I mentioned in my very first post on this blog that the reason I started writing it in the first place was to vent much of the analysis and thoughts that I have concerning sports. I started blogging because I left behind a group of friends and family in Toledo that I used to share my love of sports with and that to a large extent, that experience has been limited here in Louisville. Never is the impetus for this blog more prevalent then at the onset of the college football season, where I am no longer surrounded by Ohio State and Michigan fans that are always ready with their opinion and armed with arguments about the upcoming season. And so this post will focus mainly on my thoughts and predictions about this year's college football season, saving the NFL for a post that should follow post haste. Get it? I kill me.
Being an Ohio State fan is simultaneously a truly fortunate and nerve-racking situation. The fact that the Buckeyes are among the best teams in the country year in and year out makes being a fan exciting and fulfilling. I, along with the rest of Buckeye fandom, am not subjected to very many disappointing seasons as far as their win/loss total is concerned, but rather strained by the fact that anything less than a National Title is a disappointment. Ohio State is coming into this season having been to and lost the last two National Championship games, which is rewarding and worrisome. There are a lot worse places to end your season than in that game, but losing twice in a row and being ranked in the top 3 in most polls only makes this writer think of the Buffalo Bills of the 1990s. The Bills made it to three consecutive Super Bowls, only to lose all three in dramatic and embarrassing fashions alike. I don't want the Buckeyes to become to college football what the Bills are to the NFL, a story of what could have been.
The Buckeyes losses in consecutive BCS National Championship games to SEC opponents has left a sour taste in the land of college football for fans of the program and fans of the game. As OSU fans, we are left to think what might have been if Teddy Ginn hadn't broken his foot on the first play of the game against Flordia, or if the Buckeyes had looked like anything more than a shadow of themselves in last year's game against LSU. The rest of the nation is left wondering why Ohio State keeps ending up in the game, only to disappoint and lose to SEC foes each time. The national media and a majority of fans that support other teams and conferences have used the last two years to call in to question the strength of OSU and the Big Ten Conference for that matter, and it has only bolstered the SEC's reputation as the premiere football conference in the NCAA. I feel like the criticism of OSU and the subsequent backlash against our legitimacy is a bit unwarranted, while the dominance of the SEC has given them an earned reputation as the cream of the crop.
Year in and year out, I have to agree that the SEC is the best football conference in the country, and going undefeated when your schedule inlcudes some combination of LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia is a daunting task to say the least. I don't think that should take away from what Ohio State has accomplished though. The gold standard in college football is going undefeated. Not losing a game and being in a major conference is as sure a ticket into the National Championship game as you can get. Last year's season of upsets and unexpected teams at the top of the rankings did a little to shake that up, but the fact remains that winning all of your games is an impressive feat, especially given the amount of parity that exists in the game these days. Ten years ago, can you imagine Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House or South Florida, Missouri and Kansas being in the conversation of who's the best team in the country? Probably not. The game has changed but its standards and wacky way of selecting the teams that end up in the final game of the year have remained the same, with an undefeated season being the end-all of conversations about at least one of the teams that play for the championship.
I'm not sure that any team has a chance at going undefeated this year, but I'm sorry to say SEC fans, the two teams that have the best shot are not surprisingly not in your conference. USC and Ohio State don't have to play nearly as many quality football teams in order to go undefeated, and the only reason you'll be lucky enough to clear one of them out of the way is that they play each other in two weeks. The Buckeyes are the best team in the Big Ten hands down (despite their recent hiccup against Ohio University) and while they may not go undefeated through their conference schedule, they have a better shot than No. 1 Georgia, Flordia and LSU. USC is in the same boat as the Buckeyes. They are the class of the Pac-10 and if they go undefeated or only suffer one loss, it will be for the same reason as the Buckeyes. So to all the haters who are upset that OSU could appear in its third consecutive National Championship game, take it up with the NCAA, who still refuses to seriously consider a playoff system. If the Buckeyes or USC go undefeated they will be playing in the last game of the season and the simple fact is that one of them probably will run the table.
All of that being said, I have a few quick observations after the first two weeks of action:
Sorry, got kind of sappy on you at the end there. Sports is serious stuff, even if it is just a bunch of games in the end. I'll be back shortly with my NFL notes, making a bunch of wild predictions after watching only the first week of action.
- ECU is for real folks. You don't get wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia in consecutive weeks and not have a talented squad. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney had two very impressive performances in each of the team's first two games and while many a West Virginia fan might be blaming the coaching staff and the departure of Rich Rodriguez on the team's lack of offensive potency against the Pirates, the simple fact may be that the Pirates defense is damn good.
- Ohio State's struggles against Ohio University tell us nothing about what will happen in the OSU/USC game this weekend. Lou Holtz and Mark May of ESPN got into it about this very fact shortly after the country watched the Buckeyes stumble against their less-than-worthy opponent and while Holtz agreed with me, true to form May ripped Ohio State a new buckeye. Any Ohio State fan will tell you that May has it in for the Bucks in the worst way and could not stop talking about how the SC running backs are salivating to run against the Buckeyes. Really? They're stoked about facing perhaps the country's most dominant defense, one that allowed less than 13 points per game last year and led the country in rushing yards against? Give me a break. The game will be what it is and has nothing to do with OSU's performance over the weekend. Just ask Beanie Wells.
- Michigan is in the middle of a big old rebuilding process. A lot of people are high on Utah this year, but for them to come in to the Big House and hand Michigan their second consecutive home loss to open a season is an unsettling omen for Wolverines fans. I'm not trying to be biased here, because OSU went through the same sort of struggles in Tressel's first season as head coach. I'm just saying that until Rich Rod has the recruits and athletes to run his heralded spread option, Michigan will wade in mediocrity.
- The college football season is just a thing of beauty. After watching games all day last Saturday I was still on the edge of my seat watching the end of the South Florida/Central Florida game, which came down to an overtime decision in favor of the Bulls after they almost won it on a field goal attempt that would've prevented overtime in the first place. When two teams that far away from me can put me on the edge of my seat, with nothing invested in the game but a love for college football, I know that there is no other form of competition that will ever be closer to my heart.