Now that The Game of the Year/Decade/Century/Millennium (whichever you prefer) is in the books, the talk now turns to the topic of a rematch. That subject somewhat overshadowed the lead-up to the game but many people opted not to talk about the inevitable until after Saturday as not to take away from The Game I. Now, there is no avoiding the subject. Everybody has a viewpoint. You’re either for a rematch or against it. College football fans are divided almost straight down the middle. In an ESPN poll of over 250,000 voters, the breakdown is 51/49 against a rematch. However, ESPN has run a different poll asking readers to vote on which team Ohio State should play in the National Championship game. With over 320,000 respondents (wow!), Michigan is far and away the winner with 37% of the vote. Michigan had 32,000 more votes than the next closest team which is USC. I broached this subject back in October and concluded that the odds of a rematch were significantly higher than anyone was admitting. At the time, I suggested that the odds of a rematch were at the very least 25% with a good possibility of being higher. If you had listened to the talking heads on ESPN, you would have been convinced that a rematch was an impossibility. I think a lot of that had to do with people not wanting a rematch. There is no doubt in my mind that personal agendas fueled the underestimation. How fun can it be for a college football fan from the South to watch two Big Ten teams play a rematch for the BCS National Championship game?
Things became a whole lot more interesting when the post-Ohio State/Michigan game BCS Standings were released. To the shock of many, Michigan remained number two. I can understand people not wanting to watch a rematch of The Game but I can’t understand people not realizing that there is and was a strong possibility that there will be a rematch. School affiliation should not usurp facts and logic. That happened leading up to The Game and, in a way, it is happening now. Almost every college football analyst on TV (with the exception of Mark May) admits that Ohio State and Michigan are the top two teams in the country. Yet many, having admitted that, still don’t think there should be a rematch. The BCS Formula was put into place to identify the top two teams. It was not put into place to avoid rematches. If fans, analysts, and coaches don’t like what the BCS produces, then they should scream for a playoff. There are many playoff advocates out there but, shockingly, there are many analysts against a playoff. Bob Davie said during The Game, “If there was a playoff, then Michigan and Ohio State would be resting their starters in this game so be careful what you ask for.” That logic is absurd for anyone that has given the idea of a playoff more than three seconds of thought. 95% of the time, Ohio State and Michigan would be playing for a spot in the playoff. Even in a crazy year like this season when both teams would probably make the playoff, both teams would still have plenty to play for in home-field advantage which is huge in college football and the Big Ten Title which is such an enormous focus of both programs. It almost seems like anti-playoff-ites go out of their way to make up reasons against a playoff but that’s an issue for another day.
Back to the possibility of a rematch. In my opinion, the odds of a rematch are about 50%. Michigan’s razor thin advantage over USC would probably disappear if USC beats Notre Dame this week. A USC win would likely prompt a few extra votes to come USC’s way in the polls and a slight increase in the computer rankings which could easily be enough to overtake Michigan. I think the USC/Notre Dame game is a toss-up. Both teams are pretty similar skill-wise. Plus, Notre Dame still thinks it has a shot at the BCS Championship game (it has no shot) so it will be sufficiently motivated. If USC wins, then the Trojans are going to Tempe to play Ohio State. If Notre Dame wins, then I think the rematch is on. I have talked to some people that believe that Florida winning out (over Florida State and Arkansas) may be enough to overtake Michigan. Michigan has a pretty substantial lead right now over Florida. The Gators will not get much help by beating a bad Florida State team. A victory over Arkansas would be huge but the pollsters would have to jump Florida over Michigan which would be a tall order considering Michigan doesn’t play again and just lost to Ohio State on the road by three points. I have to admit, though, that there is a chance that Florida could jump Michigan in the BCS Standings. I just don’t think it’s a good chance. In my opinion, Arkansas is too far behind to jump Michigan. That is to say nothing about Arkansas’ ability and resume. Based solely on how far Arkansas is behind Michigan in the polls, computers rankings and BCS Standings, I think Arkansas is out.
I am not without reservations with regards to a rematch. But, those reservations have nothing to do with it not being fair to other teams. I couldn’t care less whether Florida, Notre Dame, USC, Arkansas and West Virginia don’t get a rematch. That has nothing to do with being callous either. If a team deserves to be there, then I want them there. The BCS is the current system used to crown the National Champion. The goal of the BCS is to pit the two best teams in the country against each other at the end of the season. However stupid the BSC is, that is the prevailing method presently in use. I don’t feel sorry for any team that lost to Oregon State or USC by 36 or Auburn or Louisville or any other team. There isn’t a team in the country that has a better loss than Michigan’s three point loss at Ohio State. That is why Michigan is number two in the standings. Urban Meyer can whine all he wants about it not being fair but what argument does he have? Michigan already had its chance? Well so did Florida. It lost to a decent Auburn team. It also barely squeaked by Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Michigan didn’t “squeak by” anyone. Every team has had a chance to make the BCS Championship game this season. And every team has blown that chance. There are nine one-loss teams right now and any one of those teams that think it deserves to be in the BCS Championship game is not thinking clearly. Meyer obviously wants his team to be in the Championship game but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be there. Michigan probably doesn’t even deserve to be there. Michigan had a shot at Ohio State and didn’t take advantage of it. It just turns out that there isn’t another team more deserving than Michigan. That is why Michigan is currently number two in the BCS Standings. I can understand college football analysts, coaches and fans not wanting a rematch but that doesn’t mean all logic needs to be abandoned.
The reservations that I do have are all about Ohio State. If a rematch is unfair to anyone then it is unfair to Ohio State. If Ohio State and Michigan play again and Michigan wins, then that win would be worth the National Championship while Ohio State’s win would be worth nothing. Everyone knows that in a rematch there is such a tremendous advantage for the team that lost the first game. Granted, Ohio State had the luxury of home-field advantage and only beat Michigan by three. Home-field advantage in college football is equal to a little bit more than three points. Is it fair to Michigan that it had to play at Ohio State in a game of that magnitude? A regular season game played on the road is not the same as a Championship game played at a neutral site. So, while I do feel that a rematch would be unfair to Ohio State, I also think that judging Michigan’s performance against Ohio State on the road is also unfair. If I were Ohio State, I would be adamant against a rematch. If I were Michigan, I would be an advocate of a rematch. There are many compelling arguments on both sides. I just don’t think there are many compelling arguments for any other team.
An interesting subplot that may become extremely relevant down the road is the fact that the AP Poll has Michigan ranked number two while the BCS Polls (USA Today and Harris) have Michigan ranked number three (behind USC). What happens if Ohio State plays USC in the BCS Championship game? The number one and three teams in the AP Poll would be playing for the National Championship. If USC wins, then Michigan would be next in line in the AP Poll. We could be looking at a split National Championship between Michigan and USC. Wouldn’t that be crazy? That would be like 1993 all over again when Florida State won the National Championship despite losing to a one-loss Notre Dame. In this scenario, Michigan would win the National Championship (split NC) despite losing to a one-loss Ohio State team. This is the type of season that acts as a catalyst for a playoff. You can bet that a rematch would prompt at least five universities to demand a playoff. Slowly but surely, more schools jump aboard the pro-playoff platform. It’s only a matter of time.
Here’s a short guide to show what fans of certain teams need to root for.
Ohio State: You don’t need to root for anything. There isn’t a team in the country that can beat Ohio State as long as the Buckeyes bring at least their “B” game.
Michigan: Root for Notre Dame to beat USC. If that is against your religion, you can always root for UCLA to beat USC but I can tell you that’s not going to happen. You could always root against USC instead of for Notre Dame. You also need to root for Florida to lose to Arkansas or Florida State to all but guarantee Michigan’s place in the BCS Championship game. Although, I don’t think Florida makes it even if it wins both games.
USC: You need USC to beat Notre Dame somewhat convincingly (remember, Michigan clobbered Notre Dame so the pollsters may take a close win over Notre Dame as a negative) and just hope that is enough. I think it will be. Win and you’re probably in.
Florida: You need Notre Dame to beat USC and then you need Florida to clobber Florida State and destroy Arkansas. Narrow wins probably won’t get it done.
Arkansas: I’m sorry to say this but you need USC to lose to Notre Dame, Arkansas to beat LSU and Florida, and you need Michigan to be brought up on charges by the NCAA. All talk of fairness aside, Arkansas just won’t be able to make up the ground. I think that is an inevitability. Assuming Arkansas beats Florida and finishes 12-1, the Razorbacks become the 2006 posterchilds for a playoff.
Notre Dame: See results of 9-16 game against Michigan.
West Virginia: Sorry to burst your bubble but the Mountaineers are just too far behind.
Louisville: See West Virginia.
Rutgers: See Louisville.
One last thing…..There are four at-large selections for the BCS bowls. Three of those teams will likely be Michigan, Notre Dame, and Boise State. If Ohio State and USC play for the BCS Championship game, the Rose Bowl would get the first two selections since it would have lost both the Big Ten and Pac-10 Champions to the BCS Championship. The fourth BCS at-large selection would probably be the winner of the Florida/Arkansas game or West Virginia/Louisville. The Rose Bowl could very well decide to choose the two teams with the largest national following. That happens to be Michigan and Notre Dame. That is a rematch that would make me sick to my stomach. I’m not even sure I would watch that game. It looks like Michigan is going to play in a rematch in January. It’s either going to be against a team it lost to by three on the road, or against a team it beat by 26 on the road.