Easy Road To The Big Easy

Ohio State and Georgia can non-play themselves into the national title game

College Football Preview: Week 14

> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> B.J.: A Crazy 2007  |  Sorenson: 10 Questions  |   Braff: Easy Road To The Big Easy For Two
> Trev: Some Coaching Changes Just Ludicrous  |  Best Title Game Matchup   |  Roland: LSU Will Lose
> Palm: A Merciful End To The BCS  |  Blackburn: Here To Stay  |  Hart: Don't Count Out Mizzou
> Caparell: Daniel Driving Missouri On BCS Run  |  Crystal Ball: Weekend Predictions

Nov. 27, 2007

By Carolyn Braff



Carolyn Braff

Carolyn is an assistant editor and writer for CSTV.com.
E-mail here!

This Saturday, while Missouri is calling plays they hope will win them the biggest game in school history, Ohio State and Georgia will be calling for pizza.


For the 11 teams in the Big Ten Conference, the regular season ended on Nov. 17, a full two weeks before the Big 12, ACC and SEC heavyweights finish slugging out their seasons on the gridiron. Georgia is also done, having closed out its season tied for the SEC East title, only to lose in a tiebreak to Tennessee (tiebreak being code for the 35-14 loss the Vols handed Georgia Oct. 6).




And yet, while the top two teams in the nation play their final games, Georgia and Ohio State are having keys made for the back door to the national title game.


In a strange, twisted rankings oddity that seems only fitting given the irrationality of this season, both Ohio State and Georgia are two games away from playing for the national championship.


The catch? Neither team plays in either of those two games.


On Saturday, BCS Nos. 1 and 2 will still be in action while the Buckeyes and Bulldogs sweat out their fate. The script goes like this: If Oklahoma beats No. 1 Missouri for the Big 12 championship (very plausible) and No. 2 West Virginia loses to Pittsburgh (much less plausible), Georgia and Ohio State should be the one-two punch for the national title game - not by virtue of their own play on the final week of the season, but because everyone ahead of them lost.


Please address all thank-you notes for this bizarre scenario to the conundrum that is the BCS.


In case you haven't checked the BCS standings recently, a lot happened last week. Simply by sitting on their couches and smiling, the Big Ten's three ranked teams moved up considerably in the standings. Ohio State now owns the No. 3 spot, courtesy of LSU and Kansas losing, up two from its previous ranking. Illinois and Wisconsin got a similar boost, the Illini moving from 17 to 15 and Wisconsin rising from 21 to 18 just by watching teams in the SEC and Big 12 pick each other off.


Georgia played its season finale last week, beating Georgia Tech on the road, but the Bulldogs' fate was decided by the team it beat the week before. Had Kentucky defeated Tennessee, Georgia would have won its division and moved on to play No. 7 LSU in the conference title game. But four overtimes were not enough for the Wildcats, and the Vols moved on by virtue of a tiebreak, strangely giving the No. 4 Bulldogs the chance to play for a much bigger crown.


No, Georgia cannot win the SEC Championship - but they can't lose it, either. The Bulldogs stumbled into the best of both BCS worlds, as they suddenly have the opportunity to move up without the fear of falling down.


In terms of championships, the Big Ten is one crayon short of a box, one team shy of the 12 the NCAA requires to have a conference playoff to determine a champion, so Ohio State doesn't have a conference title to play for - or potentially lose - either.


Which brings us back to this less-than-ideal situation. The top teams in the country should be selected by virtue of their prowess on the field, not their ability to withstand watching others fall off of it. Georgia coach Mark Richt, for one, is not particularly thrilled about the prospect of having his team's future determined by someone(s) else.


"I don't know if I'll be glued to a television," Richt said, discussing whether or not he would watch this weekend's Missouri and West Virginia games. "I don't know if I could stand that."


Welcome to the world of the Big Ten, where the teams are done early, the televisions are turned up and the faceless calculators of the BCS computers choose everyone's lot long after the pads are packed in.


Certainly, this I'm-done-before-you phenomenon is a two-headed monster. True, the Big Ten teams are not in danger of knocking each other off in the season's waning weeks, a la last Friday's Arkansas-over-LSU SEC disaster, but last year at this time, sitting on the sidelines cost Michigan a possible ticket to the title game. These teams cannot be penalized for losing, but they can't get the benefit of an extra late-season win against a top-quality opponent, either - a benefit that would help them with both the human calculations and the automated ones.


Suddenly those La-Z-Boys aren't feeling so comfortable, after all.


If Ohio State - a team whose nonconference slate included the Penguins of Youngstown State, the Akron Zips and the Kent State Golden Flashes - does back its way in, and the team waiting for the Buckeyes inside the Superdome is Georgia, the SEC Champion will undoubtedly have something to say about the system. And if Tennessee takes home the conference title after beating Georgia in the regular season, the words will not be polite ones.


"The bottom line is everybody does have an opportunity to beat the next team," Richt said. "There's nothing in the bank. Everybody was predicting all these other scenarios and just about every one of them has been blown up."


If this final Missouri-West Virginia scenario bursts, all that remains is the keep-your-head-in-the-game Olympics. By the time the national title game rolls around, the Buckeyes will have had more than seven weeks off to practice their billiards skills and to try to keep their focus, something they did not do so hot last season.


If the top seeds can win this weekend - easier said than done for Missouri, the oxymoronic underdog No. 1 - this discussion will be shelved until next season, but at some point, the playing field must be leveled. Teams finishing second in their conference should not be penalized for playing a game that other teams did not earn.


The foosball players should never have a shot at the championship before the football players.