (Notre Dame being the outlier – maybe use its record against other Top 10 teams.)
Do I like the BCS? No. But it is what it is. If you want a rematch and don’t get it, then revolt. Boycott the national championship game and all who sponsor it, and demand a real playoff.
A comment on the game itself – Ohio State won because Jim Tressel came out aggressively on offense and stayed that way throughout the entire game. The great fault of coaches in all sports is to tighten up in big games, especially when they have the lead and most especially when they’ve suffered a setback (in OSU’s case, three turnovers). This is true on offense, defense and special teams. One can’t be Jerry Granville/Mouse Davis crazy but close games between two good teams are typically decided by the team that is on the balls of its feet, not on its heels.