Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rematch 101

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.


Anonymous said...

Come on, I need one place on the internet to acknowledge THE most important thing about Saturday...the fact that a 15 yard penalty (for what we were never told) decided the game. Before the 3rd down I turned to my dad like I am sure ever fan did and said "this is the game." The penalty prolonged it but when the ball fell incomplete I was elated. Then the flag. I judgement call flag on the biggest Michigan play of the season. I hit (apparently after the fact a helmet to helmet hit although again we were not told that was the case) on a scrambling QB with both feet in bounds and who's arm was still moving forward. That play kept the drive alive and ensured that Michigan would have to score 2x's. Without that judgement call they punt Michigan gets the ball with 6 minutes and a chance to win the game. OSU has a chance to stop them but if they score OSU probably has a chance to have one last drive to seal the season. Now THAT would have been a real game. A game that was a true "classic." This game was a tease and the reason why everyone cares if there is a rematch now is because the game was totally unsatisfying because of that call. Imagine that call was not made and imagine that UM's drive at the end was for the title. The pass interference judgement call that Herby deemed totally correct that was a crap call on a ball he would not have caught anyway. That call could have decided OSU season. They had stopped Michigan, the game was over but no that call gives them a 2nd chance and Michigan scores. Then how would Michigan or OSU fans feel about that game? Like I did all weekend. Completely unsatisfied.

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments. As for the helmet to helmet, I didn't mention it and I'm not dwelling on it because a). it's over and there isn't anything that can be done about it, and b). Michigan had plenty of opportunities. It is a catastrophe to have a game decided on a play like that but it's on Crable. He pulled a Jeremy LeSeur (2001 UM/MSU game). I agree that may have decided the game but you can't really blame anyone except for Crable. Although, I have to admit that it is extremely difficult to think about that when you're about to nail the QB. It wasn't a late hit. It was just helmet to helmet. It's a rule. I was very disappointed that the refs did not call a late hit penalty again OSU near the end of the game. I can't remember when it happened but it was blatant. I just want consistency. But, it all boiled down to UM not being able to stop OSU.
Take care!

Anonymous said...

There was some insighful commentary there. My thought are below.

"A lot of pundits are saying that Michigan deserves to play in the 2006 National Championship against the Ohio State University in spite of losing to them in the regular season finale. I disagree..."

More at

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is Kevin that is just how it posts.

Come on, he led with his shoulder and ended up hitting helmets on the follow through. It was THE most important play of the game. Nobody was hurt and it had no impact on the outcome of the play. The center call had NO impact on the game other than delaying a punt for 3 downs. How is that wash? The pass interference was crap but "technically" correct. What if that had decided the game?

Ask yourself this. If that was not called would anybody have ever noticed it? No.

Jake, at the end of the game Manningham gets hit by a second guy on accident while he is out of bounds. No call. Why? because of common sense. To little to late.

To quote the Bad News Bears "Let them Play"

This was the single biggest call in Michigan history in a ties with the Desmond Howard tackle in the endzone against MSU. Would UM have won? I have no idea? Whould we know for sure who was better yes.

And by the way. No Barringer on the 2 runs up the middle meant Mundy flying past the runner once, into the ref on the other and on the Ginn pass he bit on the fake. Burgess being hurt killed them as Graham had to play the pass which he is not fast enough to do as shown on the Gonzalez slant. Tough injuries in a close game.

Jake said...

Kevin, there was absolutely no excuse for the refs to choke on their whistles on the play you are talking about. That was actually more blatant than the Crable penalty. The refs were not consistent with those two calls. Considering how much the Crable call impacted the game, it was maddening to see the refs stand idly by on that play.

It's actually pretty interesting that some people think the game wasn't as close as the score indicates and others think it was just as close. The Game had a ton of potential game-changing events that came so close to happening on both sides. For every argument that can be made that Ohio State should have won by more, there is an equal argument that Michigan could have won the game.

Amit, I respect your opinion. However, which loss is better; Oregon State or Ohio State? Whether people like it or not, (and I don't because I want a playoff), the BCS is designed to pit the top two teams against each other. Michigan had no wins by less than eight points this year and its only loss was by three points to number one Ohio State on the road! USC beat Washington State and Washington by six and Arizona State by seven. All three of those teams are borderline bad.

I can understand the lack of interest for people outside of the midwest. I certainly would not be interested in a USC-Cal rematch for the National Championship. But, the way the system is set up, I have to say that a Ohio State-Michigan rematch is probably the best matchup. Just compare resumes. There is no way USC's resume is equal to Michigan's. It remains to be seen what will happen. I don't necessarily think any fanbase should want their team to play against Troy Smith. Be forewarned if your team has the misfortune of playing in the BCS Championship game!

Anonymous said...

The very fact that this scenario exists is a compelling argument in favor of a playoff. Michigan and Ohio State are clearly by far the top two programs in the Big Ten (sorry, Penn State) and among the top programs in the nation. Their annual matchup is usually the last game of the season for both schools. The chances that these two schools could both enter that game undefeated or with only one loss between them again sometime in the near future is nontrivial; the last time it happened was less than 10 years ago (1997). I doubt the other conferences would be very happy about the prospect of having an all-Big Ten NC game once every ten years.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Michigan deserves a rematch is a joke. USC is far more deserving than any other team at this point.

Lets forget that USC lost to an actually decent Oregon State team instead of #1 Ohio State. Look at who the Men Of Troy have beaten this year. If USC can beat Notre Dame and UCLA then they would have beate more top 25 teams than Michigan and Florida combined. USC will have beaten Arkansas in Fayetville, Nebraska, Cal, and Oregon.

Michigan had their chance and lost. Maybe they should just go play another garbage team from the Big-Ten like Northwestern or Indiana while USC plays one of the toughest schedules in the country.

Anonymous said...

Well, it appears that USC and OSU are in, and, by the way USC throttled Notre Dame, I am actually excited. I think USC has grown a ton in the last few weeks and will present Ohio State with a much more challenging game than I first believed. USC appears to have a formidable defense and an offense likely better than UM's that should score frequently on the Buckeyes (If UM's game was any indication.) After seeing the first UM-OSU game, and initially wanting a rematch, I now feel it is at least somewhat fair to have USC match up with Ohio State. I can now more easily say, "Well, UM had their shot," and put aside the fact that they are probably the second best team in the nation and truly deserving of a rematch. Besides, OSU can take out both teams from last years BCS after already beating the team that probably should have been in it this year. If that is the case, that is one heck of a season,and a perfect exclamation point to finish it.

As for Michigan playing Notre Dame, all I can say is that sucks. One reason I started to switch my initial thought on the rematch between OSU and UM was so that both Big Ten teams could clean up on the best of the rest. I am always pro Big Ten, so getting two big victories would, in my opinion, be better than watching one team take out the other. But if Notre Dame is the other team, rather than Florida, this idea would be virtually nullified. Even if Notre Dame somehow won, it still would lack excitement and by no means become justified.

As for the people out there that are still blaming UM's loss to a 15 yard penalty, all I can say is get over it. First of all it was clearly the right call, second of all, it would have been called that way anywhere, and third of all, that is not why UM lost the game. Having over 500 yards of offense pasted on a supposedly great defense is probably why you lost. Having a plus 3 turnover differential and not being able to take advantage is probably why you lost. I think anybody who watched that game with a hint of discretion believed that Ohio State was the better team and for every if and or but a UM fan had, OSU had one as well.

Jake said...

Well said.


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